Adobe Photoshop: top 20 secret features

11. Paste In Place / Into / Outside (3)

You’ll find these options under Edit | Paste Special. Paste In Place draws the content of your clipboard onto a new layer at exactly the same position as you copied it from – useful for “backing up” parts of an image. If you want it to go somewhere else, you can select an area of the image, then select Paste Into: this centres the pasted image on your selection, and creates a layer mask around your selected area to conceal any overspill. Paste Outside does the same thing, but only the portion outside of your selection is visible. Click for full documentation.

12. Actions (4)


The Actions panel offers a set of predefined macros, and you can add your own by clicking the Create New Action button. Once you’ve given your new action a name, Photoshop will record the adjustments and operations you carry out until you click Stop. You can replay the process at any time by selecting its name and clicking the Play button. If you have a folder full of files that all need the same treatment, the File | Automate | Batch… dialog can automatically open each one, apply a specified action, and save and close the file afterwards. Click for full documentation.

13. Edit brushes (7)

When you’re using a brush tool (such as the paint brush, clone stamp or eraser), you can make the brush smaller and larger by tapping the square bracket keys, and make its edges harder or softer by holding down shift and tapping { and }. For more advanced control, click the tiny folder icon in the options bar along the top of the screen, or select Windows | Brush to open the Brush panel. From here you can customise every aspect of your brush, including its shape, texture, noise, smoothing and many more properties. Click for full documentation.

14. Smart Objects (CS2)

Smart Objects

You can import any image as a Smart Object (File | Open as Smart Object), or convert any layer to one (right-click on the image and select “Convert to Smart Object”). You can’t directly edit the pixels of a Smart Object, but you can apply any number of transformations to it, and Photoshop will calculate the end result non-destructively from the original full-resolution image. You can also apply filters non-destructively from the Filter menu; these will appear in the layer list and can be tweaked and turned on and off at will. Click for full documentation.

15. History Brush (7)

If you make a mistake in editing, and realise only after you’ve made several other edits, there’s no need to step back through your whole history. Open the History panel (Windows | History), then click the small box to the left of a previous state to set it as the source for the History Brush. Now use the History Brush tool to paint over the areas you want to restore. The Art History Brush works in the same way, but paints in stylised ways, according to your settings in the options bar. Click for full documentation.

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