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Setting up Photohop


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  • I just got a computer, how do I setup Photoshop?
  • Are there any recommended settings that I should use when it comes to Adobe Photoshop?
  • Damien recommends that I edit in sRGB and not Adobe RGB (1998). How do I accomplish this?
  • My husband just rebuilt my computer and my Photoshop settings are a mess. What are those recommended settings again?

It's very important to edit in sRGB instead of a wider Color Space, such as Adobe RGB (1998). Damien has written and excellent article, "The Wide Gamut Myth," and is worth reading. To quickly condense the reasons why, we want our workflow to be consistent...from beginning to middle to end. We want an accurate histogram, accurate warnings of blown highlights and clipped darks and we want to utilize a WYSIWYG Philosophy. Meaning what you see on your calibrated screen matches your physical prints...and that requires that you edit in the sRGB Color Space. Why? Because when you export to a JPEG file, the default Color Space that JPEG (aka .jpg) uses is sRGB! Period. So if you are going to end up there, why bother editing in a Color Space that will look different on your screen than in the final output? Remember...consistency from beginning to end. Of course, if you have a multi-thousand dollar printer, that's physically calibrated to your Display and uses the Adobe RGB (1998) Color Space, then yes...you are the .001% of people out there that should use Adobe RGB. For the other 99.999% of us, which includes both myself and those reading this article, please use sRGB.

Fortunately, setting up Adobe Photoshop to use sRGB is pretty straight-forward, but there are a few things that need to be tweaked. Before we get into that, first we need to make a change in Adobe Camera Raw, or ACR. That's the program that handles your Raw Files and those edits lay the foundation that the rest of your edits are based on. Things like White Balance, Color-space, Color Profiles that are used, all come from ACR. So it's very important that we start there first...

Edit: If Mac user has upgraded to macOS Monterey, please ensure you are using the absolute latest version of Photoshop. Photoshop CC 2019, and Photoshop CC 2020 aren't fully compatible with Monterey. As I type this, April 15th, 2022, the current version is Photoshop CC 2022 (23.3.0 Release).

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Part 1 - Setting up Adobe Camera Raw

Step 1: Load any Raw file into Adobe Camera Raw. It really does not matter what photo you choose; the photo can be a picture of a blank wall or whatever, we just need something to be loaded into ACR to make the changes. Make sure it is only ONE image loaded when you do this!

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.32.58 PM.png

  • If you look towards the bottom of the ACR Window, depending on the version of ACR, you will either see a Blue or White URL-looking link. The current Color Space will be listed just before the Semi-Colon. For example:

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.34.47 PM.png

  • As you can see, Adobe RGB (1998) is the default Color-space that is used and we need you to click the link so we can change it to sRGB. When you click on the link, the Workflow Options Window appears:

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 2.36.23 PM.png


  • In this Window, we only need to pay attention to one particular section, and that's the Color Space Section. Do not change any other setting, just the Color Space choice:

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.38.36 PM.png


  • Click the Down Arrow on the Space Menu and choose sRGB IEC61966-2.1. It should be towards the bottom of the top section or the fifth one down from the very top of the list.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.42.09 PM.png


  • From there, I like to save this Color Space Setting by giving it a unique name, this way I can quickly glance to see if I am working in sRGB. Why?

    Because each time ACR updates, it defaults the Color Space Setting to Adobe RGB (1998)!!!


  • That's right, every stinkin' time Adobe updates Photoshop or ACR in some way it seems the default Adobe RGB (1998) setting comes back!!! By giving it a name you'll know when it changes.
  • After you set the Color Space line to sRGB IEC61966-2.1, click the down arrow next to the word "Custom" at the top and select "New Workflow Preset."

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.53.58 PM.png


  • Create a unique name that you can recognize at a glance and click OK. Personally, I use the name "You are in sRGB."

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 4.56.56 PM.png


  • After you click OK, you will be taken back to the main ACR Window. If you will notice at the bottom, it will say "You are in sRGB" instead of Adobe RGB (1998). This is a quick and easy way for you do glance down when you open ACR to see if you are still in sRGB. If that doesn't appear, you need to change it back.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 5.02.15 PM.png


  • Finally, click the "Open Image" button in ACR, which will close ACR, save your Color Space choice, and open your image in Adobe Photoshop. We will need an image opened in order to change / verify some menu settings.
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Part 2 - Setting up Adobe Photoshop

Step 2: Making the Document Profile Setting visible. The very next thing that we MUST DO is make a change that is visible on the lower left portion of the Adobe Photoshop Window, the part where it might say, "Doc: 35.8/35.8" or whatever. This is the default choice, Document Size, which lets you know how large your .psd file currently is. In today's world with our large capacity Hard Drives and Gigabytes of RAM, we really do not need to know this information. What really matters is knowing what Color Space you are in AT ALL TIMES. Remember how I stated above that each time ACR updates, it defaults back to Adobe RGB (1998)? Well, this next setting will allow you to catch things before it's too late. It is IMPERATIVE THAT WE CHANGE THIS SETTING FROM DOCUMENT SIZES TO DOCUMENT PROFILE before continuing. Fortunately, it's easy to do. Just simply click the " > " arrow and select DOCUMENT PROFILE.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 5.18.16 PM.png


  • Now when you look towards the bottom, it should show "sRGB IEC61966-2.1 (8bpc)" and NOTHING ELSE. The only exception is when we are editing in 16-bit mode, but more on that later. In either case, whether you are in 8-bit or 16-bit, it should always say sRGB IEC61966-2.1"

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 5.21.31 PM.png

Step 3: Choosing the correct Color Settings option.

After you set the Document Profile to be visible at all-times, head to the Edit Menu and choose Color Settings in the list:

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 5.58.24 PM.png

  • You want to make sure that the very Top Line is set to North America General Purpose 2. Yes, even if you do not physically live in North America, select it. You really shouldn't have to make any other choices except verifying that the RGB Mode is set to sRGB. Everything else...leave alone. Then click OK to close the Window.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 6.04.25 PM.png

Step 4: Verify that you are in 8-Bit Mode.

By default, Photoshop uses 8 Bit Mode, but if we need to change this, this is the area that you make the change. What is "Bit Mode" and what does it mean to you? Damien wrote two articles on this subject and they are both worth reading. The first article uses Cake as an example to demonstrate the differences and another article instructing the proper method in going back and forth between the two modes.

In case you are wondering, the term 'bpc' stands for Bit-Depth Per Channel. From Adobe's website,


"...Bit Depth specifies how much color information is available for each pixel in an image. The more bits of information per pixel, the more available colors and more accurate color representation..." 

In a nutshell, the higher the Bit Depth, the more data or "Stuff" each pixel has to work with. So why not edit in 16-Bit mode all the time? Bigger is better, right? Well...not always.  The higher the Bit Depth, the more resources and memory each pixel requires. If you were told to use 16-bit, you'll notice on just how SLOW your computer behaves, especially with multiple images open! So order to utilize 16-Bit on a bunch of photos that are loaded into PS, the more RAM, CPU Power, and Hard Drive Capacity (for the PS Scratch Disk) you will need. Basically, you will need a "High Horsepower" computer (Translation: Expensive) in order to really utilize 16-bit mode. Simply put, the quickest way to create HUGE files and make your computer come to a "Snail's Crawl" is to exclusively edit in 16-bit mode.

So why use 16-bit mode if it's so "bad?" It is used when Photoshop needs to have a little more "Umph." For example, when you need to repair a image and do Photo-Restoration work or when you have SEVERE Banding that just doesn't seem to go away, no matter how much you edit. 16-Bit Mode is when you need more "Horsepower" from Photoshop on a single image, not for batching 40 photos from a Wedding or Family Session at the park. It gives Photoshop more Pixel/Data info to work with and permission to use more resources from your computer.

  • To verify which Bit Mode we are in, head to the Image Menu and make sure RGB Color and 8 Bits/Channel is Checked

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 6.09.23 PM.png

Well, that's it for the Photoshop Settings. As you can see, this should only take a few moments to adjust. The next part will have to do with the Performance Settings with Photoshop. 

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Part 3 - Tweak Photoshop's Performance Settings

Now for the final part of setting up Photoshop. There are only a few things that we might need to change and they will be covered in this section. First, open up the Performance Box under the Preferences Menu:

  • Mac: Choose the Photoshop Menu >> Preferences >> Performance

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 10.27.49 AM.png


  • Windows: Edit Menu >> Select Preferences >> Choose the Performance Section

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 10.36.33 AM.png


  • For both Windows & Mac computers, the Performance Setting Box should be nearly identical and looks like this:

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 10.38.42 AM.png


  • The first thing we are going to change is the lower right section and set them to the following:
    • History States - 50.
    • Cache Tiles - 4
    • Cache Tile Size - 128K
  • Next, we will head to the Memory Usage section, towards the top left. Normally, I leave this at the default, which is 70% but have been known to increase it to 80% if I'm working on something quite large, like a huge Panorama Photo. Keep in mind, the more RAM you tell Photoshop to use, the less will be available for other programs. So if you have other programs running in the background, like Lightroom or FIrefox, there will be less RAM for them to use if you set this number higher than the default. Remember, each tab in a browser takes up a little bit of RAM, so if you have Facebook, Pandora and a IM program running, they all use RAM in order to work. So my recommendation is to leave it at 70% and at least have 16GB of RAM with working in Photoshop; preferably 24-32GB should be your target when it comes to RAM. Heck, I'm running 64GB with my iMac...you can never have enough RAM. ;)
  • Now comes time for the Graphic Processor Settings. This will be the setting that you will adjust more often then not. With today's Adobe Products, they are utilizing the Video GPU Chip and Video Memory for a performance boost. So having a beefy video card with video drivers that are compatible with Photoshop is now more important than ever. By default, you want the "Use Graphics Processor" checkbox...checked.

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.05.05 AM.png


  • Adobe has changed the Advanced Settings box for the recent versions of Photoshop. For now, I will leave both of these screenshots up and as time goes on, I will remove the older one.
  • New Style: Click on the Advanced Settings... button and verify that all of the check-boxes are checked.


  • Old Style: Click on the Advanced Settings... button and have the drawing mode set to Advanced. Leave the check-boxes at the bottom alone:

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.06.07 AM.png


  • If Photoshop is complaining about your Graphics Card and/or Video Driver, or is acting weird, you might want to set the Drawing Mode to "Basic" and restart Photoshop. What do I mean "Weird?" Usually your images just will not look right or you will have the famous "Multiple Black Boxes" on your images. This is the result of your video card not playing well with Photoshop's advanced features. If Photoshop still has problems, you might have to un-check the "Use Graphics Processor" feature altogether.

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.28.51 AM.png

Again, only un-check this option IF you are having issues.

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Part 4 - The Photoshop Scratch Disk

Originally, I had this section merged with the "Performance Section" above, but I decided it should be on its own. The reason is, for the majority of people, this option located in the Preferences Section of Photoshop should be left alone. The only time we need to change this section is if the Main HD is getting full or we are working on something HUGE and Photoshop needs more resources. That said, if your main HD is THAT full, you have MUCH BIGGER problems than just Photoshop performance issues. if you maintain your computer and have a large enough Main HD (at least 1TB) you will never have to mess with this section. The other reason we might have to change the Scratch disk settings, is we need to move the Scratch Disk to another Hard Drive OR to have the Scratch Disk span multiple Hard Drives; this will allow a larger HD Pool to draw from. Again, if you are running out of room or PS is complaining "...the Scratch Disk is full," you have much bigger problems outside of Photoshop and you should create a thread in the appropriate Ask Brian section. 

  • To begin, click the Scratch Disks Section in the left column. If you have an external HD mounted and running, you might get a pop-up box requesting "Access to the External HD..." or something along those lines. Simply click Allow or Yes and you will see all of your available Hard Drives that the Scratch Disk can use. It should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.18.30 AM.png

Again, for the majority of us out there, leaving it at the Default should be fine. If we need to span multiple Hard Drives so that the Photoshop Scratch Disk has a larger "Pool" to draw from, then simply put check-marks next to the additional drives you want to use. For example:

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.22.23 AM.png

That being said, for Macintosh Users...NEVER-EVER-EVER CHECK THE "TIME MACHINE" Drive to be used as a PS Scratch Disk!! Leave that drive alone!!

  • If you have a dedicated HD in your computer and you want to move the Scratch Disk to it, simply un-check the Main HD and select the drive that you want to use. For example:

Screen Shot 2020-05-16 at 11.41.45 AM.png


  • In either case, after you make the appropriate changes, click OK and then RESTART PHOTOSHOP in order for the changes to take affect.

Part 5 - Adjust the Photoshop Brush Settings

This is one of those dumb things that Adobe chooses to do for a default setting. I don't know why they choose this option, but fortunately...it's easy to change.

  • We will start by clicking on the Cursors item in the left column, it's just below the "Scratch Disks" item.

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.05.04 PM.png


  • Then look in the "Other Cursors" Section (in the middle) change it from Standard to Precise:

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.05.13 PM.png



Part 6 - Adjust the Photoshop "New Document" Settings

The latest update that Adobe just released at the end of June 2020 really changed the way the "New Document" module looked. For example:

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.11.42 PM.png

  • If you create a lot of documents directly in Photoshop, and would like to use the "Classic" or "Legacy" version that has been around forever, simply head back into the General Section of the Photoshop Preferences and put a Check-mark next to the "Use Legacy 'New Document' Interface."


Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.09.33 PM.png

Close-up View of the Check-box:

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.09.40 PM.png

  • By making this change, Photoshop will use the standard "New Document" Interface that has been around forever:

Screen Shot 2020-06-30 at 6.11.18 PM.png



Part 7 - Enable the "Legacy Save As" function

 The original way, and the method that has been around since Photoshop 1.0, was recently changed by Adobe. This is turn has confused many people and were trying to figure out how to "Turn Off" the new feature. What happened is, Adobe added an extra step to "Save a Copy" instead of directly Saving / Overwriting the file, just as it always had. I understand Adobe's intentions, on the surface this sound like a good thing, but people are creatures of habit and don't like change. So finally Adobe provided a few check-boxes to enable the original method in saving files. 

First, you need to update to the latest version of Photoshop CC that's available. Then head to the Preferences Screen

  • For the MacOS: Open Photoshop. Head to the Photoshop Menu (Next to the Apple Menu up top) then click > Preferences > File Handling > File Saving Options
  • For Windows Users: Open Photoshop: Head to the Edit Menu > Preferences > File Handling > File Saving Options 

As you can see Photoshop itself is nearly identical between the MacOS version and Windows Version. Well, when it comes to the Preferences Screen / Setup Boxes. The main difference is how you get to the Preferences Section in Photoshop. (The Photoshop Menu vs the Edit Menu.) But I'm digressing.

  • After you enter the "File Handling Menu," click the check-box next to "Enable legacy "Save As"


After you click this first check-box, a Warning Dialog will appear, just click "OK."



  • After you click "Enable legacy "Save As," then the check-box next to: Do not append "copy" to filename when saving a copy should automatically appear. If it doesn't, just manually select it. 
  • When finished , ensure the two check-boxes are selected: 



  • Now simply click "OK" and RESTART PHOTOSHOP.
  • Rejoice!! Saving your files should be back to the same method that has been used since Photoshop 1.0 was around. :)
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On 9/12/2023 at 12:47 PM, Michelle Pena said:

30 bit display" is checked marked but grayed out? Is this still ok?

Yes. That just means that 30-bit Display is not an option for your computer. At all. :)

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