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Lesson 3: The History Palette

Advanced Adobe Photoshop Tutorials

Table of Contents

How Do I Use the History Palette?

This lesson will introduce you to the History palette, the Adobe way to provide multiple levels of undo options. With the History palette, you can step back through the changes you've made to a Photoshop file, undoing one or all of them until you reach the state you want. by default, the History palette supports 20 undos, or states . You return to the state you want by clicking it in the History palette. Your image is updated to reflect the state you've selected.

But there's more to the History palette. This lesson will reveal each part of the History palette and how to use it effectively without consuming too much of your computer memory.

Before we get down to working with it, let's take a look at the History palette and go through some of the key items on the toolbar (Figure 3-1).

Figure 3-1: The History palette.

Figure 3-1: The History palette.

  1. A snapshot of the original image before anything has been done to it.
  2. History Brush icon: We'll discuss the History Brush in the next section.
  3. Snapshot: Snapshots can be used for several purposes. Let's say that you like something you're experimenting with and want to save it "just in case." Or you're running out of space in the History palette but you want to keep a particular state until you're finished. There are different ways of creating a snapshot, which we'll go into later.
  4. State: Each time you make a change in your image, it's recorded in the History palette (except for things like saving and changing colors). These recorded changes are called states. You can make a snapshot of any state to save for later (see #3) or you can paint with a state using the History Brush tool.
  5. History State Slider: This is one way to navigate through the different states. Simply click on the slider and drag.
  6. Create New Document from Current State: This button does exactly that. Click on it and the active state will be made into its own document.
  7. Create New Snapshot: This button creates a new snapshot of the current state. We will cover the different ways to create new snapshots later in this lesson.
  8. Trash: You can delete a state or snapshot with this button. You have to be careful, though: unless you have "Allow non-linear history" checked in the History Options, every state beneath the one you want to delete will be gone also. Not to worry; I'll go over the History Options in more detail later.

Creating Snapshots

The most obvious and easiest way to create a snapshot is either to click on the Create New Snapshot button at the bottom of the History palette (Figure 3-2) or by choosing New Snapshot from the History dropdown menu (Figure 3-3).

Figure 3-2: Choose the Create New Snapshot button to create a copy of the image at the current state.

Figure 3-2: Choose the Create New Snapshot button to create a copy of the image at the current state.

Figure 3-3: The New Snapshot dialog box.

Figure 3-3: The New Snapshot dialog box.

Let's go through some of the key elements of the New Snapshot dialog box as highlighted in Figure 3-3.

  1. Name: Name the New Snapshot here. I suggest naming your snapshot after the state for which it was created. It makes it easy to keep track of your work if you're consistent in your naming conventions.
  2. Full Document: This is the default snapshot and it's the same as using the button at the bottom of the History palette. If you have multiple layers, it will make a copy of the full image, but it inhibits you from painting, using the History brush, with all of the layers. In effect, it's really a copy of the canvas and nothing more.
  3. Merged Layers: This combines all layers and enables you to paint from them using the History brush.
  4. Current Layer: This takes a snapshot of the Active layer only. You can paint, with the History brush, using this snapshot.

Painting with the History and Art History Brushes

In the previous section, I showed you how to make snapshots as a backup for the History states. Now I'm going to show you how to paint with these snapshots, and the states themselves, using the History brushes.

The best way for me to explain is to show you how this works, starting in Figure 3-4.

Figure 3-4: A picture and the History and Layers palettes. Nothing has been done yet.

Figure 3-4: A picture and the History and Layers palettes. Nothing has been done yet.

The first thing I'm going to do is create a Curves Adjustment Layer and then take a snapshot using the Merged Layers option (Figure 3-5).

Figure 3-5: A Merged Layers snapshot was taken of the image after the Curves Adjustment layer was applied.

Figure 3-5: A Merged Layers snapshot was taken of the image after the Curves Adjustment layer was applied.

The next step can get a little confusing, but if you take it step by step it's really very easy.

1. Click on the box next the Curves Merged Layers snapshot to set the source for the History brush (Figure 3-6).

2. Make the pomegranates.psd snapshot active (Figure 3-6).

Figure 3-6: The History Brush source is the Curves Merged Layers snapshot while the pomegranates.psd snapshot is the active one.

Figure 3-6: The History Brush source is the Curves Merged Layers snapshot while the pomegranates.psd snapshot is the active one.

3. Click on the History brush in the toolbar to bring up the History Brush options in the Options bar. Choose the opacity and Blending mode you would like to paint with. The defaults are 100% and Normal (Figure 3-7).

Figure 3-7: The History Brush Options.

Figure 3-7: The History Brush Options.

4. Choose a brush and begin painting! Figure 3-8 shows half of the original picture (in Figure 3-4) painted with the History brush.

Figure 3-8: Half of the picture was painted using the History brush and the "Curves Merged Layers" snapshot.

Figure 3-8: Half of the picture was painted using the History brush and the "Curves Merged Layers" snapshot.

Art History Brush

The Art History brush works exactly the same way, but the result is more artistic and often looks like it has been painted. To do this, you use the different options for the Art History brush (Figure 3-9).

Figure 3-9: The options for the Art History brush.

Figure 3-9: The options for the Art History brush.

The different types of brush styles such as "tight short and loose curl" do just what they sound like they'd do. It's just a matter of finding the look you like and keeping some information in mind:

  • Fidelity is the amount of the snapshot's color that the brush uses. The higher the number, the truer to the original the color.
  • Area is the distance the brush strokes reach from the location where you clicked.
  • Spacing for the History brushes works the same way as any other brush. If you click and drag with the brush, this is the amount of space that will be between the brush dabs. A low spacing value will result in what looks like a continuous streak while a high spacing value looks like individual dabs.

I took a picture of a rubber duck and "painted" it with the Art History brush using a combination of Tight Long strokes at an area of 200 pixels and Tight Short strokes at an area of 20 pixels (Figure 3-10).

Figure 3-10: A "painted" portrait of the rubber duck.

Figure 3-10: A "painted" portrait of the rubber duck.


Managing the History Palette

Though the History palette is an extremely useful tool for managing changes you make to your documents, there's a downside. Each history palette state requires some of your computer's memory, sometimes a lot of it. Each state is essentially a snapshot of your image, saved in your computer's RAM. The toll can become quite high when you create a large number of states.

You can lessen the memory drain by lowering the number of states available. Instead of the 20 supported by default, you might choose 10, or even 5, if you need to conserve memory. To do this, choose Edit > Preferences > General and lower the number of states (Figure 3-11).

Figure 3-11: Lower the maximum number of History states in Preferences.

Figure 3-11: Lower the maximum number of History states in Preferences.

Next, let's take a look at the History options (Figure 3-12).

Figure 3-12: The History Options dialog box.

Figure 3-12: The History Options dialog box.

  • Automatically Create First Snapshot: This option is turned on by default. The first snapshot refers to the topmost entry in the History palette (Figure 3-13). This allows you to revert to the beginning at any time.

Figure 3-13: The first snapshot that is created when this option is turned on.

Figure 3-13: The first snapshot that is created when this option is turned on.

  • Automatically Create New Snapshot When Saving: This does just what you would think. Each time you save, a new snapshot is created.
  • Allow Non-Linear History: By default, if you want to delete a state that is 5 states from the bottom, doing so will delete it and all states that come after it. If Allow Non-Linear History is turned on , you can delete a state no matter where it falls in the palette without deleting anything else.
  • Show New Snapshot Dialog by Default: If this is turned on, clicking the "Create New Snapshot" icon will open the New Snapshot dialog..

Those of you who are familiar with Photoshop 5 or 5.5 will notice that the History palette hasn't change much in version 6. All the basic principles are the same. Even so, this palette can be confusing so I recommend taking the quiz, completing the assignment, and reading to reinforce all you've learned. Keep in mind that you are not alone in taking this class. Feel free to post any and all questions to the Message Board.

The next lesson will focus on Photoshop's new advanced vector handling features, from the vastly improved type tool to the pen and shape tools. We talked about Layer Clipping paths in Lesson 2, but we'll expand on them and all other things vector in Lesson 4.

Other Resources

Try Real World Photoshop 6: Industrial Strength Production Techniques by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser.

If you're looking for something a little less advanced, try Photoshop 6 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas.

Also, check out these sites:

www.photoshopuser.com -- Become a member!
www.planetphotoshop.com -- Contains resources and tutorials
www.designsbymark.com -- Tutorials and tips gurus.onlinedesignschool.com -- Tutorials and tips

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