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Photoshop Disasters (and How to Avoid Them)

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/22/2012

So you've made a mistake in Photoshop. Now what? Do you scrap the project and start over? When was the last time you saved? This article will list a couple of common Photoshop disasters and their solutions, as well as give tips to save you a lot of trouble when working with the program.

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    Prevention vs. Damage Control

    This is an Adobe Photoshop Tips and Tricks article! Unfortunately, there is only so much damage control to be had when you run into Photoshop disasters. This means that you might have to scrap a project and start over from a save (or worse - start over all together) if you can't find any solutions.

    However, there's a lot you can do to prevent these pesky disasters from ever occurring. This guide will give you some great tips and tricks that provide you with the ability to prevent the worst of Photoshop disasters from happening, and even offer a little bit of advice for damage control.

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    Three Things You Can Do to Save Yourself a Lot of Trouble

    1. Save often

    Just like every high school computer teacher told you: saving whenever you make a decent amount of progress or when you get to a point where you're pleased with your work is an important habit to get into. This way, if you mess up beyond what you can undo, or if Photoshop crashes, you have a recent save to pick up from. This is easily the best tip anyone can give you to help avoid any major Photoshop disasters.

    2. If you don't like it, change it.

    Don't leave something in a project if you don't like the way it looks. This is the worst thing you can do. Chances are, if you love the project except for that one little (or not so little) bit, you're probably going to dislike the project overall. So fix that tiny bit of misaligned text, that wonky graphic or that oddly drawn hand until you like it. It makes for a better project over all, and one you'll be proud of.

    3. Practice, practice, practice.

    Photoshop is not magic, and you shouldn't think that as soon as you start working with the program that you will produce stunning pieces of work. Photoshop professionals from all fields have had years of practice, and several have attended classes and workshops to gain an understanding of the program. Look up some of the free tutorials available and try them out, even if they don't seem to fit with anything you're working on. You'd be surprised how easily you can apply the same logic of different tutorials to your projects.

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    Can't Undo Any More

    Scenario: You've been doing a lot of small repetitive tasks, such as individual brush strokes, smudging, or stamping. You realize that you don't like the effect and begin repeatedly pressing undo. After a while, you realize that you can't undo anymore, even though there is still stuff you don't like. How do you fix this?

    Solution: While this doesn't work retroactively, you can prevent this from happening in the future. Inside of Photoshop there is a setting that tells Photoshop how far back in your history to remember, the default being 20 steps, or history states. To increase this, simply go into Edit in the top menu, into Preferences, and then Performance. In this window, you will find a box that says History States. Increase this value to increase the amount of steps Photoshop saves (so you can undo them later). Increasing this number can make Photoshop run slower or crash on older computers, so don't take the number up too drastically.

    Adobe Photoshop History States 

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    Working on the Wrong Layer

    Scenario: You spent a lot of time working on a layer in Photoshop, and you're done with it. It looks perfect. Or maybe it's a line art layer that you want to remain untouched. You look up and realize that you've done a lot of work on the layer that you didn't want to do anything else on.

    Solution: See how much you've done, and if you can undo it. Like above, you can increase Photoshop's History States to make this easier on yourself. If you can't, see how much of the layer you've actually painted over. You may be able to selectively erase what you've done.

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    Photoshop is Laggy

    Scenario: You start working in Photoshop, but you notice that every time you move your mouse or try to type any text, there's a 1-5 second (or even more!) delay before anything shows up. The program lags behind everything you do, making it pretty much impossible for you to do anything at all! How on Earth do you fix this?

    Solution: Photoshop is lagging - and assuming that you cannot simply buy a better or faster computer - there still are a few simple solutions for this. Make sure you don't have dozens of other programs running in the background. Photoshop is a large, resource hogging program. That's just a fact that you're going to have to live with. This means that if it doesn't have enough free resources to pull from, it will run slow and clunky, and may even be prone to crashing. Closing programs such as MP3 players (iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, and RealPlayer for example), any open games you may have, and any video you have running is sure to speed it up a little. Another solution is seeing how much RAM you have, and if a plausible option, purchase more. Running newer versions (such as CS2 and higher) of Photoshop on at least 2GB of RAM is recommended.