Top 7 Photoshop Hangups That Make You Want to End It All, with Quick Fixes

Goodbye There are so many modal settings in Photoshop that it can seem like a virtual mine field of things to accidentally click that will screw up your day. When you’re in the flow of work it can be a painful productivity hit when you get thrown off by something that is just not working. Here are 7 of the most common hangups that I’ve found bring me to a standstill. Check it out and join in the discussion if you’ve got some of your own.

1. All of your palettes are missing. You hit Tab.

OK, I know. Duh. But it happens. Especially if you haven’t been working in Photoshop for a long time this one can have you restarting.
Hitting the Tab key hides all the palettes in Photoshop. Which is nice if you quickly want to clear your screen of any clutter and get a full-frame view of your image.

2. You are trying to enter Transform mode (Cmd + T), and nothing happens. You have an empty path selected in the paths palette.

This has had me shaking a fist at the sky.
You have an empty path selected, and Photoshop thinks you want to Transform it. But you can’t. Because nothing’s there.
Go to your Paths palette and see if one of them is highlighted. To deselect, click elsewhere in the palette, or Cmd + click the active path.

3. You have a selection up, but can’t delete anything. Your Brush only paints light red. You have Quickmask on.

Just hit Q to exit Quickmask mode. You can see it active in the document name:
It can be extra confusing because when you’re in Quickmask mode, you can still set a selection. The ruby color of your brush or fill will normally tip you off.

4. Your brush and clone cursor are now crosshairs. You’ve hit Caps Lock.

But it’s set to brush size in the Prefs!!!!
Don’t trash your prefs file – when you have Caps Lock on it will turn a lot of your Brush based tools to a Precision cursor.


5. Color looks weird. You have Proof Colors turned on.

Both fists in the air, cursing the gods.
Cmd + Y turns on Proof Colors. Also in the View menu.


This feature is essential for anyone working for printed outputs, but if you accidentally have this turned on your image is going to look very different than what you’d expect. Chances are you’d be viewing your image as what it would look at in a CMYK gamut if you’re working in RGB.
Personal story – I actually did a full color pass on an image the other day with this turned on to soft proof in CMYK without knowing it. I kept pushing all of these Saturation moves and just couldn’t get it to budge any hotter. My eyes had actually adapted to the smaller gamut after a while, and after I realized I had Proof Colors turned on and switched it, the image was so bright it made my brain bleed.

6. You are trying to use the Brush, and nothing is happening. You have a selection that is hidden.

Pffft! Stupid. F’ing. Thing! Won’t Paint!!
Shit ok, you hit Cmd + H, did a little work, stepped away to get coffee and forgot.
Hit Cmd + H to unhide or Cmd + D to drop the selection.
This one gets me at least 3 times a week.

7. Photoshop crashes on Save or ‘Cannot Save Because of A Program Error’. Crop your canvas.

This is the most critical one of all. If not for Photoshop CC’s background saves feature this one would have had me jumping off balconies.
Chances are you have been doing some funny things with masks in your file and created mask information outside the canvas bounds that Photoshop does not like. I don’t know what the hell is really going on with this but it has consistently occurred throughout multiple versions of Photoshop.
Simply Select All (Cmd + A) and Image>Crop.
You will lose all pixel information outside the canvas bounds but it will allow you to Save your file. Try this if you’re getting random file crashes too with a single file.
Hope this helps you to more quickly regain your sanity when you are about to trash your prefs, reinstall Photoshop, or just push everything off your desk and onto the floor. Please share any of these soul crushing problems you may have had in the comments!
  • Rachel Kissel

    I’ve run into problem #7 many times. Yeah, I nearly table flipped.

    (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

    When this first started happening, it was on a massive layered file, late at night and I had tight deadline. The work around I discovered was to click off my masks and try to save after each one. When I hit the program error, I found my problem mask. Then I would save the mask as a selection, delete the mask, create a new mask using the saved selection and the problem would be solved. I found this to be a better work around for my workflow because I often want to save the info outside the canvas.

    I think no matter what the workaround is, just being able to identify the problem is huge! Thanks for the tips, Sef! I hope it saves others sad hours I spent systematically examining every aspect of my file. It seems the faster I’m working, the more likely I am to run into this problem.

    Does anyone ever have scrubby zoom grey out for no reason all of sudden?

    • sefmccullough

      I haven’t seen that, but please describe it if you can so I can take a look.

      Yeah – your process of going through and eliminating the problem mask is what I’ve done in the past too. It works, but it takes a long time. BUT if you need to preserve your Big Data (data off the canvas edge) that’s the way to do it.

    • Sef

      btw that ascii emoji is awesome. Can you do one for jump off the balcony?

      • Rachel Kissel

        ┛┗┛┗┛┃ \○/
        ┛┗┛┗┛┃ ノ)




        This got dark really fast. Should I add a pool or something?

        • Sef


          • Rachel Kissel

            That guy should have read your blog.

  • Trevor Dennis

    You crop your image and it disappears… You have a ‘1’ in the size field in the Options bar.
    You start a type layer in your new blank document and see a tiny dot… You thought your new doc size was in pixels, but the units got changed to inches, so your doc is 30k pixels square. (Or your type is the same colour as the background.)
    All of my fonts are in italics… You have a faux setting checked in Character Styles.
    The tool you are using is acting in a way you didn’t expect… Look to the Options bar. Always look to the Options bar (PS Don’t go ask in the Adobe forums, or the Indian Support team guys will tell you to reset Preferences and you’ll be ages putting everything right again, and still have previously cancelled warning dialogs popping up annoying the hell out of you!)

    I like Sef’s outside the boundaries fix. There are times when absolutely noting seems to get a particular document playing nicely. If you don’t have a bunch of Alpha channels and paths (which is probably not very likely) I have resorted to either grouping everything and Duplicating to a new doc, or making a Smart Object, double clicking it to open in a new window, and saving that as my new version, but I might have been chasing something like #7

    The one we see occasionally, and has got me ‘twice’ is where you save to PDF and uncheck ‘layers’ and ‘Preserve editing capabilities’. After you finish the session, save out your PSD and come back to it, all of your layers are gone, and they really are gone for ever. I am not entirely sure of the precise set of actions that causes this, but we continue to see people tell their tales of woe!

  • Adam Kalpataru

    Hii.. Did you had some experience with save as files, but when open in photoshop it crash or corrupted. My file from about 200 mb turn into jusk 5 mb in flatten grey background.. Fortunately i had a step before i painting some hairs flows (beauty retouching). But it takes edges to do the same..

    May i throw away my bicycle into my mac?? :O