Think of Panels as miniature workspaces, each accomplishing a different function. There are almost two dozen different panels available to you, but in the spirit of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple!), I would suggest that you start with just the ones shown, and add those you deem necessary as you gain more experience with Photoshop.
Below is a representation of the panels I would suggest that you set up on your Photoshop desktop to create a proper workspace.
Photoshop gives you a set of predefined workspaces (except in Elements). You can access these by going to the“Window” menu -> “Workspace”. I would start with the “Essentials” Workspace, then I’d suggest that you add or subtract panels until you end up with just the following in your workspace:
1. Tools Panel
2. Layers Panel
3. History Panel
4. Actions Panel
(not in Elements)
5. Navigator Panel
6. Info panel
7. Histogram panel
8. Adjustment panel
9. Masks panel
(not in Elements)
Why These Panels?
These panels are the ones that you’ll use most. As it is important to keep things simple (Remember K.I.S.S.!), stick with these to start – you cannot go wrong.
Working with Panels in the Workspace
1. You’ll notice that certain panels are “docked” to each other into Tab Groups. This is to save valuable “screen real estate”. By the way, “screen real estate” is not as critical if you use more than one monitor.
2. To add or remove a Panel from a Tab Group: Click on the Tab, hold down your left mouse button, and drag it into or out of the Group..
3. To add a Panel to your workspace: Go to the “Window” Menu, and simply place a checkmark beside the panel you wish to add. (Checked Panels are those visible in your Workspace).
4. To move a Panel, place your mouse pointer over the name of the panel (the “tab”), you’re your left mouse button down, and drag it to the desired location in your Workspace or Tab Group.
5. To resize a Panel, place your cursor over the bottom right corner of the panel, and your pointer will turn into a double sided arrow. Hold your left mouse button down, and drag the panel to the desired size.
6. To delete a Panel, simply click on the “x” to the right of the name in the tab. You may have to remove this panel from a Tab Group to see it’s “X”. Don’t worry if you accidentally delete a panel you need. You can go to the “Window” menu and “re-check” it.
7. To minimize a Panel or Tab Group, double-click on the dark bars across the top of the Panel or Tab Group. Double-click again to expand again.
Panel Options: In each panel, you’ll notice a downward facing triangle with three parallel lines next to it in the upper right-hand portion of the panel. This gives you access to the Panel Options. Each panel will have a different set of options such as the size of the icons in the panel, the view available to you, and so on. You should explore these. I personally like larger icons in my layers panel.
Hide All Panels: If you’re limited with screen “real-estate” (small laptop, etc), use the “Tab” key on your keyboard to hide all of your panels – perfect for looking at your images with a critical eye. Simply use the “Tab” key again to get back to your Panels.
Maximize your Workspace: To avoid distractions, it’s a good idea to “maximize” the Photoshop Program on your computer so that it “fills” your screen, avoiding other programs, icons, backgrounds, etc that might interfere with your Workspace.
To Save your Workspace (Not available in Elements):
Once you have set up your workspace, you can save it. Go to “Window” -> “Workspace” -> “Save Workspace…”, and when prompted, give it an appropriate name. You can easily access it again by following the exact same menu sequence. You’ll see the name of your saved workspace at the bottom of the menu choices.
by John Watts, Watts Digital Imaging