As much as Photoshop is an amazingly powerful tool, as photographers our goal should be to spend as little time in Photoshop as possible. My motto is “Edit Faster/Shoot More” (and hopefully sell more). With that in mind, here are 5 tips that can help you spend less time in Photoshop.

  1. Tool Presets

Just about every tool has settings you have to choose (in the Options Bar) before using that tool. These settings determine the way in which the tool operates, so it’s necessary to change them quite often. However, the chances are that you change between 2 or 3 key settings for the tools you use the most, and that’s where tool presets can help. Look at the far left of the Options Bar and you’ll see a tool icon – that’s actually a menu of presets. Choose a preset and it automatically fills in all the settings in the Options Bar.


Making your own tool preset us easy: click and a tool, choose all the settings and then click on the menu beside the tool icon. The click on the “new” icon (the page icon) and name your preset. From now on, click on the preset before using the tool. This is ideal for things like commonly used crop sizes, text settings, custom clone stamp settings and much more.

  1. Adjustment Layer Presets

Similar to Tool Presets, saving your own presets for adjustment layer saves you from having to manually make the same adjustments over and over again. For example, many people add a Curves adjustment layer and make the same “S Curve” every time…why not save a preset and have Photoshop do the work for you? (Its important to note that when you apply an adjustment layer preset you can still tweak the results – it just happens to do most of the work for you)

To make your own preset in Curves or any other adjustment layer, use the flyout menu in the Properties panel and choose Save Curves Preset. Name your preset and save it into the appropriate folder: you should be directed to the proper location, but just in case, save your preset in Photoshop CS6>Presets>Curves (or the folder for whatever adjustment layer you’re working with).


From then on in the Curves adjustment layer dialog, go to the Presets menu and choose your preset (remembering that you can still tweak the settings if you like).

  1. Edit Your Menus

Have you ever noticed that you skip by an awful lot of choices under menus to get to the command you want? Adobe often offers us multiple ways to do the same thing and we all have our favorite method….so why show commands you never use? Thankfully we don’t have to since we can edit what appears in the menus in Photoshop. To do this, go to the Edit menu and choose Menus. In the dialog, find the menu you want to edit and turn off the eye icon beside any function you don’t want to appear. For example, in the Filter menu, most people only use either Unsharp Mask or Smart Sharpen, so why not turn off the other sharpening choices that you never use?


Next time you go the to Filter menu, you’ll only see your choices. (You can always show the hidden commands in case you change your mind.)

And as we’ll see in tip #5, you can even use Workspaces to switch between sets of edited menus.

  1. Edit Shortcuts

There are keyboard shortcuts for a ton of things in Photoshop, but there may not be one for a function that you use all the time. In a similar concept to editing menus, we can edit the keyboard shortcuts, although this is a little trickier. Again you go to the Edit menu, this time choosing Keyboard Shortcuts. You can edit the shortcuts for application menus, panel menus and tools, so choose that first. Then find the command to which you want to apply your own shortcut and click beside it.

Here’s the tricky part: finding a shortcuts that isn’t already taken. I suggest entering the shortcut you’d like to use and seeing to what command it is currently applied. In some cases you’ll note that the shortcut is used by some command you never use, so in that case you can accept the change.


In this example I want to create a keyboard shortcut for Add a Layer Mask. I tried the shortcut Command-Shift-L (PC: Control-Shift-L) and it told me that shortcut was used by Auto Tone. Auto Tone? Never heard of it*, so I am perfectly fine with accepting that change. And from now on I can press that shortcut to add a Layer Mask to my current layer.

Of course you have to make these decisions yourself – try a shortcut, see what it is used for, and decide to accept the change or not.

(*I’m saying that for dramatic effect: I have heard of Auto Tone, I just never ever use it)

  1. Workspaces

A workspace is a quick way to organize that layout of all your panels, but also your custom menus and keyboard shortcuts. Before saving a workspace, position all your panels the way you want: collapse some, make some larger, hide some panels. Then edit the menus and keyboard shortcuts the way you want. Now go to Window>Workspace>New Workspace to get this dialog:


Name your workspace and include your Menus and Shortcuts. From now on, choose your workspace (either from Window>Workspace or the Workspace menu) to show the panels the way you want and apply your menus and shortcuts.

To take it one step further, why not create a few different workspaces (complete with custom menus and shortcuts) for different types of work you do in Photoshop?

Pick and choose which of the simple methods you can implement in your workflow and start working faster in Photoshop.