When you first start learning Photoshop, the user interface can seem a bit overwhelming. Thanks to more than 30 years of development and user feedback, it’s actually designed quite well, but it can still seem like a lot to take in the first time you look at it.
The Options bar is an essential part of the interface that controls how every Photoshop tool operates, so it’s important to know where it is and how to use it.
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at where to find the Options bar as part of the larger Photoshop interface, as well as what you can do when the Options bar goes missing and how you can customize its placement to match your personal workflow style.
Table of Contents
Finding the Options Bar
When you load Photoshop for the first time, the Options bar is located near the top of the screen, above the document window, and below the menu bar.
It is important to remember that the contents of the Options bar will change depending on which tool you currently have selected. Each tool has a different set of configuration options, so the Options bar will look slightly different on your screen if you have another tool active.
Note: the screenshots in this post are taken from the macOS version of Photoshop, but the Windows version of Photoshop looks almost identical except for minor cosmetic differences.
My Options Bar is Missing
If you can’t find the Options bar in the default location, there are several possible explanations. The Options bar can be repositioned (sometimes accidentally), it can be closed (also accidentally), and it can be temporarily hidden.
Repositioning the Options Bar
If your Options bar is missing, start by looking around the rest of the interface to see if you accidentally moved it out of the default location.
When the Options bar is undocked, it can sometimes be hard to see against the rest of the Photoshop interface. When you can see it clearly, it looks like this:
You can click and drag the handle at the left edge of the Options bar to move it. Reposition it over its original location at the top of the Photoshop document window, and you’ll see a blue highlight appear, indicating that the Options bar will be re-docked into the default position.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to screenshot this highlighting effect, but you won’t be able to miss it when it appears!
Unhiding the Options Bar
If the Options bar has completely disappeared, it’s possible that it was closed accidentally. It’s actually pretty difficult to do this accidentally, but it’s very easy to get it back again.
In the menu bar at the top of the Photoshop window, open the Window menu and click Options.
Keep in mind that if the Options bar was undocked from its default position and then closed, it will reappear in its last-visible position when you ask Photoshop to display it again. This means that it might still be hard to spot if it reappears overtop of another part of the interface!
Hiding and Unhiding All Panels
There’s one last possible reason why the Options bar might be missing: all the panels are hidden! This one confuses a lot of new Photoshop users who are starting to explore keyboard shortcuts because it’s very easy to do accidentally.
If the Options bar and all your other menu panels are hidden, simply press the Tab key to make them visible again.
One of Photoshop’s most useful (and underappreciated) features is the ability to customize the user interface. You can even set up different saved presets known as workspaces, each with its own panel setup and positioning – including the Options bar.
Photoshop comes with a few different workspaces preconfigured for common tasks, such as photo editing and painting, or you can stick to the most commonly-used tools with the Essentials workspace.
Most importantly, if you customize your workspace and then realize that you’ve gone too far, you can return the workspace back to the last saved version with just a few clicks.
Open the Window menu, select the Workspace submenu, and click the entry labeled Reset [workspacename].
A Final Word
That covers the basics of the Options bar, where to find it in Photoshop, and a few tips on how you can customize the Photoshop user interface! This just scratches the surface of what you can do with workspaces, but it’s a good idea to get comfortable with the basics before you move on to more advanced interface customizations in Photoshop.
Enjoy having the Options bar back!About Thomas Boldt