Photoshop: Magic Numbers?

Perhaps you already know what I am talking about. With the plethora of necessary dialogs and sliders in your daily Photoshop work, combined with a busy schedule and 600 photos to postprocess, how do you determine rational choices for each image, without batching everything with the same values?

From more than a decade of Photoshop work, I have noticed that I have settled on a few ‘magic numbers’ that at least eases my perfectionist mind as to what the ‘just right’ figure may be in several of Photoshops dialogs. Rationality is a very small part of these choices, they have more to do with making quick intuitive decisions that I won’t later regret.

The dialogs in question are in particular dialogs such as filters, for instance sharpening and blurring, the Fade dialog (which I use often), Layer Opacity for blending etc. and the magic numbers I always seem to settle on are these:

In percentage dialogs: 33% and 66%, in sliders, values of 90 and 127.

Why? This is magic, and magicians never devulge their secrets. Or, as we learn from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to everything is… 42. No idea in arguing, just try it. The values of 90 and 127 are based on image dimensions (detail frequency) though, and are tailored to images in the ~6-15MP range.

Do you find that you always settle on the same figures in % and value dialogs? You don’t need to rationalize, but it would be very interesting to hear about your choices in a comment on this post. Don’t forget to include the general image size you are working with.



  1. garyb50 said,

    March 6, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    OK, this is bizarre. I do a lot of layer merges & then different filters on each merged layer which I very very often blend @ 42%. I tend to overdo the filters & tone them down with the layer blending. D300 – 13 megapixels – RAW

  2. Nick Decker said,

    March 7, 2009 at 2:49 am

    30%-40% on drop shadows, almost always. 75% default is way overkill, unless you belong to the Third Reich.

    OK, there, I’ve said it. I use drop shadows.

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