10 Best Photoshop Shortcuts - Digital Photography School

10 Best Photoshop Shortcuts

Photoshop has a huge range of shortcut keys for speeding up your day. Here are my ten best shortcut keys that I suggest you add to your Photoshop toolkit:

1. Find the sizing handles

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_1.jpg

When you paste a layer or selection into a Photoshop image – if it is larger than the current image it can be difficult to find the sizing handles.

To find them, press Ctrl + T, then Ctrl + 0 (zero) or on the Mac – Command + T, Command + 0. This selects Transform and sizes the image inside the window so you can see the sizing handles.

2. Flatten layers but keep them too

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_2.jpg

Sometimes you need, for example, to flatten the layers in an image to sharpen the result but you don’t want to get rid of the layers either. Here’s how to have your cake and eat it too (or more accurately, flatten your layers and keep them too).

Add a new empty layer to the top of the layer stack, click in it and press Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E (Command + Option + Shift +E on the Mac). This adds a flattened version of the image to the new layer but leaves the layers intact too.

3. Fill a layer

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_3.jpg
To fill an empty layer with the current foreground or background color use Alt + Delete or Option + Backspace on the Mac to fill the layer with the Foreground color or Ctrl + Delete or Command + Backspace on the Mac or to fill with the Background color.

4. Select a color from the image

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_4.jpg

When you’re working with a Photoshop brush and you want to sample a color from the image, instead of clicking the Eyedropper tool and then the Brush tool again, you can do it with a keystroke.

Hold the Alt the key (Option on the Mac) to switch temporarily to the Eyedropper tool and click to select a new foreground color. Let go the Alt/Option key to return to the brush.

5. Move a selection

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_5.jpg

Moving a selection is notoriously cumbersome without this keystroke: to move a selection while you are still drawing it, press and hold the Spacebar. Continue to hold the it while you move the selection and let it go when the selection is in the correct place.

6. Adjusting brush size

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_6.jpg

When you’re using a brush as an eraser, to paint with or in any tool that uses brushes, you can size the brush up or down using the [ and ] keys on the keyboard. In Photoshop CS5, you can hold the Alt key and the right mouse button (on the Mac use the Control + Option keys) and drag up to increase or decrease brush hardness and drag left and right to size the brush.

7. Scrubby sliders

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_7.jpg

Not technically a keystroke but a “must know” tool are scrubby sliders. In Photoshop CS3, and later, most options in most dialogs that can be adjusted using a slider can also be adjusted using a scrubby slider. Scrubby sliders appear as a hand with a pointing finger icon when you hold your mouse over the slider name. Drag on the name to adjust the slider value.

8. Zoom and Move with dialogs open

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_8.jpg

When a dialog such as the Layer Style dialog is open you can access the Zoom and Move tools by using Ctrl (Command on the Mac) to zoom in and Alt (Option on the Mac) to zoom out of the document. Use the spacebar to access the Hand tool to move the document around.

9. Hidden tools

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_9.jpg
Tools that share a tool palette position and a shortcut keystroke letter can be easily selected using the keystroke letter. So, for example, to access the Mixer Brush which shares a tool position with the Brush tool and if the Mixer Brush is hidden, press B to get the Brush tool. The press Shift + B until the Mixer Brush appears. In a similar way press M to get the Rectangular Marquee tool and Shift + M to get the Elliptical Marquee tool.

10. Precise and crosshair cursors

10_photoshop_shortcut_keys_10.jpg
Finally, not so much a keyboard shortcut as something that can go horribly wrong – pressing the Caps Lock key switches the Brush cursor into precise mode. This is a small crosshair cursor and hides the actual size of the brush. To return to the regular normal or standard brush tip, press the Caps Lock key again.

If I were helping a new user learn Photoshop, these are ten keystrokes I’d be teaching them. Do you agree or what keystrokes do you think are the most important to learn in Photoshop?

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

  • Katheryn

    Great tips! Thank you!

  • Josh

    A better way to adjust brush size and softness quickly is hold control + option (mac) and drag the pointer left and right for size and up-down for softness

  • http://www.kpcreativeltd.com krysten

    I love that scripty typeface used in the word “Rome”… what is that?

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    Very nice list. I have just recently come across two of these by accident on my own (holding shift to get to hidden brushes and command-0 to fit to window). The shortcut I am most excited to try is the flatten layers but keep all the layers.

    I have made a PDF for my digital editing students featuring the most commonly used Photoshop (and Aperture 3) keyboard shortcuts:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/9/6/aperture-3-and-photoshop-cs5-keyboard-shortcuts-quick-guide.html

    Feel free to download it for yourselves.

  • Lillyl

    Thank you SOOOO much. That tip about the precise Mode just made me week. It has been driving me crazy!!!

  • http://www.jakeshomeworkouts.com Jake

    Nice list. Maybe you could do another post in the future for Mac users.

  • http://www.loveomelettes.com Barry Finlay

    Thanks for the tips. I have been using Photoshop for sometime now and knew most of these but Tip 1 was new to me and it will save me so much time, I can’t believe I have never came across this short cut before. That tip is going on a post it on my screen until it sinks in.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannick-krempp/ Yannick KREMPP

    Change brush size/hardness:

    I think that you should mention that since CS4 (maybe CS5 only ?) you can change the brush size and hardness on the fly by keeping pressed both ALT+Righ mouse click, and move up and down for hardness, left and right for size.

    This is such a time saving, try it !

  • http://www.matthewhalstead.com Matthew Halstead

    I can’t believe you missed:

    ctrl + z for undo; and
    ctrl + shift + z for step backward

    Trust me, you will now use these all the time!

  • summerrain_90

    10. Precise and crosshair cursors
    this tip almost saved my life. haha

  • Steve

    Good to know the Ctrl+0 to find the handles, never thought of doing that, Thanks!
    Shift+square bracket will change brush hardness which I personally find easier.
    @Matthew Halstead: could you clarify ‘step backward’?
    Thanks

  • KJ

    #10 happened to me the other day and I couldn’t figure out what I did! Thanks! and thanks for the tip on finding the sizing handles. :)

  • Jim

    A couple of handy ones there for me.
    Two I like and use often. I am a Mac user so guessing CTL for Windows.
    1/ CTL/CMD+H will toggle hide/unhide the marching ants so that you can view a selection properly
    2/ CTL.CMD+’ (that’s a single quote) will toggle the visibility of the grid lines

  • http://jcphotography.tumblr.com Jordan

    Great tips, I’ve been using the [ and ] for brush size forever but I’m really glad to see some of these other tips. Really helpful, thanks!!!

  • rvm

    Great tips…keep it going…very helpful….thank you.

  • Eileen McVey

    I would like to a see a post about the importance of the order of doing changes to a photograph and how tis impacts what you see or what you change that impacts the final product. Is order important or is their no specfic order (levels, hue, sharpening, etc). that made adversely impact what you are hoping to achieve.

  • http://www.projectwoman.com/phototips Helen Bradley

    @Krysten it is PetraScriptEF and it is a lovely font with beautifully oversize capitals.

    @Barry – I struggled so much until I learned that one and now it’s my #1 tip.. to anyone who doesn’t know it it’s a lifesaver.

  • Mohd Fauzi

    Tip #10 really solve something that had me really scratch my head a few time. I had in the past, experience the time when in brush mode, the round cursor just gone and leave only, you guest it, the cross hair. I had to save my work and restart PS. Now I know what really happen. I must accidentally press the caps lock. Hahaha. Thanks for the info.

  • http://carolstockphotography Carol Stock

    Helen,

    On Tip 2 why wouldn’t you just add an “n” to that string: control alt shft NE? Seems more streamlined, right?

    Thanks so much!

    Carol

  • http://youtube.com/alc59 A&L

    great tips for photoshop..got any for Gimp

  • http://prophoto.com.au Wedding Photographer Perth

    Thanks, some helpful tips!

  • http://shortcutstickers.com Steve Swift

    This was very helpful for me! Thank you :-) . Just my two cents- If anyone needs a helpful reminder as to where all the shortcut keys are for Photoshop, I’ve developed a new shortcut sticker set for Photoshop, located here: http://www.shortcutstickers.com/graphic-design/adobe-photoshop/adobe-photoshop-sticker-set-color

    Great way for anyone to speed up their Photoshop creativity!

  • http://www.philmcdermott.com Phil

    Great set of tips. I am familiar with most of them though no.4 is a new one, I can see the value of being able to quickly choose the eyedropper tool. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    – Phil

  • blasku

    couple of really useful shortcuts, thanks for sharing!

  • Veggamattic

    My 2 favourite shortcuts are: 1. double clicking the screen instead of using File>Open 2: Alt Drag to duplicate a layer.

Some older comments

  • Phil

    August 6, 2012 06:02 pm

    Great set of tips. I am familiar with most of them though no.4 is a new one, I can see the value of being able to quickly choose the eyedropper tool. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    - Phil

  • Steve Swift

    April 13, 2012 11:54 pm

    This was very helpful for me! Thank you :-) . Just my two cents- If anyone needs a helpful reminder as to where all the shortcut keys are for Photoshop, I've developed a new shortcut sticker set for Photoshop, located here: http://www.shortcutstickers.com/graphic-design/adobe-photoshop/adobe-photoshop-sticker-set-color

    Great way for anyone to speed up their Photoshop creativity!

  • Wedding Photographer Perth

    February 14, 2012 09:20 pm

    Thanks, some helpful tips!

  • A&L

    October 21, 2011 03:17 am

    great tips for photoshop..got any for Gimp

  • Carol Stock

    October 18, 2011 12:49 am

    Helen,

    On Tip 2 why wouldn't you just add an "n" to that string: control alt shft NE? Seems more streamlined, right?

    Thanks so much!

    Carol

  • Mohd Fauzi

    October 16, 2011 08:16 pm

    Tip #10 really solve something that had me really scratch my head a few time. I had in the past, experience the time when in brush mode, the round cursor just gone and leave only, you guest it, the cross hair. I had to save my work and restart PS. Now I know what really happen. I must accidentally press the caps lock. Hahaha. Thanks for the info.

  • Helen Bradley

    October 15, 2011 11:34 am

    @Krysten it is PetraScriptEF and it is a lovely font with beautifully oversize capitals.

    @Barry - I struggled so much until I learned that one and now it's my #1 tip.. to anyone who doesn't know it it's a lifesaver.

  • Eileen McVey

    October 15, 2011 04:56 am

    I would like to a see a post about the importance of the order of doing changes to a photograph and how tis impacts what you see or what you change that impacts the final product. Is order important or is their no specfic order (levels, hue, sharpening, etc). that made adversely impact what you are hoping to achieve.

  • rvm

    October 14, 2011 06:22 pm

    Great tips...keep it going...very helpful....thank you.

  • Jordan

    October 14, 2011 10:53 am

    Great tips, I've been using the [ and ] for brush size forever but I'm really glad to see some of these other tips. Really helpful, thanks!!!

  • Jim

    October 14, 2011 08:37 am

    A couple of handy ones there for me.
    Two I like and use often. I am a Mac user so guessing CTL for Windows.
    1/ CTL/CMD+H will toggle hide/unhide the marching ants so that you can view a selection properly
    2/ CTL.CMD+' (that's a single quote) will toggle the visibility of the grid lines

  • KJ

    October 14, 2011 04:45 am

    #10 happened to me the other day and I couldn't figure out what I did! Thanks! and thanks for the tip on finding the sizing handles. :)

  • Steve

    October 13, 2011 06:52 am

    Good to know the Ctrl+0 to find the handles, never thought of doing that, Thanks!
    Shift+square bracket will change brush hardness which I personally find easier.
    @Matthew Halstead: could you clarify 'step backward'?
    Thanks

  • summerrain_90

    October 12, 2011 03:03 am

    10. Precise and crosshair cursors
    this tip almost saved my life. haha

  • Matthew Halstead

    October 12, 2011 01:15 am

    I can't believe you missed:

    ctrl + z for undo; and
    ctrl + shift + z for step backward

    Trust me, you will now use these all the time!

  • Yannick KREMPP

    October 11, 2011 10:05 pm

    Change brush size/hardness:

    I think that you should mention that since CS4 (maybe CS5 only ?) you can change the brush size and hardness on the fly by keeping pressed both ALT+Righ mouse click, and move up and down for hardness, left and right for size.

    This is such a time saving, try it !

  • Barry Finlay

    October 11, 2011 05:25 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I have been using Photoshop for sometime now and knew most of these but Tip 1 was new to me and it will save me so much time, I can't believe I have never came across this short cut before. That tip is going on a post it on my screen until it sinks in.

  • Jake

    October 11, 2011 01:51 pm

    Nice list. Maybe you could do another post in the future for Mac users.

  • Lillyl

    October 11, 2011 01:42 pm

    Thank you SOOOO much. That tip about the precise Mode just made me week. It has been driving me crazy!!!

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer

    October 11, 2011 07:07 am

    Very nice list. I have just recently come across two of these by accident on my own (holding shift to get to hidden brushes and command-0 to fit to window). The shortcut I am most excited to try is the flatten layers but keep all the layers.

    I have made a PDF for my digital editing students featuring the most commonly used Photoshop (and Aperture 3) keyboard shortcuts:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/9/6/aperture-3-and-photoshop-cs5-keyboard-shortcuts-quick-guide.html

    Feel free to download it for yourselves.

  • krysten

    October 11, 2011 04:18 am

    I love that scripty typeface used in the word "Rome"... what is that?

  • Josh

    October 11, 2011 03:54 am

    A better way to adjust brush size and softness quickly is hold control + option (mac) and drag the pointer left and right for size and up-down for softness

  • Katheryn

    October 11, 2011 01:06 am

    Great tips! Thank you!

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