If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a big project in Photoshop, you most likely know how important it is to have as many history states available to you as possible. I sure do. I go back and forth through these things all the time.
If you’re not familiar with the phrase “history state,” I’ll tell you what it is. A history state is a place in time, in Adobe Photoshop, before you did something new. Let’s say you open a file in Photoshop and then add an adjustment layer to that file via the Adjustments panel. The action of creating that adjustment layer is one history state. Now, let’s say you add some text to the image. There’s another history state, giving you two in total. Next, let’s say you move the text and change its color. There are two more history states.
The reason I say these things are so important is because they give you the ability to essentially travel back and forth in time, right inside Photoshop. If you feel like you need to go back for some reason, you can do that by simply clicking on the corresponding history state inside of the History panel. If you need to go back all the way to the beginning because you realized you were working on the original image and you wanted to work on a duplicate for safety, you can do that too. It’s all very simple.
To learn more about the history panel in Photoshop, click through this link below.
In today’s post, I’m going to show you two quick tricks that will help you out if you ever find yourself in a jam, similar to the one I just outlined above (saving the original file). I’ll also demonstrate, in Adobe Photoshop, how you can edit your preferences to add more visible history states in the History panel. If you’re a power user, this second tip may be crucial to your editing efficiency.
Making Changes to a File
I already have a demo photograph opened up in Photoshop. It’s just waiting for me to make some changes to it. Let’s take a look at this image before I go any further.
Now, let’s take a look at the current states that are available in the History panel.
Basically, all we have so far is the name of the file and the very first action that occurred. Photoshop calls this action Open. That’s all I’ve done so far. I only opened the file.
At this point, to continue on with this demonstration, I’m going to make a few random changes to the file. The reason I’m going to do this is because I want to add some history states.
Okay, I made some changes. Let’s take a look at the image now.
Basically, I added a Curves adjustment layer and then modified that layer to show more of a medium contrast look on the photo. Then, I added some text, moved, rotated and then moved the text again. I set some character styles related to the text, moved it again and then aligned it with the Rectangular Marquee Tool. I’d say there’s now enough data in the History panel to work with. Check out both the History and the Layers panels.
If you look at just the History panel, you’ll quickly realize there are 15 states inside of it. This is an important number that I’ll use later on, so be sure to remember it.
Going Back to the Beginning
Something that happens all the time, let me repeat that, all the time, is when you’re working on a project while forgetting that you are, in fact, editing the original photo file that should be set off to the side somewhere and not touched. A common practice to get around this type of thing is to first make a duplicate of the file and then edit the duplicate, while keeping the original file safe somewhere. But, as I stated, accidentally working on the original happens all the time. In this section, I’ll give you a quick tip to get around this error and that will allow you to save the original from Photoshop again.
Let’s pretend the picture of the car I’m currently editing in Photoshop is the golden file. It’s the original high resolution file that, if lost, will cost a lot of money in photography services. I already began working on it and as it stands, I have 15 history states. While this isn’t too many, if I had many more, the issue would be even worse. The bottom line is that I neither want to close the file out without saving it because I’ll lose all my work nor save the file the way it is because all the work I already did will pollute the image. And I certainly don’t want to “Save As” the file over the original. That would be the worst. While there are many avenues to take at this moment to remedy the issue, the most straightforward one is to simply click the top-most state in the History panel. This isn’t actually a state at all. It’s more of the actual, untouched, file. Here, take a look.
If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see that after clicking the top most state, which is the file name, all the other history states turned gray. Also, if you’ll notice the Layers panel, all the additional layers I created disappeared. It’s as if the file was never touched at all. It’s at this time when I can head over to the File > Save As menu item and save the file out any way I wish, to preserve the original JPEG. It’s that simple. I know, there are many methods for dealing with a situation like this, but I felt this one was appropriate because it uses the History panel and that’s what I’m discussing in this post.
Increasing & Decreasing the Number of Visible History States
In an earlier section of this post, I mentioned that you should remember that I currently had 15 change states recorded in the History panel. I also mentioned that I had hardly made any actual changes. My point with this was to emphasize how quickly history states can accumulate. Basically, the History panel records almost everything you do in Photoshop. Just by adding some text and some effects to that text, I added about ten states. Can you imagine how fast you could surpass 100 states? 200? Or more? I’ll tell you one thing, it doesn’t take long at all when you’re working on a large project and when you’re making many small changes.
If I head up to the Edit > Preferences > Performance menu item, I’ll see that the current default recorded History States is 50.
This setting is in the Preferences dialog box, in the Performance area. Since I just explained how 50 recorded states is rather low, it would be in most editor’s best interest to raise that number to something around 250. The most you can go is currently 1000, but if you set your installation to that, it may use too many resources and that might slow your computer down. A good compromise between not having enough and not slowing your computer down is anywhere between 250 and 400. Since I have a lot of RAM in my computer, I clicked the drop-down box for this setting and moved the slider to 400. That will offer me tons of recourse if I ever need to go back and clean up a lot of mistakes I made while editing a file. Again, if you need to learn the fundamentals surrounding the History panel and learn what it’s good for and how it can help you, I encourage you to read through my previous post on the subject.
I hope these two quick tips help you out in the future. There are tons and tons of these types of helpful tidbits floating around and I hope to bring many of them to you via this very blog. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!