Speeding up workflow with Photoshop Shortcut keys

March 12th, 2007 by Kat Kingsley-Hughes

I’m working on speeding up my workflow in Photoshop CS2. 

There are two aspects that I think will help me most – mastering the shortcut keys and making more use of the functions on my Wacom graphics tablet (more on this here).

Shortcut Keys

There are literally hundreds of keyboard shortcut keys in Photoshop – far too many to list on a single page or any kind of handy reference.  It can seem pretty daunting then to begin investigating the keyboard shortcuts let alone remembering them!  One trip into the Photoshop shortcut keys help is enough to make you want to throw your keyboard through your screen!  The best way I’ve found is to start small and work up. These are some of the most common Photoshop shortcut keysand some of the most effective for speeding up workflow that I’ve found. 

The first ones to learn are the keys for the tools palette (and luckily these are easy to keep as a visual aid – to print out a copy simply right click on the image on the left and choose print image).  These have enabled me to speed up primarily because I can keep my left hand on the keyboard while I’m drawing with the right so I don’t need to lift the pen off the tablet in order to change tools or functions. So to go to the erase tool from the brush tool I just need to hit the E key.  To go back to the brush hit B

The shortcut key is the shortcut for the whole flyout, so hitting B would bring out whichever tool you currently have selected for the brushes flyout  which could be the pencil tool or the color replacement tool.
brushes flyout

[tag]Keyboard[/tag] [tag]Shortcuts[/tag] – Brushes
Photoshop toggle between foreground and background color

X toggles between the foreground and background colors. This one has speeded me up immensely!

Hitting D resets the foreground and background colors to black and white. Not one that I use often but still a lot quicker than using the eyedropper or the color swatches.

Photoshop CS2 Shortcut keys - precise cursor brush size cursorCaps lock is a quick way to toggle between the standard brush size pointer and the precise cursor.

Using the [ and ] keys to increase/decrease brush size are new to me and I’m finding them very quick indeed. Much quicker than right clicking to bring up the brush size/hardness menu in fact!  To change the hardness of the brush hold down the shift key while hitting [ or ] (this goes up/down in 24% jumps so for more precise hardness control you’ll still need to use the right click.)

Layer shortcuts

If you look in the help for keyboard shortcuts you’ll find a LOT listed for the layers pallette, these are the ones that I use most often.

Photoshop create a group

To quickly select the top layer hit Alt and . (period) and to quickly select the bottom (or background) layer hit Alt and , (comma)

Holding down Alt with the  [ and ] keys will cycle up/down through the layers.

Holding down Control with the  [ and ] keys moves the selected layer up or down through the layers stack.

An easy way to quickly group layers (see image at left) is by selecting several layers (by holding down shift and clicking) and hitting Control G. This is much faster than creating a group and then dragging the layers into it.  (If you want to group layers that aren’t sequential in the layers palette hold down control while selecting them. But remember once they’re grouped their layer order will change.) 

To select all layers hold down control and alt and hit A.

More useful [tag]Keys[/tag]

Other keys that I use regularly include Control D for deselect, for use after, for example, selecting with the lasso tool (these are shortcuts for the PC not the Mac! sorry!)  and contol Z to undo

The tab key is a handy [tag]shortcut[/tag] to get rid of all the pallettes to view the artwork with nothing in the way (press tab again to get them back).

Enter is useful for confirming operations such as cropping or transforming. (Escape is a quick way to cancel.)


There are hundreds more shortcut [tag]tips[/tag] that I could include here. I’ve only tried to include ones that I personally remember to use and that I’ve found have speeded me up.  If you have useful ones that have helped you please comment below!

I can also say that switching to using [tag]Photoshop[/tag] keyboard shortcuts has health benefits too.  If I’ve nothing to do with my left hand I usually find myself sitting on it or it’s tucked in behind my back – not good for posture OR for circulation.  Using keyboard shortcuts keeps my left hand engaged and active, and that means that I sit up straighter.  I think it keeps my brain working too which is useful when I sometimes need to spend hours at a time drawing, designing or editing photos. 

This entry was posted on Monday, March 12th, 2007 at 12:45 pm and is filed under Photoshop, Software. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Speeding up workflow with Photoshop Shortcut keys”

  1. ^..^ Says:

    Ooh thanks for these. I will give them a try. I do find that navgating through all the differnt menu bars in photoshop is soooo slow.

    After reading this I just took a look for keyboard shortcuts in the help and there’s pages and pages of them. Think Iwill stick to your list for now..

  2. Using Wacom Intuos 3 with Photoshop (ExpressKeys and Touchstrip) » Vexentricity Says:

    […] « Speeding up workflow with Photoshop Shortcut keys […]

  3. blle Says:

    I like Ctrl + J to duplicate layer

  4. srinivas Says:

    hi thank

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