The Workspace in Photoshop CS 6

The Photoshop Workspace

Photoshop’s “out of the box” workspace consists of the following components, shown in Figure 1.1:

Options bar

The options bar holds contextualized options for different tools.


By default, the toolbox sits to the left of your Photoshop window, and contains shortcuts to Photoshop tools.


Individual “panes” that hold information or options for working with your file, known as panels, float on the right-hand side. Each panel is labeled with a tab, and can be minimized, closed, grouped with other panels, or dragged to the panel docking areas on the right and bottom,and in the icon column. In Figure 1.1, the Color panel allows you to change the foreground and background colors by changing the Red/Green/Blue values directly , or by picking from the color spectrum.

Document windows 

Each open document has its own document window with a status bar along the bottom. The status bar displays information that’ s specific to the document. Document windows can be full-screen as shown in Figure 1.1, with multiple document tabs across the top, or dragged out to become independent, floating windows.

Menu bar (not shown)

You will probably already be familiar with the menu bar from other programs. This runs across the top of your display (Mac) or Photoshop window (Windows), and contains various menuoptions for Photoshop’ s tools.

The Workspace in Photoshop CS 6-1Figure 1.1. The Photoshop workspace

The Workspace in Photoshop CS 6-2Comps and Turtlenecks: Designer Lingo
Now that you’re going to be working in Photoshop, you might want to start talking like a designer. Designers, like professionals in most specialist fields, have their own terminology for their tools of the trade. A comp (short for “composite”) refers to a mockup of the final solution that a designer has in mind. Traditionally , a comp is used in the print world to refer to page layouts, but for web designers it usually refers to a static interface prepared entirely in Photoshop for the client to look over before they decide to proceed. You might even hear it being used as a verb, where comping is the process of creating that mockup site.

Customizing Your Workspace

Customizing Your Workspace You can customize your Photoshop workspace to suit you or your project; almost everything within your workspace can be repositioned and reconfigured. You might choose to customize your work-space by:

Changing the look of the menu bar  

You can change which menu items are visible in your menu bar, or even add color to your menu items. If you wanted, you could also assign new or alternative keyboard shortcuts to menu commands (I recommend against it, though, until you feel very comfortable with Photoshop or have a compelling reason to do so). Go to Edit > Menus… and use the dialog box to modify the menu bar and panel menus.

Moving the options bar 

 If you want to move the options bar, you can do so by clicking the handle on its left side and moving it around. The options bar will “dock” to the top or bottom of the screen automatically if moved near those areas.

Moving the toolbox

The toolbox is extremely portable, and can be moved to any location on your screen. Move the toolbox by clicking on the dark gray area at the top of it and dragging it around. You may also click the double arrows in this gray area to change the toolbox from one to two columns.

Rearranging panels

There are many ways to rearrange your panels. You might want to separate a panel from its panel group and move it into another group. You can do this by dragging the panel tab out of its original group and into the new group. You might also decide to drag some of your panel tabs into the icon column. The panel icon column can be resized as well to display the name of the panel instead of just the icon. Panels also can be docked in the right side or bottom of the workspace of the workspace. Finally, to display a panel that has been closed, go to Window and select the panel you want to show .

Displaying different information in the document window status bar

The status bar displays the document file size by default. The file size is shown as two numbers separated by a forward slash: the first number is an approximation of the image file size with all layers merged (known as “flattening” the image), while the second number is an approximation of the total file size of the image with layers intact. If all this sounds new to you, don’t worry—we’ll be discussing layers shortly . You can set the status bar to display different information, such as the document dimension in pixels (shown in Figure 1.2) or the version number of the file. T o do this, click on the arrow icon next to the status bar and choose the information you’d like to see.

The Workspace in Photoshop CS 6-3Figure 1.2. Changing the status bar

Saving Your Customized Workspace

As you become more proficient with Photoshop, you may discover that you use certain sets of panels for different types of projects, while other panels are left unused. Photoshop allows you to save and load various workspaces—different arrangements of panels, menus, even keyboard shortcuts—to help you work more efficiently .

After you’ve customized your workspace to your satisfaction, select Window > Workspace > New Workspace… from the menu bar and enter a name for your workspace, such as Creating Thumbnails or My Default Workspace. You can then load your different workspaces by opening Window > Workspace and selecting your custom workspace from the menu list.

The Workspace in Photoshop CS 6-4Web Designers Use Pixels
One of the first tasks I do once I’ve installed Photoshop is change my Photoshop preferences to use pixel units instead of inches or centimeters. Go to Photoshop > Preferences > Units & Rulers (Windows: Edit > Preferences > Units & Rulers) and change the Ruler units to pixels. You may also want to change the Type units to pixels.