When it comes to post-processing a photograph, I like to work efficiently. I am definitely a fan-girl of the “work smarter, not harder” belief, and one way to do this inside of Photoshop is through the use of keyboard shortcuts. In fact, my favorite Photoshop course over on Lynda.com is a class called “Photoshop CS4 Power Shortcuts” by Michael Ninness. Granted, it covers a much older version of Photoshop, but much of what is shown is still very applicable to today’s version.
In no particular order, here are some of my top favorite (and most-used) keyboard shortcuts inside of Photoshop CC:
- Space Bar = Hold down to temporarily activate the Hand tool to move quickly around the canvas.
- B = Brush tool
- Left and Right Bracket Keys [ ] = Decrease and increase the Brush’s size (works for all painting tools, such as the Healing Brush, Eraser, Etc.)
(Tip: Add the Shift key to decrease or increase the Brush’s hardness)
- V = Move tool
(Tip: Press the CMD/CTRL key with the Move tool active, and then click within the image to select different layers)
- Cmd + D (PC: Ctrl + D) = Deselect current selection
- Cmd + Opt + Shift + E (PC: Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E) = Merge all layers below and create a new flattened layer. This shortcut is great when working with several layers or layer adjustments and you want to apply a new adjustment or technique to a rasterized layer of the entire document. You get to keep all of the layers intact without having to flatten the entire document.
- Cmd + J (PC: Ctrl + J) = Duplicate the active layer.
- J = Spot Healing Brush
- G = Gradient Tool
- X = Exchange swatches (flip the foreground/background colors back and forth; very useful when doing layer masking to go back and forth between painting with black or white).
- Numbers 0 through 9 (when a non-brush tool is active, such as the Move tool) = Changes the layer opacity. 1 = 10%, 2 = 20% … etc. … 9 = 90%, 0 = 100%. If you type two numbers quickly then you can set the layer opacity level to a specific number (such as 56%).
- Numbers 0 through 9 (when a Brush tool is active, such as the Brush or Dodge tool) = Changes the brush opacity. 1 = 10%, 2 = 20% … etc. … 9 = 90%, 0 = 100%.
(Tip: Add the Shift key to change the Brush’s Flow opacity)
- Opt + Comma (PC: Alt + Comma) = In the Layers panel, this will select the bottom-most layer. (Useful for recording actions.)
- Opt + Period (PC: Alt + Period) = In the Layers panel, this will select the top-most layer. (Useful for recording actions.)
- Cmd + T (PC: Ctrl + T) = Activates the transform boxes on the selected layer (will not work on the Background layer).
- While transforming: Hold the Shift key to retain proportions, and hold the Opt (PC: Alt) key to transform inwards or outwards from the center.
- F = Toggles screen mode (Standard, Full-screen with Menu Bar, or Full Screen
- Shift + plus/minus keys = Scroll through and change the Blending Mode of a layer (NOTE: You must have an unlocked layer active in the Layers panel with a non-brush tool active for this to work; if you have a Brush tool active then it will change the Blending Mode of the Brush!)
- Cmd + plus/minus keys (PC: Ctrl + plus/minus keys) = Zoom in and out of the canvas.
- Cmd + Opt + 0 (PC: Ctrl + Alt + 0) = Zoom in to 100%.
(Tip: Use the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + 0 to fit the image to your workspace)
There are many more keyboard shortcuts, and the ones you use will depend greatly on your workflow and style. If you would like to view (or even alter) the available keyboard shortcuts inside your version of Photoshop, go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and they will be listed for you on your screen. Also, be sure to check out Michael Ninness’s course over at Lynda.com to view more very useful keyboard shortcuts.
Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of several print books and eBooks, and runs her own online store for photographers, the “Nicolesy Store“.
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