How to Use Panels in Adobe Photoshop

Much of the power of Photoshop resides in panels, and each panel has a dedicated function. There is a Layers Panel for managing layers, an Adjustment Panel for controlling color correction, a Swatches Panel for managing color swatches, and so on. The panels are normally anchored to the Panel Dock. Photoshop provides several preset default workspace configurations based on tasks that affect what is displayed on both the Panel Dock and Toolbar. The following steps will help you use the Panels in Adobe Photoshop.

This feature works the same in all recent versions of Adobe Photoshop: CS5, CS6, and Creative Cloud (CC).

  1. Click on Painting at the top right of the screen in the drop-down Workspace area in the Application Bar. This is one of the default Photoshop workspaces. Notice that your Panel Dock changes. Click back on Essentials from the drop-down Workspace area in the Application Bar.
    Drop-down in Application Bar

  2. The Essentials workspace shows two columns of panels on the dock. The column on the left shows only icons. The column on the right is in an expanded view. To collapse to an icon view, double-click the dark gray bar at the top of the expanded dock. Double-click it again to expand the dock.
    The Panel Dock Expanded and Collapsed

  3. Panels will also expand when you click an icon and collapse when you either click the icon again or click on a different panel icon. Click the History Panel icon History Panel Icon to expand it. Click it again to collapse.

  4. Now you'll customize the workspace. All panels in Photoshop can be accessed through the Window menu. Go to the Window menu and select Info.
    Window Menu

  5. Go to the Workspace menu Workspace Button and select New Workspace.
    Select New Workspace

  6. In the dialog box, give the new workspace a name. This will now be listed as a workspace every time you use Photoshop.
    Name in Dialog Box

  7. At times you may want to have a panel detached from the dock so it remains expanded. Go to the Info Panel. Click the icon on the dock to expand it, if necessary. The Info Panel is grouped with the Properties Panels, which appear as a tab. Click and hold on the word Info in the tab and drag the panel out of the panel group and away from the dock. Release.
    Info Panel

  8. Regroup the Info Panel in the same manner. Click and hold on the word Info and drag it back to the group, just to the right of the word Properties. A blue highlight will appear around the panel group indicating you are about to regroup.
    Regrouping the Info Panel

  9. An entire panel group may also be detached from the dock. Click and hold in the blank space to the right of the tabs in the Info Panel group. Then drag away from the dock and release.

  10. To re-dock the panel group, click and hold in the dark gray bar and drag the group to the base of the collapsed dock. A horizontal blue highlight will appear when you are about to re-dock.
Author: Tracy Berry

Tracy has been a senior graphic designer/programmer, instructor, and consultant since 1993 and has developed hundreds of logos, marketing materials, websites, and multimedia solutions for customers worldwide, including involvement in large corporate software rollouts. She has helped many organizations optimize and streamline data solutions. She teaches both onsite and online courses and has her CTT (Certified Technical Trainer) certification. Tracy specializes in teaching graphics, desktop publishing, web design, reporting/productivity applications, as well as the creation of online courses with software from leading vendors.

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