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Solving Common Photoshop Problems–Type Troubles

Photoshop can be a strange beast when it comes to working with type. While Photoshop isn’t designed to have a powerful text layout engine, lacking the full-featured capabilities of InDesign for layout, and Illustrator for working with fonts and paths, Photoshop design work still often includes type faces as integral parts of the graphic design. The Type tools are designed with flexibility in mind, and this very flexibility can lead to a number of minor but painful headaches. In today’s tip, we’ll look at some of the common snags you may encounter with type in Photoshop, and how to remedy the problems.

Let’s start with a quick example. You’re working in a document, and you need to add some type. You choose a tried and true serif font (Adobe Garamond Pro), and commence typing; but this is what you get:

TypeProblems-01

Looks nice, but why all the caps? Why aren’t the small letters working? Something seems to be amiss. Fortunately, this issue is easy to solve, but you’ll need to open the Character panel to get to the root of the problem (Window > Character):

TypeProblems-02

Notice the row of “T” symbols in the lower section of the panel? They are button options, and the one in the center with a large and small “T” is selected. This is the “Small Caps” option, as we can see by hovering the cursor over the button and looking at the tool tip:

TypeProblems-03

This option will use an all-caps typeface if it is included in the font, or else it will “fake” it using the existing font. There are two problems that come up when these options are selected in the Character panel:

  1. The setting is “sticky,” so if you set this option once, it will be in effect the next time you use the type tool – even in a different document, or on a different day!
  2. When Photoshop has to “fake” a text attribute (which in Photoshop jargon is referred to as “faux,” as in “faux bold,” “faux italics,” or “faux caps”) this can lead to other problems later.

We can fix #1 by turning off the attribute with the text layer selected. The font reverts to the normal type face we were originally expecting:

TypeProblems-04

Be careful with this – even clicking on a layer that has a “faux” attribute active will set it within the Character panel, and it sticks until you reset this option!

Now what about problem #2 above – faux attributes causing other problems? Let’s take a look at an example. Here we have some text that we want to use to create a work path, or a shape layer. We click on the text layer, and use Layer > Type > Create Work Path, and get this error:

TypeProblems-05

It may not be obvious looking at the text in the document, but based on the error message we see that the type layer uses a “faux bold” style – and that prevents us from creating a work path. We get virtually the same error if we try to use Layer > Type > Convert to Shape Layer:

TypeProblems-06

Sure enough, a quick peek at the Character panel shows the culprit, and solving this problem is as simple as clicking the faux bold style button to turn it off.

Purists will advise you never to use the faux styles, as they are problematic not just in these cases, but can cause issues as well in prepress if you’re having your final result sent out for professional printing. I won’t go so far as to say never use these styles, but do exercise caution, and make it a habit to look at the Character panel to be sure you understand whether any of these faux options are active and affecting your text.

On a similar note, what if you started to type text into your Photoshop document, and you got some strange layout results, like this?

TypeProblems-08

These are font spacing problems, and can give you a quite a start if you’re not expecting them. Sometimes, when you’re creating a text layout, you need to adjust the spacing to get a certain look. However, those settings are also sticky (just like the faux styles we saw above). So, if you’re working on a document today and see this type of problem, you probably changed the settings in your last document yesterday – and they’ve lingered. Sure enough, looking at the Character panel, we see evidence of sticky changes:

TypeProblems-09

Sometimes, these may not even be obvious at all (such as the font size % adjustment in the middle section for width and height). You get type that looks almost normal, but the size doesn’t match what you’d expect. Look to the Character panel for your solution.

Sometimes, the changes in the Character panel may be extensive or difficult to track down. In that case, we have a one-click solution that allows us to discard all the crazy settings and return things to normal. Click the fly-out menu in the upper right of the Character panel, and in the menu, choose Reset Character.

TypeProblems-10

This resets everything back to normal (including resetting your font face to Myriad Pro at 12 point). You’ll need to reselect your font and size, but you can do so knowing that all the other hidden snags have been removed, and your text will render normally once again.

Have a Photoshop headache? Stubborn program problem that you can’t seem to solve? Leave a comment, and we’ll try to address your problem in a future tip!

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About Michael Hoffman (217 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.