My 10 Fav Photoshop Shortcuts

photoshop shortcuts

Photoshop shortcuts are a must in any artist’s setup. In our line of work, clients want their shirts printed before they’ve even provided us with acceptable artwork! So being efficient with how we operate is priceless.

One of the ways we do this is by using Photoshop shortcuts. We need them to cut down on the time it takes us to complete any given task. And remember, time is money.

For those of us who spend most of our time in Photoshop, shortcuts should be a way of life.

Here is my list of my 10 most frequently used Photoshop shortcuts. Some of them are listed within the menus in the program. And for one reason or another, some of them are not.


#10 – F2 to Clear Guides

This one isn’t technically a Photoshop shortcut, it’s an action that I’ve assigned to the F2 key. I get artwork from all over the world from all different kinds of “designers”, many of whom like to leave layers (all of them unnamed, of course) with nothing on them and 10 or so guidelines scattered about the document.

I personally like a clean working space and F2 the shit out of those guides when I need to. Take advantage of the ability to assign custom Photoshop shortcuts. It’s a definite time saver and can also be done in Illustrator as well!


How to do it: Record your action as you normally would. When finished, double click the name of the action to bring up its options dialogue. This is where you can assign it to whichever F-key you’d like.


#9 Modifying Selections with Alt, Ctrl, Shift

Having complete control over our selections is a key ability needed in order to gain overall control on any image, let alone something we’re color separating.

Using Alt, Control, or Shift while clicking and dragging with the marquee tool is the beginning of how we do this.

Modify selections with Photoshop shortcuts

Modify selections with Photoshop shortcuts

There are additional options available to us when it comes to using many of the tools in Photoshop. Simply by holding Alt, Control, Shift or a combination of the three can help speed things along a little bit.

In the picture above, we have a simple square-shaped selection from which, we want to subtract the lower right portion. If we hold Alt, then click and drag over the area we want to subtract, voila!

How to do it: With an active selection (marching ants already on screen) and a selection tool in use,
To subtract from a selection:
Hold Alt, click and drag over the area of the selection you want to subtract.
To add to a selection: Hold shift, click and drag over the area you’d like to add to your selection.
To constrain size/angles: After dragging one of the above methods, hold down Shift to constrain (e.g., make perfect square/circle).

Extra tip: Alt, Control, and Shift modify the properties of many of the tools we use in Photoshop. Open your info palette (F8) from Windows > Info file menu and it’ll show you a short description of what these modifying keys do on each tool. Play around with them. You might be surprised to find something there you’ve been looking for for a long time!

Pro tip: If you’re typing and want to get out of using the type tool, hit Ctrl+Enter.


#8 The Spacebar

Regardless of which tool you have currently selected, if you hold the spacebar down, you will get the hand icon and can move the canvas as freely as you wish*. Let go of the spacebar and you’re back to the original tool you were using.

You can also use the spacebar in conjunction with Ctrl to zoom in. I like this better than using the scroll wheel to zoom in because I can click and drag over a specific area very quickly. You can also use it in conjunction with Alt to pull back but find myself using Ctrl+0 for this.

*To truly move the canvas around without being bound by the edges of the monitor or window you’re working in, you must be in full screen mode. To get into full screen mode, see #7.


#7 F and Tab

This is one of the Photoshop shortcuts that I use all the time. Aside from constantly hitting V to get my move tool (black arrow) or T to get the text tool, I find I’m wearing out the F on my keyboard because I often change my view to full screen and back.

I use this along with Tab so I can hide the tools and palettes I have open and get a good clean look at what I’m working on. Hitting F a second time will also hide your toolbox and palettes (depending on which version of Photoshop you’re using) but you’ll have to cycle back through to full screen if you go this route.


#6 Alt Key to Duplicate

Even though this isn’t useful while working in channels, I thought I’d add it to this list because I use it so often. While working in layers, you can Alt, click and drag on the canvas and this will duplicate whichever layer(s) you have active.

The best part about this is that you can Alt, click and drag a layer right inside the layers palette and it will duplicate that layer without changing its physical location within the graphic. This is great if you need to put things right on top (or below) one another.


#5 Ctrl Click Thumbnail to Make Selection


If you control click on the thumbnail of a layer or channel, it will make a selection (marching ants) based off of the layer or channel’s content. Do this while also using the tips in #9 and you’ll be well on your way to mastering your selections. This one’s invaluable when it comes to making color separations. And it’s one of my favorite Photoshop shortcuts ever.

Extra tip: Combine this with #9 for super control over your selections.

Pro tip: You can also intersect selections very quickly. Download this sample .psd file to learn how to do it. For a little extra mustard, try using Ctrl + I to invert your selections during this process.


#4 Ctrl + S

I know what you’re thinking, this is nothing new. Yes, I know but it’s worth noting that this should be completely second nature. Saving your work every 15 minutes or so is as simple as hitting these buttons and will (it’s only a matter of time) save your ass some day.


#3 Shift + Backspace

One of my favorite Photoshop shortcuts

I’ve yet to find where this is listed and can’t remember how I learned it but I use the snot out of it. Instead of using Apply Image, I find hitting Shift + Backspace to pull up the fill dialogue is quicker for me.

I’ll use this where I want to have a bit more control over how much ink I’m putting down in any given color separation.

Just make sure the contents is set to black (or white if needed) and the blending mode is Normal. Once you use it, Photoshop will remember the previous settings. Definite time saver.


#2 Ctrl + Backspace / Alt + Backspace

color-toolbarCtrl + Backspace will fill the background color. If it’s set to white as shown here, white will be the color filled.

Alt + Backspace will fill using the foreground color. This is extremely useful when selecting color ranges and wanting to fill 100%.

This works in both layers and channels.

Extra tip: Hit D on the keyboard to reset these two colors to 100% black and 100% white as shown here. While working in channels, you don’t want to risk filling with a slight gray or weak black. To quickly cycle the colors, hit X.


#1 Custom Photoshop Shortcuts

Photoshop allows its user the wonderful ability to create their own custom Photoshop shortcuts. In my case, since my two most often used functions, Select > Color Range and Image > Adjust > Brightness and Contrast don’t have default shortcuts, I’ve had to make my own.

Customize your Photoshop shortcuts

How to do it: Simply go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts or hit Alt, Shift, Ctrl + K. Choose the function you’d like to assign a custom shortcut key to and type it in. If there’s a conflict, you can accept it and your shortcut key is now ready to use.


What Are Your Favorite Photoshop Shortcuts?

Let us all know which Photoshop shortcuts you use in the comments below! Also, don’t be shy…if you’ve enjoyed this post, please kindly share it to those whom might get some use out of it. Until next time…

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: Free Customizable Artwork Guidelines Infographic - Rising Sun Graphics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.