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Monday, August 2, 2010

Photoshop Tips: Save Time & Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Often I hear that if a person frequently uses the same commands in Photoshop it is a lot faster to use the keystroke shortcuts. Those shortcuts are found next to each command on the pull down menus. For example, if you hold down the selection icon (marque) in the tool bar you will see that the letter M next to the Rectangular Marquee Tool and next to the Elliptical Margue Tool but no letter next to the Single Row Marque Tool or Single Column Marque tool. The Single Row and Single Column do not have keystroke shortcuts assigned to them. Thus, if you press the letter m either the rectangular or the elliptical margue tool will be selected depending on which one was last used. Hint: If the shift key and letter m key is held down you can toggle back and forth between the rectangular and elliptical marque tools. And you can toggle from the Dodge Tool, to the Burn Tool, to the Sponge Tool by holding down the shift key and pressing the letter o key.

When I first started using Photoshop it seemed too much trouble to memorize the commands. So I continued doing it the old-fashioned way by using the pull down menus to select a tool or command until I finally got tired of interrupting my work flow by continually moving my mouse and using a pull down menu. And what I heard is right.  IT IS A LOT FASTER TO USE KEYBOARD COMMANDS. So now I press the command plus the letter s to save the file, the letter l to select the lasso tool, the letter w to select the magic wand tool, the letter b to select the brush tool, use the ] key to increase a brush size and [ to decrease the size, etc. And to remind me what keystrokes to use for the tools and commands, I have a cheat sheet of the shortcuts next to my computer.

Customizing the Keyboard Shortcuts
Unfortunately not all the tools and commands have keyboard shortcuts BUT you can customize the keyboard in Photoshop to assign them. The Tools menu uses the letters A to Z and all the letters have already been assigned default settings. However, shortcuts for commands that you rarely use can be reassigned to ones that you wish to use.

To look at and edit keyboard shortcuts on the Mac, hold down the option (alt key on the PC) key plus the shift key plus the command key plus press the letter k key OR go to the Edit menu and select Keyboard Shortcuts at the bottom of the menu. To see the different command menus,' select Application Menu, or Panel Menus, or Tools in "Shortcuts For" pulldown. For instance, if you select Tools a list of the Tool Panel Commands with the associated shortcuts will appear. So far, the only shortcut commands that I have needed to customize are the tools.

Below are a few examples of why and how I customized the keyboard shortcuts to fit my needs.  Your needs will be different than mine so you will customize the tool and command pallets differently.

1. Dodge / Burn / Sponge Tools - The default keystroke for these tools is the letter o for each of them. You can then use the shift key plus the letter o to toggle between them. However, I rarely use the sponge tool. Thus, I removed the O from the Sponge Tool in the shortcut menu so that now I can toggle just between the Dodge and Burn Tools.

2. Blur / Sharpen / Smudge Tools - The default does not have a shortcut for these tools. I often use the Smudge Tool and rarely toggle between screen modes so I removed the F key shortcut from Toggle Screen Modes and reassigned it to the Smudge Tool. Note: If I wished, I could have also put the F letter for the Blur and Sharpen Tools and then could have toggled between the blur, sharpen, and smudge tools by holding down the shift key and pressing the letter f.

Any suggests or comments that you would like to share about this article would be greatly appreciated. Click on the comment section below.


  1. Excellent, I didn't know the one about shift>m for switching the marquee.

  2. Using the shift key with the shortcut letter command to toggle between related commands is very handy. It can be used for most of the commands on the tool bar.

  3. Joan I wanted to thank you for taking the time out of your busy life to share all this wonderful information with us silent readers. I am new to this business and have learned so much! I deeply thank you!!


  4. just spent 6 weeks on photoshop and illustrator classes "interactive" on-line. Shouldn't have done them both at the same time, am now a little confused! Here's a cheat sheet for photoshop. . WARNING: You'll need a magnifying glass!