When I learned to paint (in art class in grade 11), I was taught something that most artists are taught. Every now and then, you need to take a step back and look at your canvas from a distance. Get a new perspective and look at the piece as a whole, rather than just focusing on the little part you’re currently working on.
With digital art, this is even more important. If you work in a high resolution (I always work at 600 dpi) you can zoom in to fix those eyelashes individually, but by doing so you lose sight of the whole image. Also, you can fiddle away for hours on tiny details, polishing your image past what the naked eye will ever be able to discern. Obviously, you should check the full image often, but zooming in and out is tedious and can mess up your flows.
So what’s the solution?
Did you know that you can view your image up close and zoomed out at the same time? With two windows open, one zoomed in to work and one zoomed out enough to see the full image, you can drastically improve your workflow, and decrease the time you waste polishing details that no one will notice.
Here’s how you set it up:
I’m working in Adobe Photoshop CC, but this works for all versions of Photoshop at least as far back as CS (and maybe further, but I didn’t know about it yet to try).
Open up the file you’re working on. Then go to the top menu and choose Window>Arrange>New Window for yourfilename.psd.
Next choose Window>Arrange>2-Up Verticle. This allows you to see them both at the same time. I often have the reference photo as another tab in the same window as the zoomed out art so that I can flip between them as I draw. The tab that you have selected will go in the right hand window.
You can work on either window, and it will update the other one in real time.
I usually start my sketch with guides that match my reference (like the old grid system for transferring images, but more specific, I’ll post on that another time.) and I really like that I can have the guides on the window I’m drawing on, but turn them off (ctrl+h) on my zoomed out image.
How it’s changed my workflow:
It’s been a game changer for me to be able to be zoomed in and zoomed out at the same time. It saves me time as I no longer have to manually zoom in and out constantly, and it keeps me focused on the overall image instead of getting lost in tiny details that no one will ever be able to see.
I hope this tip is helpful to you photoshop artists out there! It blew my mind when I learned it, and now I can’t imagine working any other way.