Photoshop CS6: Visual QuickStart Guide

Managing Presets in Photoshop CS6

Adapted from Photoshop CS6: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press)

By Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas



Managing Presets Via the Pickers and Panel

Photoshop presets are predefined items that you choose from a picker, such as brushes on the Brush Presets panel or picker or swatches on the Swatches panel. Other presets are found in less obvious locations, such as on the Contour pickers in some panels of the Layer Style dialog and on the Gradient picker in the Gradient Fill dialog. The preset categories include brushes, swatches, gradients, styles, patterns, contours, custom shapes, and tools. A collection of saved presets that can be loaded onto a picker is called a library.

New presets are created in various ways, such as when you define a pattern via the Define Pattern command, add a swatch to the Swatches panel, add a style to the Styles panel, create a gradient in the Gradient Editor dialog, or create a tool preset or brush.

How Are Presets Created?
All of the following methods will produce a preset:

  • Customize a brush using the Brush panel, then click the New Brush button on the Brush or Brush Presets panel, or on the Brush Preset picker, which opens from the Options bar.
  • Click the New Swatch of Foreground Color button on the Swatches panel to add the current Foreground color as a swatch.
  • Create a tool preset by clicking the New Tool Preset button on the Tool Presets panel or the Tool Preset picker.
  • Create a gradient by clicking New in the Gradient Editor, which opens if you select the Gradient tool, then click the Gradient thumbnail on the Options bar, in the Gradient Fill dialog, or in the Layer Style dialog (for a Gradient Overlay effect).
  • Create a style by clicking the New Style button on the Styles panel or by clicking New Style in the Layer Style dialog.
  • Create a pattern via Edit > Define Pattern.
  • Create a custom shape by drawing a path or shape then choosing Edit > Define Custom Shape.

To save the presets currently on a picker as a library:

  1. Make sure the preset picker or panel contains only the presets to be saved in a library.
  2. Do one of the following:

    From the Brush Presets, Swatches, Styles, or Tool Presets panel menu, or from the Brush Presets or Custom Shape picker menu, choose Save [preset type].

    For a gradient, in the Gradient Editor, click Save; or choose Save Gradients from the Gradient picker menu in the Gradient Fill dialog (for a gradient fill layer) or on the Gradient picker (Options bar, with the Gradient tool chosen).

    For a pattern, choose Save Patterns from the Pattern picker menu in the Layer Style dialog for the Pattern Overlay effect, in the Edit > Fill dialog (Pattern chosen on the Use menu), or in the Pattern Fill dialog (for a fill layer).
  3. In the Save dialog, enter a name, keep the default extension and location, then click Save.
  4. Relaunch Photoshop to make your new library appear on the panel and/or preset picker menu and on the menu in the Preset Manager.

    To replace an existing library, in step 2 above, click the library name in the scroll window, click Save, then click Replace in the alert dialog.

To load a library of presets onto a panel or picker via an individual panel or picker, follow the steps below.

To load a library of presets:

  1. Choose a preset library name in one of these locations:

  2. The menu on the Brush Presets, Styles, Swatches, or Tool Presets panel.

  3. The Custom Shape picker menu on the Options bar (the Custom Shape tool must be selected first).

    The Gradient picker menu in the Gradient Editor dialog (the Gradient tool must be selected first, then the Gradient thumbnail clicked on the Options bar).

    The Gradient picker menu in the Gradient Fill dialog (for a gradient fill layer).

    The Custom Pattern picker menu in the Edit > Fill dialog (choose Pattern from the Use menu).

    The Pattern picker menu in the Pattern Fill dialog (for a pattern fill layer).

    The Styles, Contour, Gradient Overlay, or Pattern Overlay picker menu in the Layer Style dialog.

    The Tool Preset picker menu on the Options bar.
  4. In the alert dialog, click Append to add the chosen library of presets to the currents ones on the panel or picker, or click OK to replace the current presets with those in the library.

    Note: If the panel or picker contains unsaved presets, another alert dialog will appear, giving you the option to save the existing presets as a library. Click Don’t Save or Save.

    If the library you want to load isn’t in the default location (and therefore isn’t listed on its related panel or picker menu), choose Load [preset name] from the menu, locate the library, then click Open.

You can restore the default library to any panel or picker.

To restore the default presets to a panel or picker:

  1. From a panel or picker menu, choose Reset [preset name].
  2. When the alert dialog appears, click OK to replace the existing presets on the panel or picker with the default ones.

    Note: If you made changes to the current presets, another alert dialog will appear. Click Don’t Save; or click Save, then use the Save dialog to save the current presets as a library.

Exporting and Importing Presets

Using the Export/Import Presets dialog, it’s easy to export and import preset libraries and share them among Photoshop users on your network.

To export preset libraries:

  1. Choose Edit > Presets > Export/Import Presets.
  2. Click the Export Presets tab, click a preset library to be exported, then click the right arrowhead.
  3. Repeat for other libraries. (To remove a selected preset from the list, click the left arrowhead. To remove or add all the presets on the list, click Remove All or Add All.)
  4. Click Export Presets.
  5. In the Choose a Folder dialog, choose a location, then click Open.

To import preset libraries:

  1. Choose Edit > Presets > Export/Import Presets.
  2. Click the Import Presets tab, click Select Import Folder, locate and click the folder containing the desired preset library or libraries, then click Open.
  3. Click a preset library to be imported, then click the right arrowhead. Repeat for other libraries. (To remove a selected preset from the list, click the left arrowhead. To remove or add all the presets on the list, click Remove All or Add All.)
  4. Click Import Presets.

    To import presets from an earlier version of Photoshop into Photoshop CS6, choose Edit > Presets > Migrate Presets, then click Yes in the alert dialog.

In the Export/Import Presets dialog, for each selected library we decided to export, we clicked the right arrowhead. (Our next step will be to click Export Presets.)

Using the Preset Manager

Using the all-inclusive Preset Manager dialog, you can save and load Photoshop presets of any variety.

To save presets as a library via the Preset Manager:

  1. To open the Preset Manager, do one of the following:

    Choose Edit > Presets > Preset Manager.

    Choose Preset Manager from the menu of any picker or panel (e.g., the Custom Shape picker or the Swatches or Styles panel).

    On the Brush or Brush Presets panel, click the Open Preset Manager button.
  2. From the Preset Type menu, choose the category of presets for which you want to create a library, or press the shortcut that is listed on the menu.
  3. From the menu in the dialog, choose a view option for the scroll window (such as Small Thumbnail or Small List). For Brushes, you can choose Stroke Thumbnail view to display a sample of the brush stroke alongside each thumbnail.
  4. Shift-click or Ctrl-click/Cmd-click the presets to be saved in a library, then click Save Set.
  5. In the Save dialog, enter a name for the new library, keep the default extension and location, then click Save.
  6. Click Done to exit the Preset Manager.
  7. Relaunch Photoshop.

    To rename a preset when the Preset Manager is in a thumbnail view, double-click the thumbnail, then change the name in the dialog. If the Preset Manager is in a text-only or list view, double-click the preset name. You can also select multiple presets and then click Rename, in which case naming dialogs will open in succession.

You can reset any category of presets to the factory defaults, append (add) more presets to the current ones on the picker or panel, or replace the current presets with those in a library. Presets on the pickers and panels remain there when you relaunch Photoshop. Changes made in the Preset Manager appear in the corresponding picker, and vice versa.

To load presets via the Preset Manager:

  1. Open the Preset Manager by following step 1 in the instructions above.
  2. From the Preset Type menu, choose a category of presets.
  3. Any unsaved presets on the chosen picker will be deleted in the next step, unless you select the Append option. To save the current presets as a library before proceeding, follow steps 4–5 above.
  4. From the menu in the dialog, choose a library name; or to reload the default library, choose Reset [preset type]. In the alert dialog, click Append to add the new library to the current ones on the picker, or click OK to replace the current presets with the new ones.

    If the picker contains any unsaved presets (you didn’t follow step 3, above), another alert will appear. Click Don’t Save or Save.
  5. Optional: To delete presets from the picker (not from the library), click a preset to be deleted or Shift-click or Ctrl-click/Cmd-click multiple presets, then click Delete. This can’t be undone (but of course you can reload any library).
  6. Click Done to exit the Preset Manager.

In the Preset Manager dialog, choose a category from the Preset Type menu, select all the presets to be saved in a library, then click Save Set.

Creating Tool Presets

For any tool, you can choose a preset (such as a brush), Options bar settings, and a Foreground color (if applicable), then save that collection of settings as a tool preset. Thereafter, upon selecting that tool, you can simply choose your preset from the Tool Preset picker on the Options bar or from the Tool Presets panel; it contains all your saved settings. Although tool presets take some time and effort to set up initially, it’s time well spent.

To acquaint yourself with the Tool Presets panel, uncheck Current Tool Only. The tool presets for all tools display. Click a tool preset; the tool with which that preset is used becomes selected automatically. Check Current Tool Only; only presets for the current tool display. Via the panel or picker menu, you can load additional presets.

To create a tool preset:

  1. Select a tool and choose Options bar settings for it. For some tools, such as the brush and shape tools, the current Foreground color can be included in the preset; for the Gradient tool, you can include the currently selected gradient. If you opt to do this, choose that color or gradient now.
  2. Do either of the following:

    At the far left end of the Options bar, click the Tool Preset picker thumbnail or arrowhead.

    Show the Tool Presets panel.
  3. Click the New Tool Preset button on the picker or panel. The New Tool Preset dialog opens.
  4. Optional: Rename the preset, if desired.
  5. Optional: Check Include Color or Include Gradient (if listed).
  6. Click OK. The new preset appears on the Tool Preset picker and the Tool Presets panel.
  7. The presets that are on the Tool Presets panel (for all tools) will still be there when you relaunch Photoshop, but will disappear if you replace them with a library. To preserve your custom pre-sets for future use, see "To save the presets currently on a picker as a library" at the beginning of this article.

    To restore the default tool presets, follow the steps shown above. Don’t confuse the Reset Tools command with the Reset Tool Presets command.

    To create a variation of an existing tool preset, click a preset, choose custom settings for it, then follow steps 3–6, above (rename it in step 4).

Some Ideas for Tool Presets
Take note of which tools you use most often, and which settings you normally choose for them. Here are a few ideas for custom presets:

  • Brush panel settings, Options bar settings, and a Foreground color for the Brush tool or Mixer Brush tool (for the latter tool, remember to choose Wet, Load, and Mix settings)
  • Custom Options bar settings for the Crop tool
  • Character panel and Options bar settings for the Horizontal Type or Vertical Type tool, including a color
  • Frequently used Options bar settings for healing tools, such as the Healing Brush or Spot Healing Brush tool, or for the Clone Stamp or Sharpen tool
  • Oft-used settings for the selection tools (e.g., Fixed Ratio settings for the Rectangular Marquee tool)
  • Options bar settings for the Gradient tool, with the “Black, White” gradient preset chosen

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Excerpted from Photoshop CS6: Visual QuickStart Guide by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas. Copyright © 2012 Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.