Recently I had the opportunity to give a new Photoshop user some pointers on how to use the program. One thing that I think is very important to get used to early on is to use keyboard shortcuts for as many actions as possible. The amount of time it saves over time is astounding.
Here are my most used Photoshop shortcuts, with notes.
CMD + 1
Zooms to 100%! Genius! Tip: CMD + 0 zooms to “Fit Screen”.
CMD + S
Do this a lot.
CMD + Shift + S
Save As.. useful for saving a copy, or if you need a non-optimized version of the file for use elsewhere.
CMD + Shift + Alt + S
“Save for Web & Devices”. Your best friend when you go on to create purpose-filled pixel fighters optimized for the web. Just make sure you further compress those .png’s with another application afterwards, to keep file sizes at an absolute minimum.
Holding the spacebar is a quick way to temporarily use the Hand tool (H). This allows you to drag around a section of your image without losing the tool you were working with – release the spacebar and you’re back.
Circle Screen Mode. This allows you to quickly switch between Standard Screen mode (with the tabs showing), Full Screen Mode With Menu Bar, and Full Screen Mode. I prefer the full screen mode with the menu bar, since it handles zoom the best and best leverages the limited pixels on my laptop screen.
Toggles the entire Photoshop interface. Very useful for small screens, this way you can get more screen space instantly when working on something bigger.
Control + Tab
Circle open Photoshop documents. (Instead of using the tab bar, which can be hard.)
CMD + Alt + Z / CMD + Shift + Z
Face it. Even with your mad Photoshop skills, you’re going to want to correct things from time to time. This bad boy will step back/forward in History for you, and effectively kills and buries CMD + Z.
Pressing any number between 0-9 will change the opacity of the selected layer, where 0 = 100%. Example: pressing 5 will set the opacity to 50%. Example 2: pressing 3 and then 5 quickly will set the opacity to 35%.
Shift + 0-9
Does the same as above, but instead sets the Fill opacity – handy if you work with layer blending options a lot.
Zoom. Zoom in/out by either clicking+holding and then dragging (right to zoom in, left to zoom out), or by clicking repeatedly – and holding Alt to zoom out. I recommend only using the click and drag function to get to somewhat the right zoom level, and then making sure you’re at an even % zoom for best pixel editing power.
Move Tool. Move dat layah. Tip: while using the Move Tool, try holding CMD and clicking an element on the canvas. This will, with some luck, select that element in the Layers palette.
M / Shift + M
Rectangular / Oval marquee tool (selection). Select non-vector elements. Do crazy stuff.
G / Shift + G
Gradient / Paint Bucket (fill) Tool. Quick ways to draw gradients and fill selections (and more) for non-vector elements.
C / Shift + C
Crop / Slice / Slice Select tool. I don’t use Crop much at all, but Slices are a gift from heaven. Don’t crop your entire .psd to get single images ready for the web – use slices instead!
Mr. Double T as in Text Tool. Make that mockup come alive with some old-school latin vibes.
U / Shift + U
Rectangle / Rounded Rectangle / Ellipse / Polygon / Line / Custom Shape Tool. I generally prefer to use vector shapes for large interface elements – it’s just faster and more versatile. Especially when things like rounded corners are not usually done using rendered graphics anymore.
P / Shift + P
Pen Tool / Freeform Pen Tool. I really only use this to modify existing vector elements (see U). Tip: with a path selected and using the Pen Tool, hold Shift to temporarily turn it into the Convert Point Tool, allowing you to delete bezier curves, as well as transforming them.
A / Shift + A
Path Selection / Direct Selection Tool. Your best friend when dealing with vector elements in Photoshop. Just like in Illustrator, these allow you to select and manipulate a full path, parts of it, or individual curves. Tip: while using the Direct Selection Tool, hold Shift to select multiple points to manipulate.
Sets foreground/background color to default (black/white).
Swaps the foreground/background colors.
CMD + I
Inverts the current layer. Very useful if you need some contrast to be able to match up overlapping layers. Inverting again will of course bring the layer back to it’s normal colors without harm. Tip: for more precise matching of those “onion layers”, lower the opacity of the inverted layer when aligning.
CMD + T
Free Transform! Takes the layer’s contents (or the selected paths in a vector element) and puts them in free transform mode.
CMD + A
Select All. Selects the entire canvas. Tip: CMD + D deselects the canvas again.
CMD + N
New document. Very, very useful shortcut. Since Photoshop defaults to the size of any content in the clipboard, this is a great way to quickly check for pixel level imperfections and making sure elements align.
CMD + Shift + Alt + N
New layer (without dialog). Huzzah! Welcome newborn.
CMD + J
New layer via copy (duplicating). Beats drag and drop!
CMD + G
Group selected layers. Very handy way to quickly organize things. A tidy house makes for peace of mind (and a better shot at finding what you’re looking for 3 years from now).
CMD + E
Merge layers. Merges the selected layer with whatever is under it, unless it requires rasterizing.
CMD + H
Temporarily hide all guides and slices on the canvas. “Only show ‘em when you need ‘em.”
CMD + R
Show/hide rulers. This is the quickest way I know to double check that measurements are in the format I need (pixels, millimeters, centimeters, etc). Right click the ruler to bring up a small menu. Also useful for a basic sense of where you are, and creating guides. Tip: to create a guide, start dragging from either ruler. You can toggle between horizontal/vertical guides by holding Alt.
CMD + F
If you’re using Filters, this applies the last used filter again. Can be handy if you’re making minimal changes using a blurring filter or similar. Or to just mess up a picture completely. That’s always fun, too.
Did I miss any? What’s your most used shortcut?