Richard O'Brien | 21 November 2013
One of the things we’re regularly asked on courses is “is there a quicker way to do xyz?” Very often the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. So, I thought with this post I’d cover my favourite (and most commonly used) top 20 shortcuts when working with Adobe Photoshop (either in Creative Suite or Creative Cloud).
Photoshop Shortcuts: My top 20
1: Don't use a mouse
1. The best shortcut - and one I use all the time in my work - is don't use a mouse!
Moving to a Wacom tablet can drastically speed up how you work…once you get used to it.
As a pen/tablet is much more natural (we're all used to holding a pen and have been far long than we've used a mouse), not to mention that with pressure-sensitivity you have much finer control over your work.
The downside? It costs! So, onto some cheaper tips…
2 - 4: Zooming and Navigating
Probably the commonest shortcuts I use are to do with zooming and navigating around:
2. Zoom in and out using CTRL+ and CTRL- (Mac: Cmd+ and Cmd-)
3. Use CTRL+0 (Mac: Cmd+0) to zoom to fit screen, and CTRL+ALT+0 (Mac: Cmd+Option+0) to zoom to 100%
4. Hold the spacebar to drag the document around the screen
5 - 12: Brush-based shortcuts
As with most people using Photoshop, I find myself doing a lot of work with the various 'brush-based' tools, and so some of my favourite shortcuts are to do with brushes.
5. Use [ and ] to decrease and increase the brush size
6. Hold SHIFT whilst using the [ and ] keys to change the hardness of the brush
7. Alternatively, hold ALT (Mac: Option) and right-click and drag - up/down to decrease/increase hardness, and left/right to decrease/increase brush size.
8. Not just for brushes, but for any tool, create presets. These allow you to store your favourite tool settings for future use. Once the brush settings are what you would like to store, in the 'Brush Preset Picker' click the 'new page' Create new preset from this brush icon to store your preset
9. Bonus tip for CC users - presets are one of the options that can be synced between your different machines (Edit > Preferences > Sync Settings)
10. One of my favourite tricks when working with colour is to do with sampling colours from other artwork. Open the Color Picker dialog and move outside to get the eyedropper pointer. Click-and-drag around the screen to select colour from anything on the screen, even if it's not inside Photoshop! It might also be worth changing the 'Point Sample' setting on the Options Bar to 3 by3 Average rather than Point Sample.
11. Use X to switch foreground and background colours, and D to reset to the default colours
12. Lastly for brushes, don't forget to experiment with the Options Bar at the top of the screen - options for Mode (essentially Blending Modes from Layers) and Opacity among others can be useful
13 - 20: Layering
The other main set of shortcuts I use are to do with layers, which have of course been described as 'Photoshop's most powerful feature' on more than one occasion.
13. Copy the current layer or selection to a new layer with CTRL+J (Mac: Cmd+J)
14. Select the contents of a layer by holding CTRL (Mac: Cmd) and clicking its thumbnail in the Layers panel
15. Adding a new, blank layer is often done using the New layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and by default it always adds the new layer above the current one. Hold CTRL (Mac: Cmd) as you click this to add the new layer beneath the current one.
16. Hold ALT (Mac: Option) as you click the New layer icon to display the New Layer dialog
17. Quickly group layers together by selecting them and hitting CTRL+G (Mac: Cmd+G)
18. Convert the currently selected layer(s) to a Smart Object using Filter > Convert for Smart Filter
19. Bonus tip for CC users: the new Camera Raw Filter can also be used as a Smart Filter
20. If you're dragging an image into another to create a new layer, hold SHIFT as you let go to position it in the centre
One extra trick…The Dialog Box
So I have already given you 20 but I have thought of one final trick to take it to a not so rounded 21. It's one to use when working in a dialog box:
21. Hold ALT (Mac: Option) to change the Cancel button to a Reset button
Photoshop has so many shortcuts built into it, some of which are keyboard driven, others are built around certain ways of working. I couldn't possibly list them all in a single post, but I hope these 20 are enough to start you off and improve your efficiency when working in Photoshop.