Using Photoshop’s History Panel To Fix Editing Mistakes

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  By Jennifer Berube
Using Photoshop’s History Panel To Fix Editing Mistakes

We all make mistakes. It’s going to happen. After all, mistakes are something that happen and that’s why pencils have erasers. When you are working on photo editing in post production, mistakes used to cost you the photo and often hours of work. That is not the case anymore with new digital software and digital photos. Now, fixing a mistake in a program like Photoshop can be resolved quickly and easily. All it takes is understanding how the history panel works in Photoshop CC.

How the History Panel Works

When you are using Photoshop, every little thing that you do is recorded by the program. Every mouse click and every keystroke is logged. This is not done to spy on you, or figure out what you are doing, but to provide you with a means to reverse a change that you made. This change could have been made a minute ago, or hours ago. You could spend an hour on a picture, realize you don’t like how it is turning out, and you can revert back to how it looked an hour ago with the click of a mouse and a press of the button. It really is that easy.

Think of it this way, every change you make in a picture is a step in the process. The history panel shows those steps, and all you have to do is step back once, twice, or two dozen times, to get back to where you want to be. Hansel and Gretel left bread crumbs but Photoshop leaves you the history panel to find your way back.

If you’re using Essentials, you’ll find the History icon in the top right corner of your image. If you can’t see that, go to the Window tab and select History.

The Commands

So, how do you fix mistakes, or redo something that you accidentally undid? Well, as it turns out it is very easy to do.

If you want to step backward once, twice or more, then do the following:

Mac: cmd + opt + z

PC: ctrl + alt + z

That’s it. Keep clicking those and you will move backwards in the history of the picture. The more you use those commands, the farther back you are going to go in steps.

What if you go back too far and you need to step forward? Don’t worry, Photoshop has you covered there as well:

Mac: cmd + shift + z

PC: ctrl + shift + z

That is once again, all there is to it. Just substitute in Shift and you are able to move forward with ease to fix any undo mistakes you made.

History Preferences

It should be noted that currently, you can only move back 20 steps in the default settings of Photoshop in your history panel. If your mistake was 21 steps ago, well you are out of luck unless you change your history preferences.

Once again, this is made very easy to do by Photoshop. On a Mac, just go to the Photoshop tab on the top of the page, while in Windows you go to Edit. While there, you click Preferences and then choose Performance. There you will find History States.

Now, you need to be aware that you can set this to 1000 if you want, but the more steps you save, the larger the memory used is going to be. When you are editing a large file, and you are keeping hundreds of edits in memory, you are going to use a lot of your system memory and you are going to use a lot of your system space. This in turn can cause performance issues on your computer. If you have an extremely fast and powerful computer, then you have nothing to worry about, but older computers will be hard pressed to handle the extra load.

Go Back to the Start

If you are editing and you are not happy with anything you did and you just want to go back to the very start of the entire process, you can do that. There are actually several options to choose from in this regard.

First, you can just close the file and not save it. If you have created something original, that may not be the option that you want.

Second, you can choose File and select Revert, which will take things back to the very beginning of the entire process for you.

Third, you can click on Snapshot at the top of the history panel.

Making mistakes will happen, especially when you are looking at really large files and complex designs. Being able to move back in time to fix things makes everything easier, and you will be very happy that you can move one, 10, 100 or 1000 steps back if need be. Just remember to change the steps setting so that you don’t lose out if you need to go back 21 steps. You can also start learning about Photoshop actions to keep mistakes to a minimum.

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Before I became Editor-in-Chief of PHLEARN Magazine, I spent over five years specializing in Photography Writing and contributed articles regularly to sites like PictureCorrect, Sleeklens, and PhotoWorkout. Photography has always been a huge passion of mine; I may not be professionally trained in the art, but the knowledge and experience I have gained writing about photography techniques, interviewing some of the biggest and most inspiring photographers out there, and covering industry events has been invaluable!

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