Adobe Photoshop: Resetting Defaults (on the Options Bar and Beyond)
by Barb Binder, Adobe Certified Instructor on Photoshop
Updated Jul 6, 2017
Photoshop uses a “sticky state” for the Options Bar. This is good if you have favorite settings that you use all the time, and bad if you randomly pick options and then forget about them. As a longtime Photoshop ACI (Adobe Certified Instructor), I learned quickly that I can waste precious class time troubleshooting my students’ projects if I don’t take the time to reset defaults between lessons. I don’t mean to say that in a production environment you need to reset defaults several times a day, but if you are struggling with misbehaving tools, this one’s for you.
The Options Bar
The Options Bar is the horizontal bar that runs underneath the Menu Bar in Photoshop. You can turn it on and off through the Windows menu, so if you don’t see it on your screen, you definitely want to turn it on with Window > Options.
The job of the Options Bar is to set the options of the tool you are about to use. For example, if I want to make a rectangular marquee selection, I would pick the Rectangular Marquee tool and then pick my options (feather, anti-alias, fixed aspect ratio) before I use the tool. Generally speaking, selections from the Options Bar only affect the next use of the tool.
To reset the Options Bar:
- Pick any tool from the Toolbox (I have the Move tool selected in my example):
- Right-click (Mac: Control+click) the picture of the tool at the far left of the Options Bar to access the reset tool menu:
- Reset this tool or all tools to restore the tool defaults:
- Pick OK.
- The tools return to their default settings.
Restoring System Preferences
With the information above, you now have the skills to manually reset the Options Bar defaults for one or all tools. Sometimes, though, you just want trash everything and start from scratch. You can do this by deleting the Photoshop preferences file, which can become corrupt over time.
Photoshop CC 2015 and 2017
It’s easier than ever to reset Photoshop preferences in Photoshop CC 2015 and 2017 (if you are on an older version, scroll down):
- Edit > Preferences > General (Win) or Photoshop > Preferences > General (Mac)
- Reset Preferences on Quit
- Quit Photoshop and restart
Older versions of Photoshop
- Quit Photoshop.
- Get your fingers ready to go:
- Windows: set up the fingers on one hand to hover over Control and Shift and Alt.
- Mac: set up the fingers on one hand to hover over Command and Shift and Opt.
- Use the mouse to double click the Photoshop icon and then IMMEDIATELY press and hold down the keys listed above.
- You can let go of the mouse, but keep the keys down until you get this message:
- Click Yes and Photoshop will reopen using the original system defaults.
It can take several tries to get the timing down so if you don’t see the message, quit Photoshop and try again.
Note: Several commenters have noted that the Options bar is missing altogether. In that case:
- Window > Options will hide/show just the Options bar, or
- Reset the workspace: in the Window menu, first choose: Window > Workspace > Essentials, then Window > Workspace > Reset Essentials or
- Reset the preferences as described directly above