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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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.