How to Set Up Your Work Environment in Photoshop CS6 - dummies

How to Set Up Your Work Environment in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

One aspect of color management that people often overlook when using Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6 is setting up a good working environment for digital image editing. You may wave your hand impatiently and say, “Yeah, yeah, I just want to get to the important stuff.” This is the important stuff. Don’t worry. Setting up a good work environment won’t cost you much. Just do these things:

  • Keep your computer desktop a neutral gray. Colors and patterns behind your images influence the way that you perceive those images. Creating a neutral, gray desktop is the closest you can get to mounting your work on gray, black, or white matte board (and not neon green or paisley), the way professional graphic designers and photographers do.

  • Keep your lighting as consistent as possible. For example, avoid working on images in full, bright afternoon sun and then again under a single desk lamp late at night. Likewise, view onscreen images and your printed output under the same lighting.

  • Keep the walls of your work environment as neutral as your monitor desktop. You don’t have to paint your office gray, but try to avoid a lot of colorful posters and artwork around and behind your monitor.

  • Speaking of monitors, if you’re using an LCD (flat screen) monitor, be sure you’re sitting directly in front of it. Color shifts quite a bit on LCDs if you’re viewing it at even a slight angle. So, no slumping in your chair!

  • Keep a swatch book (or two) handy, such as those from Pantone or Trumatch, to select your colors. Don’t make a decision based on what you see onscreen. These books give you a true representation of how onscreen color looks when printed on paper. Just be sure to keep them out of the light and update them periodically when the colors start to fade.

    Be prepared for a healthy monetary investment when you buy a swatch book. These little buggers can cost anywhere from $75 to $200. You can purchase swatch books from some larger art supply stores or order them online. Do a web search for others, such as Trumatch, Focoltone, and Toyo.

  • Take some time to test your workflow (production methods) and your computer system. Scan images using multiple settings, print images using multiple settings, and view your images using different browsers on different monitors and different platforms.

Get to know the strengths, limitations, and quirks of every piece of your equipment. Experiment with Photoshop. It’s time-consuming, but it’s an investment with great returns.