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10 Time-saving Photoshop Shortcuts

By Karl Rosencrants, Shutterstock Contributor Sometimes a few small changes can add up to a substantial increase in productivity. With that in mind, here is a handy list of the top ten most time-saving keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop.

1. Adjust brush size. With the Brush Tool activated, rather than accessing the dropdown menu at the top of the screen, press the right bracket key, ] , to increase the size of the brush and the left bracket key, [ , to decrease.

2. Adjust brush hardness. Along with size, brush hardness frequently needs to be adjusted. Holding shift + ] (right bracket key) increases the hardness of the brush while holding shift + [ (left bracket key) will decrease the hardness. Now you can keep the brush tip where it belongs, in the middle of your image, instead of making frequent trips up to the properties bar.

3. Copy to a new layer. Again, keep the pointer on the artboard. Duplicating a layer is as simple as pressing CTRL + J (PC) or Cmd + J (Mac). This will create a copy of the active layer in the layers palette. It will also copy an active selection onto a new layer, leaving the current layer intact.

Also, pressing CTRL+ Shift + J (PC) or Cmd + Shift + J (Mac) will cut the current active selection from the active layer and paste it onto a new layer. If you name all your layers, simply adding the ALT (PC) or Option (Mac) key to either of these combinations will open the New Layer dialog box so you can name the new layer on the fly. You can also adjust the opacity and blend mode of this new layer right in the New Layer dialog box, saving you an extra trip to the Layers Palette.

4. Fill the layer or selection with color. Press CTRL + Backspace (PC) or Cmd + delete (Mac) to fill the layer with the current foreground color. Press ALT + Backspace (PC) or Option + delete (Mac) to fill the layer with the current background color. These same commands can also be used to fill a selection. Bonus: To change the foreground and background colors back to the default colors (black for the foreground and white for the background) simply press the D key.

5. Undo. No need to visit the History palette. CTRL + Z (PC) or Cmd + Z (Mac) will undo one step. Pressing this combination again will redo (or rather, bring you back to before the undo). Need to go back further than the last step? Simply hold CTRL + Alt (PC) or Cmd + Option (Mac) and press Z. Every time you press the Z key, you will move backwards one more step.

6. The Hand Tool. Forget the scroll bars at the edges of the document window. To quickly navigate around the image, hold down the spacebar to temporarily activate the Hand Tool. Click and drag with the Hand Tool to move the document. To deactivate the Hand Tool, release the space bar.

7. Favorite Tools. Learn the keyboard shortcuts for your favorite tools. For example B = Brush Tool, V = Move, J = Spot Healing Brush. As you become familiar with these, you will notice that groups of tools all share the same shortcut key. For example, the Spot Healing Brush, the Healing Brush, the Patch Tool and the Red Eye Tool all share the same shortcut key - the letter J. By pressing J, you will activate the last used tool in the group. To cycle though the other tools in the group, hold Shift + the letter for that group of tools, and the active tool will cycle to the next tool in the group.

If you find yourself continually using a command that doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut, you can easily assign one. Go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts. Find the command on the list and assign the key combination you would like to use. If you try to assign an already used combination, Photoshop will ask if you would like to reassign that key combination. This dialog box is also a great place to find out what keyboard shortcuts are assigned to all commands.

8. Layer Opacity. To quickly change the opacity of the current layer, simply press a number key. Pressing 5 = 50% opacity, press 3 = 30%, etc. To narrow the opacity to a percentage more specific than a multiple of 10, press the two numbers quickly. For example, pressing 5, 5 in quick succession will set the opacity to 55%. (To get back to 100%, quickly press 1, 0, 0.)

Please note, this shortcut will not work if one of the tools in the second group is active.

9. Zoom in and out. To zoom into an image, press CTRL and + or Cmd and + and to zoom out press CTRL and - (PC) or Cmd and - (Mac).

10. Scrubby sliders. Most settings in Photoshop provide a slider to adjust to your liking.

Click and drag on the name of the setting to active the Scrubby Slider. Sliding to the left or right will adjust the setting value up or down without having to open the slider. You will know that a Scrubby Slider is available when your cursor turns into a little pointing finger with arrows to the left and right.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for good, old fashioned practice, but once you’ve memorized these shortcuts, you’ll be well on your way to finishing projects in record time!