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Adobe Photoshop Basics
Lesson 1d: Palettes

Let's continue our exploration of the Photoshop workspace. There are four main counterparts to the Photoshop workspace: the menu bar, the status bar, the toolbox, and the palettes. All that's left to cover now are the palettes. Since this is a general overview of the palettes, the materials here are useful for any version of Photoshop. You'll need to have an image open for this lesson, so go ahead and open one now.

Adobe Photoshop Basics
Read This First!
Course Outline
Menu Bar
Status Bar
• Palettes

Interactive Classroom
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The Navigator Palette grouped with the info and Options Palettes.
The Navigator Palette grouped with the info and Options Palettes.

The Palettes
Notes for Version 6.0
In version 6, the options palettes is replaced with the options bar. The brushes palette has become part of the options bar, and three new palettes have been added: Styles, Character and Paragraph.

When you first open Photoshop, the palettes are stacked along the right edge of your screen in palette groups. The first group contains the Navigator, Info, and Options palettes. Next is the Color Swatches, and Brushes palettes. Below that are the History and Actions Palettes. Finally, you have the Layers, Channels, and Paths Palettes.

Palette groups can be moved around in the workspace by clicking on the title bar and dragging. Each palette group has a collapse and a close button in the title bar area. Try the collapse button for each of the palette groups now. You'll notice the button works as a toggle, clicking the button a second time after the palette is collapsed will expand the palette again. You may also notice that some palettes do not completely collapse. Try collapsing the color palettes and you'll see that the color ramp is still visible.

Color Palette Expanded
Color Palette Expanded

Color Palette Partially Collapsed
Color Palette Partially Collapsed

Color Palette Completely Collapsed
Color Palette Completely Collapsed

For palettes that partially collapse, you can completely collapse them by holding down the Alt/Option key as you press the collapse button. You can also collapse a group by double clicking on any of the palette tabs. To display a collapsed palette, just click once on the palette tab if it's in the back of the group, or double click if it's in the front of the group.

Palettes can be resized either by holding your cursor over an edge and dragging when the cursor changes to a double pointing arrow, or by clicking and dragging on the right corner. Only the Color, Options, and Info palettes are not resizable.

Notes for Mac Users
I have received reports that the function keys to show/hide palettes do not work on the Mac. Mac users will need to access these commands from the Window menu.

When you click the close button on a palette group it closes all the palettes in the group. To display a palette that is not shown, you can either choose the command from the Window Menu, or display the palette using its keyboard shortcut. They are:

  • Enter or Return = Show/Hide Options Palette (V5.x only)
  • Double click tool button = Show/Hide Options Palette (V5.x only)
  • F5 = Show/Hide Brushes Palette
  • F6 = Show/Hide Color Palette
  • F7 = Show/Hide Layers Palette
  • F8 = Show/Hide Info Palette
  • F9 = Show/Hide Actions Palette

And don't forget these which we learned in the last lesson:

  • Tab = Show/Hide Toolbar and all Palettes
  • Shift-Tab = Show/Hide all Palettes

To bring a grouped palette to the front of the group, click on the palette's tab. You can also ungroup and rearrange the palettes by clicking on a tab and dragging it outside of the group or to another group. Try it now by dragging the navigator palette out of it's default group. Then put it back by dragging it back onto the palette group.

Notes for Version 6.0

In version 6, several palettes can be grouped in one large super-group. To do this, drag a palette to the bottom edge of another palette group. An outline will appear long the bottom edge and then you can let go. Now the two palettes will be attached, but not overlapping. You can attach several palettes this way to create one massive palette collection.

Docking two palettes
Docking two palettes

Two palettes that have been docked
Two palettes that have been docked

The Palette Well in Photoshop 6.0Also in Photoshop 6.0, you have a palette well in the options bar. You can drag palettes to this area and they will remain there hidden until you click on the palette tab to reveal it. (If you cannot see the palette well of the options bar, you will need to adjust your screen resolution to at least 1024x768 pixels.)

The Palette MenuAnother common feature of all the palettes is the palette menu. Notice the small arrow in the upper right corner of each palette. If you recall from our lessons on the menu and status bar, this indicates a pop-out menu. Whenever you see me refer to a palette menu throughout these lessons, you'll know I mean this menu for whichever palette is being discussed. Take a look at the palette menu for each of the palettes now. Notice that each individual palette has a unique menu.

Practice showing, hiding and moving the various palettes, click on the palette tabs to familiarize yourself with each palette, and take a look at each of the palette menus while you're at it.

Notes for Version 6.0
In Photoshop 6, the commands to reset and save palette locations have moved. Reset Palette Locations is under the Window menu. Preferences is under the Edit menu.

If you'd like to return the palettes to the default locations after you finish experimenting, go to File > Preferences > General and click the button to reset Palette Locations. If you always want to start Photoshop with you palettes this way, uncheck the box "Save Palette Locations" box while you are there. If you work with many large images you may prefer to keep your palettes collapsed along the bottom edge of the Photoshop workspace to give you the maximum space for documents. We'll take a closer look at each of the individual palettes in future lessons.

Next > Lesson 1: Review

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