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Tip: Setting the Photoshop Work Area Background Color

Sometimes, I find it rather useful to change the background color of Photoshop when I’m working with certain graphics or photographs. This setting isn’t available in Photoshop’s preferences, so it might not be very well known.

First off, let me begin by explaining that there is a difference between the area surrounding a documents canvas and Photoshop’s Application Background. We’ll be dealing with the first of the two (The area INSIDE of a documents window, which does not make up a part of the canvas), while the latter can typically be set in your Operating Systems theme preferences.

Setting the Background Color for the Work Area

It’s really simple to do.

While working with a document, select the Paint Bucket Tool from the toolbar.

Now select the Foreground Color which you want to use as Photoshop’s Work Area Background.

While Shift, fill in (left click) the area surrounding your canvas workspace (the space between the editable canvas and the window’s edges).  The foreground color you selected will replace the default grey background you would usually see.

Fill this area with a new color

That’s all there is to it!  A quick and easy Photoshop trick that should help you view your images over different backgrounds without going into Full Screen Mode!


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Michael (3 Points) December 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    At last! Thanks a lot for the simple tip.

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  2. Add point Subtract point

    Great stuff! Straight to the point. Thanks!

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  3. Add point Subtract point

    Great stuff! Start to the point. Thanks!

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  4. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks mate. Just what I needed.

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Thx boss, its really helpfull and make me free with this tension

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  6. Add point Subtract point

    Its fantastic n wonderful…thks

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    kevinmrn (1 Point) March 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Thx man. Sometimes the solutions are so simple. Now this is a ps shortcut I’ll never forget :D!

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    kevinmrn (1 Point) March 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Thx man. Sometimes the solutions are so simple. Now this is a ps shortcut I’ll never forget :D

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  9. Add point Subtract point

    Brilliant! Thanks. Couldn’t find this very basic info from the PS help.

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    Claudia Beck (3 Points) February 24, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Ha! This is wonderful – thank you. I have spent at least 2 days searching Photoshop high and low to get rid of a black page background that “somehow” I got.

    Thank you very much.

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    ฟังเพลง (1 Point) February 3, 2010 at 12:37 am

    Excellent post. Thanks26

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    ฟังเพลงออนไลน์ (2 Points) February 2, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Excellent post. Thanks19

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    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุดเดือนนี้ (2 Points) February 1, 2010 at 3:08 am

    Excellent post. Thanks14

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    ดาวน์โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    its very nice. Great post

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    Chakib Tsouli (2 Points) January 28, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    HAHA !!!! this tip made me laugh … at MYSELF !!!!!!!
    how did i miss it !!!!!??
    thx David !!
    very useful one !

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    Nastynightmare (2 Points) January 2, 2010 at 9:16 am

    How do I set my background to be as it shown on preview image on this site??

    Ty :)

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks man… had that thing set to a black background and it was bugging the hell out of me.. Nice to know it’s a simple adjustment.


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  18. Add point Subtract point
    asking (1 Point) August 27, 2009 at 2:30 am

    hi, i accidentally changed my bg color as how u mentioned here, but do you know how to get it back to the default color? thanks! you can reply to my email, thanks!

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    Leisha (1 Point) July 29, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Go to your computer’s Display Properties/Appearance/Advanced. The tab that reads Items, use the pulldown, select Application Background, color will be on your right, and you can change it.

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    Russell Colby (1 Point) May 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I’m using CS3 and can’t find the paint bucket too anywhere. Is there something I need to do to find it?

    Thanks in advance – Russ

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    In CS3 this only seems to work when you are in Maximized Screen Mode, Full Screen with menu bar, and Full Screen mode. This does not work in standard screen mode. (I’m using windows not sure how this works on OSX).

    Pretty cool tip however.

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    Astra (1 Point) May 11, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Thanks so much! I couldn’t figure out how I changed it to begin with, and it was making it difficult to see my work.

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    huwaw69 (1 Point) May 8, 2009 at 2:29 am

    Wow great tip man! thanks this is really helpful!

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  24. Add point Subtract point
    Darren (2 Points) April 25, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Yeah, you can just right-click on the background and do it from there.

    It makes it easier to reset too from that menu.

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    Thanks for this… I’m designing a graphic for a website and I wanted to make sure it would looks good with the background color of the site. Great tip!

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    cool! thanks for this tip! :)

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  27. Add point Subtract point
    Luis Fernando (1 Point) October 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Dear god thank you so very much!!

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    Fernanda Thiesen (1 Point) June 25, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Thank you! It was driving me nuts having my work area in sky blue…

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  29. Add point Subtract point

    As well, nowadays (CS3) you can simply right click the background, and choose a color from there. :P

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    Tallain (1 Point) March 31, 2008 at 12:53 am

    My God, thank you for this.

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    I was just trying to recall this trick yesterday. Thanjs for reminding! :)

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  32. Add point Subtract point
    james peotto (1 Point) February 13, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    how do you reset this after you have done it?

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  33. Add point Subtract point

    It’s amazing how these little tricks can make production so much easier. Thanks! :)

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    John Hok (1 Point) January 25, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Awesome, a year too late though… :P

    I did this by accident and couldn’t figure out how to reverse it. Drove me nuts cause the background was like white.

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    MPCoyote (1 Point) January 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Ahah I never thought of that, good use!

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  36. Add point Subtract point

    @MPCoyote – If you’re working with photographs, you might find that changing the background color of photoshop to black, or white, or some other color will actually help you see how the photo would be framed in different colors. For most users, the neutral grey works perfectly though ;)

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    Agent2693 (1 Point) January 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Fun! I gotta try this out in class…

    I think I know that guy…do I know that guy?

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    MPCoyote (1 Point) January 20, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Haha I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a practical use for this but amusing and cool to know all the same lol

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