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How to Customize Photoshop workspace and tools

How to set up custom workspaces, shortcuts and menus in Photoshop.

We’re going to get our panels and everything where we want. We will customize our menus toolbar and set up Photoshop to work exactly the way you want it to.

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How to set up custom workspaces inside of Photoshop.

When you first launch Photoshop, you’re going to see something like this as your workspace, half your screen is taken up with panels. Let me let you into a secret. You don’t need a lot of these panels all the time. In fact, most of these panels you don’t need at all because you can do the same thing with shortcuts and other ways.

For example, we’ve got a color panel. We can click on a color swatches and select them from the toolbar. (Sure the color panel is useful when we are doing deep, color work, but not for general work).

Tear the panel apart, drag everything out to the middle of the screen.

Notice how these little panels in between, we can pop them open and tear them apart, or we can drag a group. Personally, all I need is Layers, Channels and Masks.

Right now we’re setting up a workspace for working with photos. Set up different minimum spaces for different tasks you perform.

There’s two other panels, we might add. Window>properties , the properties panel is very useful.

For example, there is an adjustments Panel. But you can also just as easily click at the bottom of the layers panel to get the same adjustments.

The Properties panel is context sensitive and can replace many panels, If I go into something like an adjustment layer. Notice the settings for that adjustment layer going to appear in the properties panel. If I work on a mask, the mask settings are going to work in here.

Another useful panel is the libraries.

I use the libraries a lot, so I’m going to drop these to the side, though. I want them to take up just a little bit of space

Click on the little menu on the arrow at the top right, we get some options, choose the auto collapse to icons.


That’s saving space. There’s another useful panel Window >brushes. If a whole  group of panels open, choose the one you want and thenclick these little Xs to get rid of the rest.

Great. The right hand side is set up how we want it.

Setting up the toolbar

Look on the left hand side. Here’s our toolbar. I don’t know if you’re aware, but you can do different things that the toolbar.

We can tear it out. We can have it floating. We can click this double arrow and have two column, and if we want, we can even dock it to the right side.


Now you can customize what’s in the toolbar. Say we are setting up a workspace just for photography and don’t necessarily need all of these tools.

Click and hold on the three ellipses, choose edit toolbar and this gives us all the tools.

Drag all the tools you don’t need to the right column.

When you are happy, click done. Now only the tools you have chosen will be visible in the tool bar.

Of course, all the tools are available. If you just click and hold on the 3 elipses on the toolbar, you can choose edit toolbar and bring them back.

If you just need to access the tools quickly, just click and hold. Those hidden tools are just going to appear and you can quickly grab them if you want to use them just once.

Customizing Photoshop menus.

Choose edit>menus. To hide menu items,  just hit that little eye and those menu items will be hidden.

You can simplify the menus as much as you want. By hiding the items you never use, it simplifies finding the items you do use.

Making custom keyboard shortcuts

Choose Edit>Keyboard Shortcuts.

You will see all the keyboard shortcuts inside of Photoshop.

Let me let you into a little secret right now. I’m going to show you how to create a keyboard shortcut Cheat Sheet.

Click on summarize, where you can see all the different commands.

Choose where you want to save it somewhere on a desktop and then click save. It creates an HTML file with all the keyboard shortcuts on your computer, if you want to save this as a PDF. Choose file print. Click save and it will create that PDF for you.


If you wanted to set a  custom keyboard shortcut, for example, if we choose select>modify>feather, there’s no easy keyboard shortcut. (Shift F6)

Go down to the select menu. Choose modify, and feather.

If you want to add a keyboard shortcut, simply click in the field and type in a keyboard shortcut. Currently Feather is shift F6. That’s a little bit difficult. I want to do something easier. How about command shift F.  Hit Cmd/Ctrl+shift +F  and it’s going to create that keyboard shortcut.

Click away and if that keyboard shortcut was taken, it’ll give you a warning and then you can just choose to accept that keyboard shortcut or not. Actually (Cmd+Shift+F) was assigned to Fade and it’s not something I would use as much as Feather.

Saving a Custom Workspace customize screen

In this particular case, we’ve set up Photoshop to be really efficient for the task that we will use it for. Let’s save it as a custom workspace so we can call up this workspace and all the modified menus whenever we need it.

Go to the top, right. Click on the rectangular menu for workspaces.

Go down and click new workspace. Give it a name (Colin Photo) because we’re going to be using this for photo editing. Click the option to include Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

Now, if your desktop gets a little messy, which it often does for me, the carnage of panels cast across the desktop and you want to clean it up.

All you need to do is click on the workspaces menu, and choose reset for the workspace.

And this will reset this to the workspace that you set up. You can use this to set up particular workspaces that are laser focused on what you’re doing, you could do it just photography or digital illustration, video, whatever you want, and clear out all the clutter to make it really easy to find the tools in the menus that you want for the different workspaces and the different tasks you might do instead of Photoshop.

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8 responses to “How to Customize Photoshop workspace and tools”

  1. In Windows, the “Summarize” button creates a document automatically and opens the “Save” dialog box. Don’t even have to open the document itself–just save it wherever you want. It’s an html doc.

  2. Great very helpful. A question: my left tool bar is pretty small and used to be larger. Is there any way, that to enlarge it?
    Also very annoying, when Adobe make updates, they reduce the performance to 50%, so I have to rest it to 85% again.

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