My Top Ten Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

October 12, 2007 - 1:00am ||| 1 Comment | Add new

Not including the single-key shortcuts for items in the Tools palette, here are the Adobe Photoshop keyboard shortcuts I find most useful. It says "Top Ten" but there's actually a bunch more that I included in each item, variations of the main one. Did I leave your favorite(s) out of the list? E-mail me and I'll include them in an upcoming issue.

To keep things simple, I'll use Mac shortcut keys. If you're on Windows, just think "Control key" when I say "Command" and "Alt" when I say "Option."

1. Undo/Redo again and again
Command-Option-Z to step back through time, Command-Shift-Z to step forward after stepping back.

It's frustrating to me that I can't just keep pressing Command-Z to undo multiple times as I can in InDesign, but there ya go. Photoshop's Command-Z only undoes the most recent action. However, Command-Option-Z serves as both a regular Undo as well as an Undo again. My History palette is gathering dust.

2. Cycle through layers
Option-[ selects next layer down, Option-] selects next layer up

Amazing how much time you save groping for the mouse and the Layers palette just knowing these two guys.

In the more recent versions of Photoshop, you can add the Shift key to select multiple layers — Shift-Option-[ or ]. That's handy if you want to do a Free Transform (see #4 below) on multiple layers.

Let me jam in a couple more layer shortcuts that I use all the time: To add a layer, press Command-Shift-N. To skip the New Layer dialog box while you're doing so, press Command-Shift-Option-N. And to make a selection into a new layer, press Command-J.

I count 45 entries in the "Keys for Using the Layers palette" keyboard shortcuts page in the Photoshop CS3 Help file (my faves above are the tip of the iceberg). But not one of the shortcuts is a mouse-free method of showing/hiding a layer. Sigh. The closest you can get is Option-clicking on a layer's eyeball to toggle between a) hiding all other layers except that one, or b) showing all layers including that one.

3. Increase/decrease brush size
[ (left bracket) to make it smaller, ] to make it bigger 

Oh how I hate the brush diameter slider. This is way faster for us Wacom stylus-deprived users, and it works with any tool that uses a Brush or Pencil, including the Eraser, the Clone Stamp, Spot Healing, etc.

Add the Shift key while pressing [ and ] to just change the brush's Hardness without changing its size. Watch the Option bar at the top to preview the amount of softness/hardness as you tap the keys. Press the number keys to change the brush's opacity.

4. Free Transform

Pressing this shortcut puts a temporary frame and handles around a selection — or around all the opaque pixels on the active layer(s) if nothing is selected — allowing you to scale, rotate, and distort (use the Command key as you drag a handle to distort) the artwork.

Want to transform a copy of the selection or layer, leaving the original intact? Press Command-Option-T instead.

Press Esc if you want to start over, press Return/Enter if you want to apply your changes. (You'll have to do one or the other to get out of Free Transform mode.)

5. Escape Text Editing Mode
Enter key (PC users: Control-Enter or Numeric Enter)

While you're editing text, you can't use a keyboard shortcut that doesn't include a modifier because the shortcut letters just get added to the text you're writing. Use the Enter key to get out of the mode, then you can use any keyboard shortcut you want. Click inside the text with the Type tool (shortcut is T) to continue editing.

6. Deselect and Reselect
Command-D, Command-Shift-D

The Deselect shortcut is so second nature to me I almost forgot to include it. But did you know you can press Command-Shift-D to reselect? Photoshop remembers the last set of marching ants, even if you've done a bunch of other stuff to the image since then.

Remember you can do a Free Transform on a selection itself — not its pixels, just the selection boundaries — by choosing Transform Selection from the Select menu. There's no keyboard shortcut for it unless you add one yourself from Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.

7. New File from Selection
Command-C, N, Return/Enter, V, E

You heard me! After you make a selection, keep the Command key held down and press the listed keys in sequence (not all at the same time). The end result is a new file, perfectly sized, containing a flattened copy of your selection. I do this a lot when I'm testing masks or extracting a channel to use as a grayscale image or texture.

No, you don't *need* the Command key pressed when you hit Return/Enter, but it's fun to just lean on it the whole time… it doesn't harm anything. You'll need it for the V (the Paste) and the final, optional E (Merge Down).

The initial Command-C copies whatever is selected in the current layer. If you want to copy whatever's in the selection from *all* the layers, press Command-Shift-C (Copy Merged) instead of just Command-C while doing the shortcut sequence.

Of course, if you just want a flattened copy of the whole layered image, it's fastest to choose Image > Duplicate and turn on the Duplicate Merged Layers Only check box.

8. Zoom In and Out
Command-+ (plus), Command— (minus/hyphen)

Photoshop CS3's default is to resize the window as you zoom in or out. I think in earlier versions, the window didn't resize by default, the image just got bigger or smaller within it. It's a Preference setting.

In any case, adding the Option key to the shortcut toggles it to the "other" behavior. So in CS3, Command-Option-+ zooms in without resizing the window.

To zoom into a specific area on the fly, hold down the Spacebar (so this won't work if you're editing text) and *then* add the Command key, giving you a temporary Zoom tool. With Spacebar-Command held down, drag a Zoom marquee around the area and then release the mouse button. The area that you marqueed fills the window.

We all know that Command-0 (zero) shows the entire image in the window, yes? So does double-clicking the Hand tool, which also changes the window size. Either is a good "home base" to start zooming in from.

9. Scrolling with Mr. Spanky

You can press the Spacebar at any time (again, except while editing text) to get a temporary Hand tool, aka Mr. Spanky. Keep the spacebar depressed as you drag the image around in the window to reveal other areas of it. (Of course, if the window is already showing the entire image, nothing will happen.) Mr. Spanky is a lot faster than the scroll bars. Mr. Spanky is your friend.

10. Preview
F (and F, and F, and F) and maybe a Tab

Oh, you know the F key loves it, so just keep tapping it to cycle through various Preview modes in Photoshop. You'll see the palettes, tool bar and Option bar stick around during all this, so remember you can always press the Tab key to hide them, good for a slide show. Press Tab again to bring all of it back. Use Shift-Tab to only hide/show the big fat palettes on the right, keeping the Tools and Option bar revealed.

All Photoshop CS3 Shortcuts
Here's a single web page that nicely organizes all the shortcuts in Photoshop CS3. Go ahead, count the ones for the Layers panel … yup, there's 45 of them!


Comments (Subscribe to Comments RSS)

1 December 27, 2010 - 8:30pm by Rita Dibert (not verified):

Do you have a list for C5 photoshop commands or are they the same? My students always prefer things that come from ANYONE else so thanks!
Quay School
Whanganui, New Zealand

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.