i am drawing in photoshow cs4 in windows7.

i am using some image references from google but i have to switch windows to look at them and then back to photoshop. is there a way to put some image references above all windows? or maybe there are some other ways to draw with references.

of course the best way would be a second monitor but i don't have one =)


I usually place the reference images at the top or the side of the main document and its "drawing area" ( Not really that specified, just an area that I feel comfortable working with. ) and put them in their own group.

I would put images in with different size's and possibly cut out some parts If there's like some specific part I'm interested in. ( just with Rectangular Marquee Tool and click Layer Mask icon. Nothing fancy. )

This of course requires a bit bigger document size, but it works well. One thing to consider is the placement of reference images. If you need to make the document bigger for your drawing, you might not want to start moving the reference images around.

Basically what you can do is just select bunch of images from a folder and drag and drop into the open photoshop document.

Oh and of course you can copy image from the internets and just paste it into photoshop as well.


I'd vote for second monitor. Seriously… if it's just for reference purposes, you don't even need hi-profile top-notch pro monitor – some el cheapo will do. Sometimes it's even possible to get some older monitors for free (equipment rotation in companies, schools etc.). If you don't have too-little-space problem I'd go for that solution. I worked with two monitor setup for some time and – believe me – it's so comfortable it's painful to switch back to single monitor.

  • Honestly, a second monitor is expensive. So why not use something you probably already have: your phone?
    – iAmCheap
    Nov 26 '17 at 22:23
  • Well… I recently got two 17" LCD monitors for about 18$ each, so I'm holding up to what I wrote before given the years. A phone may be fine, however: a) its screen is minuscule in comparison to a 17" monitor, b) its screen has to be turned on continuously to be convenient as a reference (which drains battery and/or forces its user to tether it to a charger). A tablet sounds better, but it suffers from the same energy related problems. Plus, it's desirable to have some kind of a fixture holding this devices up.
    – thebodzio
    Nov 28 '17 at 21:17

You could print it out, this is much cheaper than a second monitor ...

  • A sane suggestion. However I have to point out that using printed reference may be challenging in some situations. If luminosity difference between the monitor and the printout is big, it makes one's eyes to tire quickly and may even have long term undesirable consequences. A kind of lightbox for the printed material or appropriate lighting may rectify the situation.
    – thebodzio
    Nov 28 '17 at 21:24
  1. When you have the document window you are working on in Photoshop CS4 maximized the floating windows for other documents (like your reference images) should keep floating on top of your main document.

  2. You could install Irfan View, open your reference images with it and select "options -> always on top" from the menu.

  3. If you want to get really techy you can dig into autohotkey and write a custom script to switch the "always on top" status of a certain window.

  4. On Win XP ther was an option in the nVidia drivers to activate a special control menu for each window that gave the always on top option, but I think that has been removed. At least I can't find it anymore. But if you have an ATI card it might be worth to look for such an option.


I personally use the free Honeyview image viewer.

It has in its General Options the 'Always on top' setting.

I like Honeyview because you can set it up so it has no window border/menu/buttons/anything... then you can just put it right beside whatever it is you're working on:

Ain't that a honey

As you can see it's very unobtrusive... The B&W graphic on the left is open in Honeyview where it stays, always on top of Photoshop.

Another similar option (which requires no other 3rd-party programs) is just to open your reference image in another tab within Photoshop, then drag the tab off as a floating window... Only problem versus Honeyview is the window frame itself taking up real estate:

Photoshop floating window

Alternatively (if you just use Windows Photo Viewer or whatever) you can install Dexpot (virtual desktop manager)... When Dexpot is installed every single window you can open gains the 'Always on Top' functionality.

Here I am setting Photoshop (for example) to be always on top:

Always on top with Dexpot


I am unable to add to the previous comment as a guest; therefore, I am responding with a new comment. The software named PureRef is indeed a wonderful addition to anyone's toolkit as a reference holder, and it has a setting that will allow the program to stay in the front as you work in a different window!

You can find out all about it at https://www.pureref.com/index.php It costs a small donation fee. I paid 5 Euros for it using Paypal.

  • You can organize your references on a blank canvas in any way you want.
  • You can resize, rotate, and crop each individual reference.
  • VERY easy to use shortcuts. Open the preferences to see the keyboard commands or just look for an online YouTube tutorial.

https://youtu.be/awa9z7j5A4s?t=361 Pure Ref worked for me :) Also, Alt + Tab changes windows really fast (well, it depends on your pc) if you don't want to download anything

  • 2
    Welcome to Graphic Design! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – Luciano
    Jul 17 '17 at 8:09

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