It’s the Little Things..My Top 10 Photoshop Shortcuts

One of the best things about photoshop is that you are ALWAYS discovering new little shortcuts and techniques, sometimes completely by accident!

Last night I was putting the finishing touches on a client gallery and was using a layer mask to pant on my adjustment with a white brush on the mask and my finger accidentally hit the \ key.. and I saw this:

It’s my mask! And like magic, press the \ button and it disappears again. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I DIDN’T know this one. I knew how to see your adjustment brush  mask in Lightroom (press “o”) but somehow never figured it out in PS until now. Duh!

Anyway, it got me thinking of other shortcuts/tricks/tips that make editing so much faster.  Here’s a list off the top of my head, please add your own!

1) To edit the text in a text layer, instead of having to choose the text tool and click inside the text to get to the options bar you can double click on the “T” icon in the layer palette.

2) Using the [ key and the ] key to make brushes bigger and smaller.

3) using the Ctrl- and Ctrl+ shortcut to zoom in and out quickly

4) To move around in an image when you are zoomed all the way in, simply press the space bar which will allow you to use your cursor like a hand to click and drag the document the left or right without effecting the layers (i.e moving them around by accident!)

5) Control+shift+F will bring up a fade dialogue so that you can fade any change you just made

6) Control+I inverts, which is particularly useful with layer masks to change them from black to white or vice versa.

7) Control +Alt+2= select highlights.  This is almost completely undocumented, but I use it all the time to select the highlights and then do a control+shift+I to invert my selection so I just have midtones and shadows selected. From there I can do a curves adjustment and bring up everything but the highlights, which means no clipping!

8) Holding down the the alt key and click dragging with your mouse duplicates anything quickly. Super useful for duplicating shape or text layers quickly. It also works in the layers palette for copying effects from one layer to another. Just hold down the alt key and drag the effects icon into another layer. If you DON’T hold down the alt key it will just move your effect from one layer to another.

9) Control J will copy any part of an image that you select onto a new layer.

10) These are pretty obvious, but the simplest shortcuts make life so much easier: Control A selects all. Control D deselects. Each tool in the toolbar has it’s own one letter shortcut to select it quickly: V for the move tool, b for brush, s for clone tool, c for crop tool, e for eraser, w for the quick selection tool and so on.

Committing the keyboard shortcuts for your favorite commands to memory can really speed up your workflow.

Now, what’s YOUR favorite shortcut/tip/trick?

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Heidi says:

Great tips! Didn’t know the one about selecting highlights! Another one I use all the time is the number keys 1-0 to change the opacity of your tool (brush, clone stamp etc) in increments of 10. 1 is 10%, 0 is 100%

Nikki says:

don’t forget Ctrl-Alt-0 to instantly zoom in to 100% ! :0)

ariana says:

Damien – thanks for that! I updated the post to edit out my typos, both spelling and commands. Perhaps there’s a good reason I don’t do these types of posts regularly :)

I’m off to read your (I’m sure much better and more thorough) post!

Juliana says:

Ariana, thanks for the tips!!! I think I will print your post and have it next to my key board so I can use these shortcuts all the time!!

Damien says:

Clarification on point #6: Ctrl-Shift-I inverts the *selection*. It’s just plain old Ctrl-I to invert the colours (eg on a mask).

Damien says:

Correction on point #3 … it’s Ctrl/Cmd, not Shift. Shift +/- changes the blend mode of the selected tool; or, if the Move tool is selected, it changes the blend mode of the layer.

A couple more tips, and some advice, here:

ariana says:

Gillian.. that’s like asking a mother which is her favorite child LOL. Honestly, I really wouldn’t want to be without either..

There are some HUGE new improvements in LR3 that make it able to do some of the things that only PS used to be able to do. It kind of depends on how much you are going to get into DETAILED post processing.

If you just want to have an amazing organization system that lets you make plenty of basic edits to your photos, then I’d say LR.

But if you want to get into detailed work and really learn the ins and outs of post processing and don’t care so much about being able to quickly edit many photos at once then maybe PS..

I don’t think I helped much.. I do thing thought that LR is less intimidating in that there aren’t as many options.. a bit easier to jump right in without taking tons of tutorials etc. Though I HIGHLY recommend the Julieanne Kost LR tutorials on Adobe TV.

Gillian says:

Question: since you use both lightroom and photoshop which would you recommend. I take tond of pictures, but just really of my LO. I really need to get a program for editting and have been leaning toward the lightroom program. Thoughts???

Crystal says:

oohh…that mask thing is pretty cool! Going to have to check it out tonight! Thanks!

ariana says:

Thanks Carolyn :)

Great tips Jessica!

I want to add on to your add on with the adding subtracting to selection.. the shift key always activates the add to selection, just as the alt key subtracts from it (which I did not know until you posted!)

Jessica says:

Very helpful post, thank you!

I wanted to add onto #10… if you hold the shift key down while you press the one-letter shortcut that activates a certain tool, you can cycle through the options “underneath” that tool. For instance, if you press M, you get the marquee tool. If you then press shift + M, it will cycle between the square marquee, circle marquee, etc.

Adding onto #2… { and } increase & decrease the hardness of your brush.

And last, one I just learned the other day… If you’re using the magic wand, lasso or marquee, and you have the “Add to Selection” option toggled on at the top, you can hold down ALT & it will activate the “Subtract from Selection” option. This makes it easy when you’re adding and subtracting trying to get your mask just right.

Thanks again for all your great tips! :)

Carolyn says:

I got no tricks, but just wanted to say thank you for this helpful post!