I've decided to hone in on some of my cool creative-style tips. I know that everyone loves the creative stuff, but there are also some great timesaving tips thrown in for good measure. As much as we love the creative stuff, we need to get through the boring stuff quicker so that we can get back to what we love. I hope you like what I've cooked up for you and I can assure you that you'll find these tips are very useful.
1. Is that layer really empty?
When working in a multilayered document, it's easy for lots of layers to stack up very quickly. Perhaps you got a little carried away and didn't bother naming your layers. Now it's time to clean up your layer stack and start deleting all the unneeded layers. Have you ever wondered if a layer is empty or not? Here's a little time-saving tip: Hold down Ctrl key and click on the layer thumbnail. If you get a message that says, "Warning: No pixels were selected," then you can safely delete the layer because it is indeed empty. If you just wanted to get rid of all empty layers, choose File>Scripts>Delete All Empty Layers.
2. Clean Samples
If you're working on a very high-resolution image that has some grain, it can be hard to sample the exact color that you want. You might find that you're getting the colors from the grain instead. The best way to get a good average color is to change the Sample Size. When you choose the Eyedropper tool (I), you'll see the Sample Size in the Options Bar. Choose a higher sample size for higher resolution and noisier images.
3. Lock your brush settings
Not too many people are aware of this powerful setting. Whenever you choose a different brush preset, all the dynamics will be updated to reflect the settings of the chosen brush. If you click the Lock icon next to a setting, it will stick no matter which brush is chosen. This is really useful if you're mixing brushes while working on a technique. When you turn off the Lock icon (by clicking again), the brush will immediately revert to its original setting. To put everything back to the factory settings as far as locking, choose Reset All Locked Settings from the flyout menu in the Brush panel.
4. Base effect layers
There are lots of times you'll need a layer filled with a base color for an effect. You may use lens flares, add noise to make grain, do nondestructive dodging and burning, or other effects that require a layer that's filled with black, white, or gray. Usually, when you create a layer of this type, you'll use it in a blend mode that will make the base color invisible so only your effect shows. You could create a layer; fill it with gray, black, or white; and then change the blend mode; or you could do this: Hold down the Alt key when you click the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Choose your blend Mode from the dropdown menu. You'll now see an option that says, "Fill with [name of blend mode]-neutral color." Turn on the checkbox, and you're now ready to apply your effect safely.
5. Dragging your lens flare around
Speaking of lens flares, did you know that you're not limited to adding the flare to the center of the image? You can position a lens flare anywhere on the layer. When you choose Filter > Render > Lens Flare, you'll see a preview window with your layer visible. Just click-and-drag the flare in the preview window for exact placement.