An important part of running a successful commercial photography business is maximising your time and using it optimally. Reducing even just a small amount of time spent on repetitive tasks will soon add up and make a big difference to your business. When I first left university I temped in a banking call centre and we had to use a rather archaic software system (at least feels it now, was probably cutting edge 15 years ago!) where everything was navigated by keystrokes (no mouse interface) and so I got pretty good at remembering the combinations.
With modern software it is very often easy to forget that you can navigate and select things very quickly using the keyboard and many people rely solely on their mouse/pen tablet but using a combination of the two can often speed things up immensely. I have always been a fan of keyboard shortcuts and try to use them as much as possible when ascending the learning curve with new software. As such, I have always used photoshop keyboard shortcuts when editing my images and I thought it might be useful to share my top 10 photoshop keyboard shortcuts that I use on a regular basis. These are the shortcuts that I use most regularly and that I personally find most useful (btw I use a PC so I’ll be quoting PC shortcuts, they’re the same with a MAC just with different modifier key names – I’m not going to list them as everyone should know the equivalents by now!), hopefully there’ll be a few in there that you were not aware of and this list will help one or two people out in optimising their workflow. I highly recommend you spend some time assessing which tasks you repeat most regularly and see if you can save some time by learning the appropriate photoshop keyboard shortcuts.
Top 10 Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts
So right away I’m cheating with this whole list thing and giving you a bunch of shortcuts wrapped up in one! Rather than going over to the photoshop toolbar to select which tool I am going to use, for common tools I just use the relevant shortcut. The ones that I use on a regular basis include B – Brush, Z – Zoom, J – Healing Brush, S – Clone Stamp, L– Lasso
Layer Via Copy
Hitting Ctrl & j creates a copy of the current selected layer as a new layer
Holding Ctrl and using + (zoom in) or – (zoom out) allows you to quickly adjust the view to zoom in and out without having to select the zoom tool. Ctrl and 0 (zero) sets the view to ‘fit on screen’ so you can quickly reset to see your full image
You can use the square bracket keys: [ & ] to increase or decrease your brush size quickly while you are working. Another bonus; if you hold Shift you can use the brackets to adjust the hardness/softness of the brush
When you have the brush tool selected (press b!), you can use the top numeric keys (not the keypad keys) to set the opacity of the brush. If can press two digits for accuracy (e.g. 75) or just hit a single digit to jump to a multiple of ten (1=10, 2=20, 3=30 etc) – zero sets the opacity to 100%
This one is a great one to get into the habit of using often and can save you a lot of headaches with lost work. By hitting Ctrl & s you can save the file you are working on, doing this regularly as you work will protect you from losing precious work should your computer crash (or you have a powercut!). As a bonus when you are finished working on an image hit Ctrl & s (save) followed by Ctrl & w (close), doesn’t seem like much but it’s a good habit to ensure you’ve saved your work and saves a few seconds (which all add up!) over clicking to close the file.
I tend to use a lo of masking when editing, either as part of composite work or applying effects/filters to specific parts of an image and so setting the brush to black or white is a common task. When you have the brush (b) tool selected, pressing d sets your foreground (brush) colour to black and your background colour to white (default). If you want to quickly switch your brush colour between the foreground and background colours just hit x
I use the fill function fairly regularly (either for adding large areas to masks or for using content aware fill) and using Shift & Backspace is a really quick way to get get to the fill menu
When adding a mask to a layer, if you hold Alt as you click on the mask icon, the mask is applied inverted (black), this is really useful if you are wanting to only add (by painting with white) the effect/filter to a small part of an image. If you apply a mask and forget to hold down alt, just press Ctrl & i (while the mask is selected in the layers panel) to invert it from white to black
Pressing Ctrl & t activates the free transform function allowing you to resize, rotate and stretch your current layer/selection. As a little bonus, once you have free transform activated, if you right click within the free transform box you get a transform menu from which you can jump to the other transform tools.
Hopefully I have highlighted some useful Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts that some people will have found useful. One last tip before I sign off is that if you use a pen & tablet (such as a Wacom) you can customise the function buttons on the tablet and set your most used shortcuts (including multi-key shortcuts such as Ctrl & j) so you don’t even have to reach for your keyboard!