Adobe is very proud of the new Adjustments palette in Photoshop CS4. And I can see why. It permits you to access any and all adjustment layers—which rank among the most powerful and forgiving features in Photoshop—from a consistent and convenient launch pad. Plus, there’s a small chance that the palette might encourage newbies to switch from static color adjustments to dynamic ones. Okay, so that’s hopeful thinking but that’s Adobe—always hopeful.
But as your representative in the Phar Phlung Phield of Photoshop Aphairs, I can likewise see how you, as a long-time Photoshop user, might not be so crazy about the Adjustments palette. The classic adjustment layer is one of those it-ain’t-broken-so-don’t-go-fixin’-it features. The dialog boxes were familiar and they worked just fine as was, thank you very much. From this perspective, quite frankly, the introduction of the Adjustments palette has gone and thrown a money wrench into everything.
But here’s the thing: Virtually everything that used to work still works. The shortcuts are different, but every one of them is still there in some way, shape, or form. The old functions are there, if displaced. In fact, just one actual feature has been put out to pasture (tho I hope to see it one day exhumed). And fortunately, we get something even better in return.
You know, on second thought, this might work better if you ask the questions and I just answer them. So shoot.
Question #1: Whether you make an adjustment layer from the Layers or Adjustments palette, the color adjustment options appear inside the tiny, squished Adjustments palette. Is there any way to force the display of a dialog box?
Answer #1: No. Roomy old dialog boxes are relegated to static adjustments only. (So much for getting the newbies to buy in.) Fortunately, there is a way to make the palette roomier.
Question #2: I think I read someplace that you can make the Adjustments palette roomier. How do you do that?
Answer #2: The bottom-left corner of the palette includes a pair of very important icons. One of them is what a lesser trainer would call the Switch Panel to Expanded View icon. (I say that b/c you can’t see those words until you hover your cursor over the icon, and you can’t hover your cursor over the icon until you know where the hell it is. Hence, the word name does you no damn good.) I will call the icon by its one and only true name, which goes by the hieroglyphic:
Click it and everything that should be bigger will be bigger. Curves graph, Levels histogram, everything.
Question #3: I understand there are two important icons in the bottom-left corner of the palette. What’s with the big green arrow?
Answer #3: Ah, yes, the big green arrow. Which I call:
If anything other than an adjustment layer is selected in the Layers palette, the arrow points to the right and appears blue when you hover over it. This version of the arrow is generally useless and does not merit discussion.
But when an adjustment layer is active, and the arrow points left and glows green when you hover over it, it’s an auspicious sign. It means that you can switch away from the adjustment-specific options to the list of 15 adjustment layers and their many presets.
Plus, if you’re not a big fan of appending a mask to each and every new adjustment layer—and why should you be? it’s an inane convention—you can turn the default mask off, but only from the list view. So if the arrow points left, click it. (If it points right, leave it be.) Then click on that unreadable icon in the top-right corner of the palette, which looks like:
Only much smaller. Up comes a flyout menu. From that menu, choose the Add Mask by Default command to turn it The Hell off.
Question #4a: You seem to be growing progressively more hostile. Can I ask you one more question?
Answer #4a: Of course. My hostility is never directed at you. Well, sometimes, but not really.
Question #4b: The old keyboard shortcuts no longer work. I hear there are new ones. Can you elucidate?
Answer #4b: Heavens, yes. In Photoshop CS3 and earlier, you used to be able to press Ctrl+tilde (or Command-tilde on the Mac) to edit the full-color composite image and Ctrl+1, 2, 3 (Command-1, 2, 3) for the individual channels.
In CS4, the numbers have shifted. On the Mac, Command-tilde now switches you between open windows. Ctrl+1 (Command-1) zooms the image to 100%. That rules out tilde (~) and 1. Meanwhile, Ctrl (or Command) switches you between channel views, so the modifier key had to change as well.
So now, whether you’re working in the Adjustments palette or a color adjustment dialog box, press Alt+2 (Option-2) to edit the full-color composite image. To modify an independent channel, press Alt+3, 4, 5 (Option-3, 4, 5).
In Hue/Saturation, it’s now Alt+2 (Command-2) for the “master” all-channel edit and Alt+3 thru Alt+8 (Command-3 thru Command-8) for the independent primaries.
When working with Curves, it used to be that Ctrl+Tab cycled you forward through the points and Ctrl+Shift+Tab moved you backward. Now that task is handled by the plus (+) and minus (-) keys.
Question #4c: Yoiks! That’s going to take some getting used to.
Answer #4c: Yes, but you’ll adopt in time.
Question #4d: Pardon?
Answer #4d: Did I say adopt? I meant adapt. But you should adopt. You’d make a good parent.
Question #5a: Roger that. But what if you don’t like those shortcuts? Can you override them?
Answer #5a: Nope. The Keyboard Shortcuts command is altogether ineffective in this department. We’ve had some success with using an old CS3 shortcuts file to override some of the CS4 shortcuts, but that’s a kluge. I don’t recommend it.
Question #5b: Seriously? That’s messed up.
Answer #5b: As you say.
Question #5c: Is that Keyboard Shortcuts command orphaned or something? I mean, it’s not even with the CS4 program!
Answer #5c: I’m sure you can appreciate how it might be indiscrete for me to comment.
Question #6a: Okay, whatever. So let’s say you adjust some settings and you want to compare the “after” version to the “before”?
Answer #6a: That’s a really great question, b/c it helps demonstrate my fundamental belief that the Adjustments palette is a move toward greater obscurity, not openness. In CS3, you would turn on and off the Preview check box. Fairly obvious, I think. Now you press and hold the \ key.
Question #6b: Sorry, did you say \? As in backslash?
Answer #6b: Yes, the emmin effin \ key!! When it’s down, you see the before state; when you release, you see the after. On the hopeful side, you can also experiment with these icons:
Question #6c: That’s just plain weird.
Answer #6c: I’m sure you can appreciate how it might be indiscrete for me to com . . .
Question #7a: Yeah, yeah, save it for the judge. I heard there’s an old CS3 adjustment layer feature that bit the dust.
Answer #7a: In CS4, you can no longer swap one adjustment (or dynamic fill) layer for another. So you can’t decide that a Levels adjustment isn’t doing it for you and swap it for a Curves adjustment. This used to be handled by the commands in the Layers > Change Layer Content submenu. That submenu is gone. I weep over its demise. Sadly, I have discovered no workaround.
Question #7b: I too am weeping.
Answer #7b: I’m sorry. Can I offer you a tissue?
Question #7c: It is not for you to ask me questions. It is your job to provide me answers.
Answer #7c: Then here’s your @&%$! tissue.
Question #8: Thank you. I heard there is a tool to make it all better. To dry my tears. To leave me happy. Is this true?
Answer #8: Yes. In Lightroom (from whence this tool originates), it is called the target adjustment tool. Photoshop gives the tool no name. It merely looks like this.
It is available from the Black & White, Curves, and Hue/Saturation panels. To make it work, click the tool and drag inside the image window. When a Black & White layer is active, drag left on a color to darken it, drag right to lighten it. With Curves, drag up to brighten a luminance level, drag down to darken it. And with Hue/Sat, drag left on a color to reduce its saturation, drag right to make it more vivid. Press Ctrl (or Command) and drag to affect the hue.
Question #9a: Is this the end of the article? I ask b/c it appears to be ending.
Answer #9a: You are very astute. This has been my summary of the new Adjustments palette in CS4. I hope you found our conversation illuminating, and I thank you for your participation. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to ask and I in return will not hesitate to answer.
Question #9b: But I have a few more questions.
Deke McClelland disconnected at 2:4am Monday 12/1/2008
Question #9c: Hello?
Completely off-topic, one of my passions is popular music. (And I use the term “popular” very broadly.) So in this and future articles, I may include one of these:
This post created while listening to: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Ani DiFranco
If you have anything to share, please do.