LOOKING OVER THE PALETTES IN PHOTOSHOP can be kind of like looking out over the ocean. You see the surface, which looks nice enough, but if you could see under the surface you'd find wonders that reach all the way down through the murky depths. Like the ocean, the palettes look rather straightforward on the surface. Want to select a rectangular area? Grab the rectangular marquee tool from the Tools palette and drag it. Easy enough. But peek under the surface and you'll find that the rectangular marquee tool has a number of options. In fact, every tool in the Tools palette has at least one option; you see a tool's options in the aptly named options bar that runs across the top of the Photoshop work area.
From the point of view of flexibility, having lots of tool options is greatyou can adapt the tools to many situations. The downside of having tools that are so configurable is that it can be a hassle to change between frequently used combinations of settings when there are so many settings to change and remember.
That's where presets and saved settings come in. With presets, you don't have to remember or write down all the settings that make up your favorite way to set up a toolyou simply save a preset for that configuration. Presets are even more valuable when you use the same tool in very different ways. For example, when you're retouching photos with one of the brush tools, a brush size that works well for a high-resolution image is too large for a low-resolution Web image. You can save two brush presets with brush sizes that are best for your particular Web and print image sizes and name them descriptively so that one click completely changes how the tool works.
Think about creating a preset whenever you've spent a bit of time crafting just the right settings for a tool. If you coordinate a design or production team, providing presets for tools may make it easier to maintain your organization's production standards. Photoshop also lets you save settings from dialog boxes, which work similarly to presets: You can save favorite settings to a file on disk and import them into a document or distribute them to others.
Photoshop already includes a number of presets that provide a great head start in working with many of the tools. You can also use the built-in presets as examples and starting points for your own presets. Adding presets to Photoshop is one of the ways in which you can personalize Photoshop, adapting it to your specific needs.
Think of this chapter as the scuba gear you can use to explore the deep riches of Photoshop presets. Time to go diving!