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Section: ONE Be Your Own Help Desk > Creating Flexible Documents

Chapter Four. Creating Flexible Documents

Okay, I admit it: I am a lazy person. If I can avoid working too hard, I will. If I can get away with doing less work, I will. Show me a way to save time so I can get back to the important task of doing nothing, and I'm all over that! That's why I love using shortcuts in Photoshop—one quick keyboard command and I've saved a time-consuming trip to the menus. Oh, and you've gotta love pressing one key to activate a tool instead of dragging that mouse all the way across your screen!

That's also why I'm a big believer in using the most flexible methods I can: to avoid having to re-do my Photoshop work. If I can use an adjustment layer to make a simple change when my client says “what would it look like in blue?” why not? That's so much simpler (and lazier?) than having to start over again simply because I didn't use a layer to make my color change the first time.

Sure, there are other benefits to using these flexible approaches, such as more accuracy and avoiding potential problems, but really, it's all about laziness. Yessir, it's all about the laziness.

By now I'm sure that you know there are usually anywhere from three to six different ways to do things in Photoshop. Some methods are faster and more accurate than others. But more importantly, some techniques offer a lot more flexibility, and these methods are the ones you should consider—particularly if you're going to be doing a lot of editing after the fact.

Here's a simple example: you want to lighten a portion of a photograph, so you make a feathered selection, then use the Levels command (Command-L [PC: Control-L]) to lighten the image. Finally, you deselect (Command-D [PC: Control-D]) and save the document. Although there's nothing “wrong” with this method, it does have a significant drawback: the change is permanent. In this case, there's really no possibility of changing your mind—you saved the document after lightening the selected area. If you decide it's too light or you selected the wrong area, it's too late to make an adjustment. Instead, why not use a Levels adjustment layer (simply select Levels from the Create New Adjustment Layer pop-up menu at the bottom of the Layers palette) to lighten the selected area? Then, even after saving the document, you can make further adjustments to the Levels, and you can use the layer mask to adjust the area that's being affected. This simple change in approach makes a huge difference in the amount of flexibility you can have in your work.

With that in mind, here are my nominees for the most flexible Photoshop CS2 methods.

Let's see some of our nominees in action…

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