essential photoshop keyboard shortcuts

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m a Mac person (high five if you are too ;p). But like many others, I started using PC first.

The first PC I have used was an Intel 386 computer (I think...). It was huge, slow and noisy (the processor fan in the CPU). You could literally make yourself a cup of coffee while waiting for the system to load.

I remember I had to insert a 5 1/4 inch floppy disc every time to boot the hard drive after turning it on. The first time I connected to the internet was through a modem (with midi-style dial tone) that shared the same connection with the phone line. I often got told to disconnect from the internet because my parents needed to use the phone!

There was no multiplayer game either. The games I used to play were Gods and Prince of Persia!

**During the writing of this post, I got distracted...these games actually still exist and can be downloaded here (Gods and PoP) for free! LOL!**

One of the problems with computers at that time was it freezes frequently. The only way to unfreeze it was to restart the computer by pressing:

Ctrl + Alt + Delete

That was probably the most frequently used keyboard shortcuts and it probably still is today!

As photographers, we are spending a lot of time with software post-processing our images. Over time, you might find yourself doing certain tasks repeatedly.

This is when automation comes in. You create a pathway with protocols to run these tasks so you can be freed up to spend more time on things that matters more.

In the name of art and creativity, it’s nearly impossible to have full automation on image post-processing because each image is unique. But there is something you can add into your workflow to semi-automate certain repetitive tasks.

That’s right - keyboard shortcuts.

photoshop keyboard shortcuts

Photoshop keyboard shortcut menu

Semi-Automate Your Workflow

Now picture this:

You opened an image in Photoshop and want to add a layer mask and fill it with black color.

One way is to click on the Add Layer Mask icon in the Layers Panel, then go to Edit > Fill > Contents: Black > OK.

Or…

Click on the Add Layer Mask icon while holding down Opt (Mac) or Alt (PC).

This is a no brainer, the second one is obviously much faster and easier to execute.

You might argue that you don’t mind spending an extra few seconds because you have all the time in the world.

But what if you need to do that 10 times for the same image because you undo a few times to perfect a particular adjustment? What if you have 10 other images that might need the same action?

You’ll start to find post-processing tedious, time consuming and not enjoyable.

People often ask me why I use luminosity mask and manual blending when there are software that can take care of everything.

My answer?

Because I enjoy the process of post-processing. I like to spend time teasing out the hidden data in each pixel and inject the image with my own style.

To have more time in post-processing, I have remove or shorten the time taken to perform boring, albeit important tasks by means of keyboard shortcuts.

5 Reasons Why You Should Use Keyboard Shortcuts

  1. Save time - When you use keyboard shortcuts, you save an hour for every eight hours spent in Photoshop. You probably won’t appreciate the time saved post-processing a single image, but every minute counts and it’s cumulative.
  2. More productive - This is the byproduct of saving time. When you spend less time doing meaningless tasks, you’ll naturally have more time on what matters. You’ll achieve your goal in shorter time frame or achieve more within a set time.
  3. Streamline your workflow - Spending less time navigating the menu and panels means your workflow becomes more efficient. You get things done without feeling tedious, which in turn boosts your confidence and gratification.
  4. Repetition becomes enjoyable - It’s pretty cool to get the same result with one click instead of navigating through the main menu several times. It makes work fun.
  5. Look professional - It’s a psychological mental trigger. When your workflow looks smooth, people will see more highly of you because you “obviously” have done it hundred of times and know what you’re doing. Something to consider if you like to boost your client's confidence in you.

7 Essential Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

Go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and you’ll find a long list of combination keys to trigger a wide variety of actions.

There’s no way you can remember all of it. In fact, you don’t need to remember all or even 10% of it.

You just need to know the ones you use on a regular basis.

I’m going to share with you the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop that I use frequently. You can watch the video or check out the list below (name of the tool followed by the keyboard shortcut).

These are the ones that are essential to me. I tried to narrow it down to only seven because that’s the maximum number of items a human brain is more likely to remember.

(Name of the tool - Keyboard shortcut)

  1. Brush tool - B
  2. Brush size and hardness - Opt (Alt) + Shift + hold down left mouse to drag left to right (size) or up and down (hardness)
  3. Move tool - V
  4. Crop tool - C
  5. Zoom tool - Z
  6. Default foreground and background color - D to switch to the default colors (black and white) and X to swap
  7. Black layer mask - Click on Layer Mask icon while holding down Opt (Alt)

Useful But Not Essential

I do use these a lot, but not as often as the ones mentioned above.

Duplicate layer - Cmd + J

Undo - Cmd + Opt + Z

Redo - Cmd + Shift + Z

Delete layer - Backspace

Stamp all visible layer - Cmd + Opt + Shift + E

Transform - Cmd + T

Fill selection - Shift + Backspace


If you want a full list of Photoshop keyboard shortcuts, you can check out the cheat sheet here.

Over To You

You might have different priorities in Photoshop and therefore the keyboard shortcuts that are essential to you are different...that’s perfectly fine.

My key message of this post is this:

No matter what software you use, learn the keyboard shortcuts to the tasks you do most frequently. If there isn't a default shortcut then try to create one!

It will definitely save you time, build confidence and boost productivity in the long run!