Setting Up Photoshop for Video and Motion Graphics Part 1

Photoshop has its roots as a video and film application. The print—and more recently, web—industries have claimed it as their own. Now it’s our turn. Digital video has emerged as the fastest growing technology area; more and more books and applications are popping up on the shelves, promising solutions for all skill levels. It is my goal to help you reclaim Photoshop and learn to harness its diverse imaging abilities to enhance your video projects.

Photoshop has all the tools you need (and many you don’t). Let’s get started by setting up Photoshop to work with our video applications. First we’ll modify its preferences which control how the application functions. To begin, call up your Preferences panel by pressing Cmd+K (Ctrl+K). These Preferences suggestions are based on Photoshop CS5. Most of these options exist in earlier versions of Photoshop, but naming conventions may vary.


Figure ch01-02
In the General category, choose:

  • Adobe Color Picker (a consistent, cross-platform color selection tool).
  • Image Interpolation set to Bicubic (best for smooth gradients).
  • Use Shift Key for Tool Switch unchecked.
  • Resize Image During Place checked.
  • Zoom Resizes Windows checked.
  • Zoom with Scroll Wheel checked.
  • Click Next.


Figure ch01-03
The Interface category groups several preferences together that affect the application’s appearance.

  • Set UI Font Size set to Medium or Large depending upon the resolution of your display. Use a larger size for bigger monitors.
  • Leave Show Channels in Color unchecked. This option affects how your channels and images are viewed and diminish the on-screen viewing quality.
  • Uncheck Enable Gestures if using a laptop (unless you love them).
  • Click Next.

File Handling

Figure ch01-04
In the File Handling category, you need to make some changes to ensure cross-platform functionality. Even if your shop only uses Macs or PCs, you will work with others who are on other operating systems. Be cross-platform compliant when saving your Photoshop files.

  • Always choose the Save an Icon and Macintosh or Windows Thumbnail options. This will allow you to quickly locate files through visual cues.
  • Always append file extension with lower case tags.
  • Set Maximize PSD and PSB File Compatibility to Always.
  • Click Next.


Figure ch01-05
The performance category groups several options together which manage your installed RAM and hard drives.

  • Memory Usage identifies how much RAM you have installed. Photoshop has a minimum requirement of 1 GB for CS5.
  • Allow at least 20 History States (levels of Undo). You will vary this number based on RAM and personal experience as you grow less dependent on undos.
  • Memory will generally not be a big deal because you’ll work primarily with low-resolution sources in this book. However, if you have extra (local) drives, make Photoshop aware of them. Set your emptiest drive as the First Scratch Disk. Ideally you will choose a drive that is not the system (boot) drive.
  • If you have a robust video card and will be doing a lot of image clean up, then check the boxes for Enable OpenGL Drawing.
  • Click Next.


Figure ch01-06
Photoshop uses specialized cursors to make it easier to know which tool is in use.

  • Set Painting Cursors to Normal Brush Tip. I personally prefer to check Show Crosshair in Brush Tip. (The Caps Lock key disables this preview feature.)
  • Set Other Cursors to Precise. This way, you can actually see your sample point for your Eyedropper and Stamp tools.
  • Click Next.

Transparency & Gamut

Figure ch01-07
Under Transparency & Gamut, you can generally leave these options alone. Personal preferences do vary however.

  • You can change the grid size to make it easier to see transparent pixels.
  • You can change the grid color if you despise light gray. You can also disable the grid altogether. Remember, the grid will not print or show up in your video graphics.
  • Click Next.