There's no denying that Photoshop is a powerful tool, but it's also a very tedious program. All of the time spent clicking through menus and palettes is wasted time. Fortunately, Photoshop includes lots of handy of shortcuts. Learning and incorporating them into your editing will give your productivity a serious boost.
Zoom In and Out With Ease
Photoshop’s main tool palette includes a zoom function, and the Navigator window can be a massive time saver. But when you have a lot of palettes open or are in the middle of a major edit, the last thing you want to do is hunt down the Navigator or switch tools for a few seconds.
If you find yourself needing to zoom out and view your image in its entirety, try double-clicking the Hand tool or pressing Ctrl+0. Either of these combinations will snap the image to its actual size.
Alternatively, if you’re just wanting to zoom in and out, a combination of Ctrl and + or – will zoom your image in or out.
Stop Wasting Time With the Layers Palette
The Layers palette is one that you’ll spend a ton of time in during the editing process. Specifically, constantly adding new layers can eat up a lot of time if you’re doing it with the mouse.
To save time creating layers, you can use Ctrl + Shift + N instead of the Layers palette to create a new one layer. If you want to create Ya new layer and skip the dialogue box, Ctrl + Alt + Shift + N will accomplish this.
Switch Tools With a Single Keystroke
You might not realize it, but switching tools eats up a lot of time during Photoshop editing. The six or so seconds moving the mouse over and changing tools can really add up when you’re going between a handful of tools.
Switching tools can done with the keyboard to save time. Three shortcuts for the most common tools are B to select the Brush tool, H for the Hand tool and Z for the Zoom tool.
Quickly Open Files
Moving away from keyboard shortcuts momentarily, there is a great shortcut to open new files. If you’re hand’s on the mouse, just double click the gray background of the Photoshop task space to bring up the Open File dialogue. It’s faster than using File > Open or moving your hands to the keyboard for Ctrl + O.
Toggle Palettes Using Tab
Palettes can get in the way, no matter how useful they are. If you want to see your work by itself without the clutter surrounding it, pressing Tab will quickly hide or show the palettes.
Change Your Brush Size Without the Mouse
If you’re flipping between different brush sizes, stop wasting time dragging the mouse to the top of the screen. Pressing [ will decrease your brush size, and ] will increase it.
Similar to #6, brush softness can be adjusted by using the same bracket keys. Hold down the shift key while using the keys mentioned in #6 to change the brush softness.
Pan Image Without Switching Tools
If you’re zoomed in on your work and want to move to a different area, switching to the Hand tool or Navigator window can waste precious seconds. Holding down the spacebar while clicking and dragging will let you pan the image without switching tools.
Step Backward With Alt+Z
Control + Z is your standard Undo action, but it becomes Redo after hitting it once. Alt+Z will let you undo multiple steps.
Flip Between Background and Foreground Colors
Pressing X flips the colors that are defined as your background and foreground colors. This is a perfect shortcut when working with text.
Get Precise Values
Some dialogue boxes, such as Color Balance, use sliders. These are great, but they can be inaccurate if you’re setting precise values. Select the text box and use arrow up or down to precisely edit values.
If you’re working with the Marquee or Lasso tool, Ctrl + H will hide the marching ants. This lets you better see the edge of your selection so you know exactly what you’re working with.
Faster Rotation and Scaling
Ctrl+T brings up rotation and scaling controls for the layer or selection you’re working with. This is considerably faster than using the Image Options dialogue.
Add Text to an Image Faster
Whether you’re making car insurance ads or building a website, you probably use text quite frequently in Photoshop. Pressing T will quickly bring up a text box for you to manipulate.
Save Time Saving Images
You’re done editing and now it’s time to save your image. The File menu lets you save your work, but shortcuts are so much faster! Use Ctrl + S for your standard save function, or Ctrl + Shift + S for the Save As dialogue.
While we’ve documented 15 great shortcuts here, there are literally hundreds of shortcuts and other time savers included in Photoshop. By taking the time to learn shortcuts for the tasks you do most frequently, you’ll find that you spend considerably less time in editing while still getting the same great results.
Mary L. is a freelance artist and self-proclaimed PhotoShop Pro. Mary also enjoys her day job which consists of finding her car insurance clients the cheapest rates on car insurance