Using Presets (Part 1)

Adobe Photoshop offers a multitude of extensions or Plugins that can be used in conjunction with the core software application. However, the treatment of various Add-Ons, Presets, and Plugins vary greatly and it is important to note some general rules:

Some Add-Ons can be saved in sets, or groups, while others are saved as individual files. An example of this difference is the Channel Mixer Presets, versus the Action Sets. Channel Mixers cannot be saved in a set or loaded in a set, while Actions MUST be saved in a set, even if there is only one action within the set. Naturally it follows that Add-Ons which cannot be loaded as a set are a pain in the butt. Why? Because you have to load each and every preset separately (ie: more clicking will be going on).

In addition to this, some of the add-ons can be viewed in Photoshop as a set, but still exist as individual files. For example, Contours are loaded one Contour at a time, but once loaded, they exist as a full set that can be viewed and thought of as a group of Contours within Photoshop. Channel Mixers, on the other hand load individually, and are viewed individually. They do not exist as a set anywhere within Photoshop.

This is perhaps the Biggest difference between all the Add-Ons that Photoshop ships with. And while it would be nice to have every type of Add-On operate the same way (my preference would be to have every Add-On operate consistently the way Actions do: as Mandatory Sets that can be loaded and viewed as a set), we are all relegated to learning the ins and outs of each Add-On, and hope for something better with upcoming versions.

One other difference that is important to note, is the fact that some Presets must be placed in certain folders within the Adobe Photoshop Application Folder. In these circumstances I have noted exactly where they should be placed according to a default Photoshop installation. This may be different on your own machine, depending where you installed Photoshop, and it may be different if you are on a MAC platform, though I’m sure you will be able to follow the paths I have documented here.

In opposition to this very strict rule, other presets (and thank God these account for the majority of the Photoshop Add-Ons) can be placed anywhere on your computer’s hard drive, and then loaded from within Photoshop. In these circumstances, you will be presented with the standard “Browse” dialog box when you go to load the Presets. As long as you know what folder you placed the presets in, you can navigate to them with ease.

Another rule of thumb is that once you load an Add-On file into Photoshop, it will remain there even after you exit the program and restart. So if I load a pattern set, then close Photoshop, the next time I open Photoshop, that last Pattern set will still be available until I make any changes by loading, resetting, or replacing the Patterns.

WARNING: even though Photoshop remembers your last loaded Add-On files, this does not mean they are saved on your Hard Drive. ALWAYS save your Add-On files, as this prevents you from losing them in the event your Photoshop application or the Preferences file becomes corrupt or crashes.

You can always reset your Add-Ons back to their original state. In many cases, Photoshop provides a button (Reset), which will replace or append the default Add-Ons back into the program. See specific Add-On sections for more details.

Most of the Add-Ons can be named individually. If they are part of a larger set, you can hover over each individual Add-On with your cursor, and a small tooltip will show up revealing the name and/or size of the file. This is helpful in organizing the Add-Ons. I usually provide a unique name for each Add-On I create, such as Layer Styles or Patterns. Though not all of my Add-On files contain these unique names (such as my Contours series). When you hover over these Add-Ons, the tooltip will simply display the name "Custom".