Best Photoshop Settings for Highest Quality Edits

January 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

This article will walk you through how to set up Adobe Photoshop to get the highest quality files and the highest quality photo edits.

First let’s talk about our settings in Photoshop; specifically, the color settings.  To adjust color settings in Photoshop, go to Edit -> Color Settings.  When the dialogue box pops up, click the ‘More Options‘ button on the right to display all of your options.  Make a note of your original settings (or save them as a preset by clicking the ‘save’ button on the right) in case you’d like to revert to them later.  Next, change your settings to match these, paying special attention to the highlighted areas.  (Note:  Wondering about Color Space?  I won’t get into the details of what a ‘color space’ is, suffice for now to say that ProPhoto RGB gives us more to work with than sRGB or Adobe RGB while we edit our photos in Photoshop.  Screens and printers, however, cannot use this color space effectively, so before we print or upload, we’ll need to convert our images to sRGB).

color settings

Now any time you open a file in Photoshop (File -> Open) that isn’t already in the ProPhoto RGB color space, Photoshop will bring up a dialogue box asking you what to do, which will look like this:


Select “covert document’s colors to the workshop space” and click “OK.”

Your document will open up and you’re ready to work!  Make sure you do all of your work on separate layers (to create a new layer, go to Layer -> New Layer).  This ensures your background layer is preserved it’s original state, so you can go back to it later if necessary.  Keeping your work on separate layers allows for greater flexibility in your workflow and is always a good idea if you have enough storage space on your hard drives.  In this example, the retouching was done on many layers, but then all of the retouching layers were merged together into one layer to reduce the file size of the final master file.  The original layer remains untouched, as always.  The downside of merging your retouching layers into one layer is that you can’t go back later and make little tweaks to each adjustment or retouch layer.  The only upside is that your files will be smaller.  When possible, it’s better to preserve all of the separate layers in your mater files.

separate layers

If saving file space is a concern, and you are okay with the flexibility tradeoff of merging layers, go ahead merge them.  To merge layers together, shift click or control click to select multiple layers, and then go to Layer -> Merge Layers in the menu (shortcut: Cntrl/command + E).

When you’re done with all of your retouching, it’s time to save your master file.  Go to File -> Save As.  First select the location where you’d like to save your master file, and then select the file type.  Save your master file as Photoshop file(.PSD) as shown in this example: save as

Now we’ll create a copy of that master file that we can use to make derivatives.  Go to File -> Save As and save another copy of your mater file so we can use it risk-free.  Give this file another name or an extension you’ll recognize later, and so it saves as a separate file from the ‘original’ Master file.  We simply need an exact ‘copy’ of our Master so we can use it to safely make other files from.

Good.  Now that your Master file is safe and sound and we’re working on a copy, let’s use the master copy to create a JPEG file that we can upload to the internet, send via email, etc.  (Note:  It’s very important that you convert your color profile to sRBG before saving a JPEG intended for standard uses like the web, etc.  The ProPhoto color space we are working our Master files in is not suitable for normal purposes, so we must first convert to sRGB.  Remember:  Never skip step two!).

We’ll do this in 4 steps:  Flatten, Convert Color, Resize, Save.

1.  Go to Layer -> Flatten Image.  You’ll notice all of your layers merge into one layer.

2.  Go to Edit -> Convert to Profile.  In the “Destination Space” drop-down box, select “sRBG IEC61966-2.1″ and click “OK.”

3.  Go to File -> Automate -> Fit Image and enter 900 into both the width and height boxes.  This will resize your image, making sure that the longest side is no more than 900 pixels long (or whatever other value you enter into both the width and height boxes).  Note:  You can tick the “Don’t Enlarge” button to keep from accidentally upsizing a small file.

4.  Go to File -> Save As.  In the dialogue box that appears, select where you’d like to save your file, and then select “JPEG” (.jpg) as your file type, and click “Save.”

You’re done!  Go to File -> Close to close your master file copy.  Photoshop will ask you if you would like to save your changes.  Click “No.”

Want to speed up this process?  You can create an Action within Photoshop to do these steps for you automatically!  Stay tuned for a tutorial video on how to create your own Actions.

Also, as promised, stay tuned to the blog for an upcoming video tutorial on how to organize your photos and enhance your workflow using Adobe Bridge (bundled with Photoshop).



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