Fall is here! And for many photographers this a very busy time of year, so who wants to spend any extra time in Photoshop than they have to? Even if working in Photoshop is your favorite part of your day (ahem, right), you still need to be able to move through it efficiently. It’s best to keep up with your awesome ideas as they come to you, rather than eight keystrokes behind. And that means shortcuts are your best friend.
Photoshop Shortcut #1 I’ll start with one of the shortcuts I use the most. This one is especially helpful for when you are editing a lot of text in Photoshop and need to switch in and out of text layers quickly. (Of course after editing text while still in the text tool, you can always mouse over to your toolbar and choose the direct selection tool to get out of edit mode on that text layer and then re-select the text tool, but I prefer not to have to mouse all over the screen for my tools.) Instead, a quick way to get out the the text tool after you are finished editing text in Photoshop is to simply hold down the Command key and hit Return (Cmd + Return). On a PC, this is Ctrl + Enter. And then if you need to edit another text layer, simply click inside that text on your document. Easy and a huge time saver!
Photoshop Shortcut #2 The second shortcut I want to share with you is a quick way to merge several layers into one. While it may be a good practice to keep all of your layers separate and intact when working on your files, sometimes it can be overkill and you may want to combine a few that you know you are not going to need to separate later. This can help save on file size and headache over having so many layers to sift through. I use this shortcut most when working with brushes and photo retouching. If you’ve created several layers all with a similar brush technique applied to them, you can stay organized by either grouping them or just merging them into one. So to merge selected layers into one, select all the layers you would like to merge in your layers palette and hold down the Command key and hit “E” (Cmd + E). And now that mountain of layers you originally created have been rasterized into one nice little layer. Just a warning on this one--don’t do this unless you absolutely do not plan on needing these layers separate from each other later on. Also, this will rasterize any vector layers, so be careful there as well.
Photoshop Shortcut #3 Above I mentioned another way to keep your layers organized is by grouping them. And of course, there is a shortcut for that too! Select all the layers that you would like add to a group, then hold down the Command key and hit “G” (Cmd + G). Done!
Photoshop Shortcut #4 This shortcut is helpful for when you are using the brush tool or wanting to fill a layer with black or white (think masking and lightening and darkening). Again I am thinking less for design but more for photo retouching. A quick way to get your foreground and background color set to pure white and 100% black is to simply press “D” on your keyboard. This instantly resets those color values to black and white. Here is a screenshot of the area I am talking about in Photoshop that shows what your foreground and background are set to:
Here you can see my foreground is set to white and my background is set to black. But what if I am using my brush tool on a masked layer and I want to mask out an area of my photo with a black brush? The quick way to switch the foreground color to black and the background color to white is to simply press “X” on your keyboard. If you mask out too much with the black brush, hit “X” again to switch back to white and paint that area back in. There are countless ways these two simple keystrokes can help, but I find them particularly helpful when working with masks.
Photoshop Shortcut #5 This is an easy one but I feel that it is too important not to mention. If you are currently using the top menu in Photoshop to get to the Image Size dialogue box, stop that bad habit now. There is a quicker way to change your image size setting, which is to hit Command + Option (Alt) + I on your keyboard. This instantly brings up the image size dialogue box so you can quickly change your image size or resolution if you need to.
Photoshop Shortcut #6 When working in Photoshop, I am always switching between screen modes. Sometimes you want to see only the canvas that you are working on and would like to hide the rest of your screen in a nice gray abyss, but still need to access your menu and your tools. This is called “Full Screen Screen Mode With Menu Bar.” This is how I work most of the time because I prefer not to see that mess that is usually on my desktop--don’t judge. :) Also, if you’ve finished your masterpiece and want to see it in full screen mode without the menu bar and tools in your way, you can view your canvas in “Full Screen Mode.” This will hide everything except your canvas. And lastly, to view your canvas, menu, and tools without the full screen gray background set your screen to “Standard Mode.” This mode is helpful when you need to drag layers from one canvas to another or when you want to see a side by side comparison of two or more canvases. The long way to switch between these different screen modes is by going up to your top menu and choosing each option under “View > Screen Mode,” but of course there is a faster way. To toggle between screen modes quickly, hit “F” on your keyboard and continue to hit “F” until you reach your desired screen mode. Hopefully these tips will save you some much needed time when working in Photoshop! And there are definitely lots more to check out. So if you are interested in further exploring helpful shortcuts for Photoshop, check out posts like this one from Smashing Magazine featuring a cheat sheet. (Mac users--these are PC shortcuts, so just replace the “Ctrl” with “Cmd.”) Now speed on, you speedsters!
Ashleigh is the lead designer here at Design Aglow. When she was young she dreamed of the stars and longed for a mission to the moon...she even has one epic space camp experience under her belt. She soon realized her talents were better suited more earthly pursuits. Font aficionado, illustrator, animator and lover of all things mid-century, she spends her free time seeking out anything that makes her eyes smile. She is also a wife, instagram enthusiast, and mom to the baddest 8 lb. dog in town.
When I was in college, I had a friend who was a professional photographer. The first time I went to her home, I walked in to find stunning photographs of her children on the walls.
There was a huge canvas in their living room and a creative photo display in the main hallway. I remember being so moved by the beauty of those images, thinking to myself, “I want to create images like this!” I bought myself a DSLR as a graduation present, learned photography from online courses and started my photography business about a year later.