Photoshop Shortcuts I use Everyday – The Ultimate Guide

Photoshop Shortcuts I use Everyday – The Ultimate Guide

Speeding up your work-flow is important for any Photoshop user because you will save a lot of time and because you will be able to focus on what you like best, designing. In this tutorial I will show you some shortcuts and tips that I use everyday when I’m in Photoshop and I promise there are at least a few ones you didn’t know about.

Working fast in Photoshop and using all kinds of keyboard shortcuts and mouse combinations is really important for me especially since I started to write tutorials. I have to optimize my time, spend more time in the design rather than navigating through the menus. I discovered some shortcuts by myself by accident and I have to admit that they really made things easier for me. It’s not something that I learned because I was bored, they were a necessity for me.

You will have to practice all these shortcuts for yourself if you want to learn them, there is no other way. Some of them might not be that easy to understand so I STRONGLY recommend you to open Photoshop and practice as you read. So let’s start. I used the names of Windows and Mac keys cause I know many of you wok in MAC. This is the format used when referring to keys: WINDOWS/MAC

Easy shortcuts you must know right now

Even beginners know this but in case you didn’t, just know that “regular shortcuts” such as:

  • CTRL+C (copy)
  • CTRL +X (cut)
  • CTRL+V (paste)

They have the same function as in windows or other programs like Word of Notepad. You need to make a selection before using these shortcuts though, otherwise what are you going to copy? Other simple key shortcuts:

  • D (reset colors Background/Foreground colors)
  • X (swap Background/Foreground colors)
  • SHIFT+CTRL+I (inverse selection)
  • CTR+I (inverses the image or layer mask)
  • CTRL+D (deselect)

Selection shortcuts

Move and continue

Now this is a really cool one and specially useful with the Elliptical Marquee tool. Did you know that while you draw a selection you can move it and then continue drawing it?

This is how it works. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (the Rectangular Marquee works too) and start drawing an elliptical selection, while you do that, press and hold SPACEBAR and you will be able to move the selection around. If you let go the Spacebar you can continue expanding the selection. You can do this as many times as you want as long as you don’t let go the mouse. This is specially useful if you want to position the selection on the fly.

Expand from the center (ALT/OPTION)

Many people already know this but here it goes. When using the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tools, by default, the selection expands from the point where you click on the direction of where you drag the mouse. You can change that by simply pressing and holding the ALT/OPTION key while you make the selection. This will cause the selection to expand equally on all directions from the initial point. See Sample 2 on the image below.

Quick swap to Free Lasso Tool (ALT/OPTION)

This might be useful in some situations. For example if you have geometric and irregular shapes on the same scene. If you’re using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) to draw a selection around a triangular shape for example, but all of a sudden you encounter an irregular shape and you want to draw that selection by hand without losing the already drawn selection. You can temporarily swap to the Free Lasso Tool by pressing ALT/OPTION and continue making the selection “free handed”. See image below. Give it a try.

Perfect shape selections

Another very useful option is to press and hold the SHIFT key while drawing a selection with the Rectangular or Elliptical Marquee tools. By doing that you can draw perfectly square selections (when using the Rectangular Marquee Tool) and perfectly circular selections if you’re using the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

Zooming shortcuts

Another area where you can speed up your work-flow is when you zoom in and out, which is something you do a lot when working in Photoshop. There are a few options here. It’s time to forget the Navigator slider to zoom in once and for all. There are a few ways to zoom in and out and it’s really easy to learn and use.

Spacebar+Right Click

With this combination you can quickly fit the canvas on your screen or zoom in to actual pixels (100%). This command will work doesn’t matter what tool you have selected. The cool thing on this command is that you can also zoom to Print Size.

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You can also quickly zoom in at 100% if you double click the Magnifying Glass icon. This shortcut will let you zoom at 100% instantly. I use it a lot. Another option to instantly zoom at 100% is using CTRL+1.

SHIFT+ALT+Mouse Scroll

This is another zoom shortcut that I use every day. On MAC you use SHIFT+OPTION+Mouse Scroll. It let’s you zoom in increments: 33.33%->50%->66.67%->100%->200%->300%…

If you want to zoom in smaller increments let go the SHIFT key and press only the ALT/OPTION key and use the scroll on the mouse.

Apply the same exact adjustments to multiple images

I found this to be extremely useful in certain situations. For example you opened an image, you increased the saturation and  added some contrast. Now for some reason you closed the image without saving. You open the image again but don’t remember the Saturation amount that you used before.

The easiest way to find out is by using the shortcut  CTRL+ALT+key* (in MAC would be CTRL+OPTION+key*). This shortcut will open the adjustment window with the last settings applied. Works the same on any adjustment: Levels with CTRL+ALT+L, Curves with CTRL+ALT+M, etc.

key*Replace this with the corresponding adjustment key: U for Hue/Saturation, L for Levels, M for Curves, B for Color Balance, etc

Make things easier yourself

Photoshop is almost 100% customizable. You can adapt it to your own liking. Many commands don’t have a keyboard shortcut assigned to them, like the Vibrance adjustment for example. But you can assign your own shortcuts to any menu item by going to Edit>Menus... and click the Shortcuts tab.

Highlight your menus

Sometimes you have no other choice than navigating through the menus and there is a way of making this task easier. There is a  cool feature in Photoshop that allows you to assign a color to menu items that you use the most. This is very handy even if you know exactly where a certain menu item is located.

By assigning a color to a menu item you will make it stand out a lot more and it will be easier to find.

As you can see on the image above, you can even hide item menus that you don’t use by clicking the eye icon to turn off the visibility. I suggest you don’t hide any because in the future you will not know why you can’t find it

Deleting presets

This might be useful for people that create brushes, gradients and other freebies. When you create a new set of brushes or gradients for example, you will have to use an existing set (at least I don’t know any other way).

The problem is that if the set has like 30 or 40 presets in it, it’s a pain in the butt to right click and delete all those presets and have an empty set. Luckily there is a way around this.

If you hold down the ALT/OPTION key the cursor turns into a scissors icon and when you click the preset it deletes it. Now, what took 1 or 2 minutes to delete, will now take you a few seconds, depending on how fast you can click. This works for Color Swatches, Brush Sets, Styles, Custom Shapes, etc.

Create Actions

I mentioned this on another tutorial. If you perform repetitive tasks exactly the same on multiple, photos, it’s a good idea to create an action which at the press of a coupe of keys will perform that action automatically. If you don’t know how to record an action, watch the video below where I show you how I created my dodge/burn action.

Other shortcuts you should know

CTRL+W – Closes tabs
CTRL+Q – Quits Photoshop
CTRL+N – Creates new document

Layers Palette Shortcuts

  • ALT+Click

a) On Layer Masks – will only show the mask
b) Between 2 layers – will transform the top layer in a clipping mask

  • Shift+Click on Layer Mask – will disable the layer mask. Click again to enable it
  • ALT+Click & Drag – Will duplicate layers, effects and layer masks
  • CTRL+J – Duplicates the selected layer
  • CTRL+E – Merges the selected layers
  • CTRL+G – Groups selected layers
  • Hold SHIFT and Click to select multiple layers

Capture screenshots

I don’t know how many people actually knows this but you can capture screenshots using the Print Screen key (it should be locate on the top right part of most keyboards). If you look carefully, you should see your mouse blink slightly when the screenshot is taken.

After taking the screenshot, it will be stored on your clipboard. Create a new document in Photoshop and paste the screenshot (CTRL+V)

The only problem is the cursor will not appear on the screenshot. I don’t know if there is an option that controls that, if anybody knows, please post a comment.

Selective screenshots (window screenshots)

I discovered this while I was writing this tutorial. By default, when you press the Print Screen keyboard to take a screenshot, the whole screen will be captured but if you hold down the ALT/OPTION key and then press the Print Screen key, you will take a screenshot of the window where your mouse is. For example if you have the styles window open and you take a screenshot while your mouse is over that window and the ALT/OPTION key is pressed, you will only capture the layer styles window. I discovered that completely by accident hehe. Take a few test shots for yourself.

So, I hope you learned something new from this tutorial. I strongly encourage you to use as many shortcuts as you can. It will help you work faster and trust me, people will be impressed when they see you working like that. But this is not about impressing others, it’s about being efficient. I use maybe 99% of these shortcuts everyday. I’m thinking on making some sort of chart with shortcuts and visual illustrations. I will post it on this article and I will send a newsletter if I do it. See you on the next tutorial.


  1. Marco says:

    Hey Andrei,

    first and foremost: fantasic site & tutorials, keep up the good work! Now back to topic – I noticed in your tutorials that you resize your brush with the menu (aka sliders) or the keyboard. I found a better way by accident and wonder if you didnt know it or just have a reason to not using it ->

    ALT + rightclick + Move mouse (Left/Right: Size | Up/Down: Hardness)

    In my opinion this is the fastest and most convinient way to resize the brush incl. the hardness :)

    Best regards from germany,

  2. ismyalak says:

    hi andrei , i want you to visit me on deviantart. i have repeated some of your tutorials to know how much i can do my self. so i want you to give a look to my art. !!! don’t forget to leave a comment there. also leave some correction comments if you find something wrong. !!!
    here is the direct link

  3. JAZIB says:

    You can delete brushes faster than the scissor, just open the preset manager and select brushes which you want to delete by holding shift and delete them at a same time.

  4. tlorehand says:

    Now is there a way to keep the new things from docking themselves like they come in as a new window instead of along the top of the previous window. (does that make sense?) and is there a way to keep PS from slowing down after a certain amount of layers is used. I get this problem when I have maybe 60 or so layers. I don’t know if that’s a lot, but sometimes you need them. :) Oh and there used to be an option where you could preview your changes in a normal size window and work on the piece in a larger size window? I can’t seem to find that one in CS5 (does that one make sense?) Okay I think that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading my sillyness…:)

    • Andrei says:

      Ok let’s see. I ‘n not really sure if I understand the part where you say “keep the new things from docking themselves”. I assume you mean that the layers panel collapses when you select a tab from another panel on top of it. It happened to me too and it’s a BIG pain in the butt. The way I fixed that is: I removed all the tabs of the upper dock and I only left the History. I put the masks, adjustment layers and all those tabs on a secondary dock on the right side: see photoshop for beginners “Customizing your workspace” here on PSD Box.

      Regarding the nº of layers slowing down your PC I have no idea. If you work with high resolutions (say 5000×5000) it’s possible. I worked on a document that’s 6000×8000 and worked with 100 plus layers and things started to slow down quite dramatically.

      Regarding the Small window I guess you mean the Navigator which it’s a preview of the workspace. See Photoshop for beginners:

      • tlorehand says:

        no no, okay I’m going to do a screen shot and show you what I mean. Hang on a second….okay got it

        you see where the arrows are pointing where I am calling them as being ‘docked’, probably the wrong word to use, but they are like together in that spot attached to the bottom of the menu thingy. how do I keep them from doing that all the time? I mean I go up to windows and float windows, but is there a way to make it do that so I don’t have to go up and float windows. Does that make better sense?

        and as for the preview window it was an option that windows had in PS7 that was under windows that allowed you to preview as you work. CS5 doesn’t have that anymore and if it does, I might be located somewhere else. I did come in handy so you can zoom way in and work and still see what changes you make without having to zoom back out and zoom back in again. I miss that option… :)

      • tlorehand says:

        I forgot about the saving ram thing. I can’t work that big, mine are only 1200×1200 or 2000×2000 and that’s cutting it close with lagging and such.

        Oh and don’t laugh at my last comment, I forgot to hit the “t” in some spots.. talk about not crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s right? LOL

        • Andrei Oprinca says:

          Ahh ok now I know what you mean. Since version CS4 i think, all documents open in tabs (what you call that they are docked). I took a look at the preferences to see if there is any option to open documents on floating windows by default and I didn’t find anything so you’ll have to do it manually.

          The quickest way to float the windows i click the taps (the ones you pointed with the arrows) and drag them down. You can also arrange them using that icon with 3 squares on it (at the same level where the mini bridge icon is)

          AS for the other option you said, I don’t know about it because I used Photoshop since version CS3. I Didn’t have PS7.

        • tlorehand says:

          I started of psp then moved up to PS7 then over to CS4 then ended with CS5, so many paint programs so little time…LOL

          I’ll try that other option with the windows and see how it works.

          thanks again for the quick reply’s, they are appreciated greatly…take care now.

  5. Vasiliy says:

    For control presets use Preset Manager (Menu -> Edit -> Preset Manager or when active Brush, Gradient Tool etc – RightClick -> Preset Manager). With this tool you can delete, rename each element or all set of preset.

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