Useful Keyboard Shortcuts For Photoshop CC

man using web graphics software on laptop
keyboard short cuts are a huge productivity boost. lechatnoi/ E+/Getty Images

Keyboard shortcuts speed up repetitive actions and improve the image-manipulation process by reducing mouse movements and clicks. The Adobe Creative Cloud solution, like most major software implementations, supports a variety of these key combinations. All these keyboard shortcuts are the same for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Spacebar for Move Tool

Pressing the space bar will temporarily switch you to the hand tool for panning your document no matter what tool is active (except the text tool in typing mode). Also, you can use the space bar to move selections and shapes as you are creating them. As start drawing a selection or shape, press the space bar while keeping the left mouse button held down, and reposition the selection or shape.

  • Space-Ctrl and click—zoom in
  • Space-Alt and click—zoom out

Caps Lock for Precise Cursors

The caps lock key will change your cursor from crosshairs to brush shape and vice-versa. Switching to a crosshair cursor for precision work can be useful, but the main reason this shortcut is listed here is because it trips so many people up when they accidentally press the caps lock key and then can't figure out how to get the cursor back to their preferred style.

Zooming In and Out

The quickest way to zoom in and out is to hold the Alt key while rolling the scroll wheel on your mouse, but if you need to zoom in and out in precise increments the following shortcuts are worth remembering:

  • Ctrl-+ (plus)—zoom in
  • Ctrl-- (minus)—zoom out
  • Ctrl-0 (zero)—fits the document to your screen
  • Ctrl-1—zooms to 100 percent or 1:1 pixel magnification

Undo and Redo

The Ctrl-Z shortcut performs "undo" in most programs, but in Photoshop, that keyboard shortcut only goes back one step in your editing process. If you want to undo multiple steps, get in the habit of using Alt-Ctrl-Z instead so you can hit it repeatedly to go back many steps.

  • Alt-Ctrl-Z—step backward (undo previous action)
  • Shift-Ctrl-Z—step forward (redo previous action)

Deselect a Selection

After you have made selection, at some point you are going to need to deselect it. You'll use this one a lot, so you may as well memorize it.

  • Ctrl-D—deselect

Change Brush Size

The square bracket keys increase or decrease brush size. By adding the Shift key, you can adjust brush hardness.

  • [—decrease brush size
  • Shift-[—decrease brush hardness or soften brush edge
  • ]—increase brush size
  • Shift-]—increase brush hardness

Fill a Selection

Filling areas with color is a common Photoshop action, so it helps to know the shortcuts for filling with the foreground and background colors.

  • Alt-bksp—fill with foreground color
  • Ctrl-bksp—fill with background color
  • Shift-bksp—opens the fill dialog box
  • D—reset color picker to default colors (black foreground, white background)
  • X—swap foreground and background colors

Add the Shift key to preserve transparency while filling with the foreground or background color.

Emergency Reset

When you're working in a dialog box and gotten off-track, there is no need to cancel the dialog and then reopen it to start over. Simply hold your Alt key down and in most dialog boxes, the "Cancel" button will change to a "Reset" button so you can get back to where you started.

Selecting Layers

Generally, selecting layers is easier to do using your mouse, but if you ever need to record an action with layer selection changes, you will need to know the shortcuts for selecting layers.

If you select layers with the mouse while recording an action, the layer name is recorded in the action, and therefore, the specific layer name may not be found when the action is played back on a different file. When you select layers using keyboard shortcuts while recording an action, then it is recorded in the action as a forward or backward selection instead of a fixed layer name. Here are the shortcuts for selecting layers with the keyboard:

  • Alt-[—select the layer below the currently selected layer (select backward)
  • Alt-]—select the layer above the currently selected layer (select forward)
  • Alt-, (comma)—select the bottom-most layer (select back layer)
  • Alt-. (period)—select the top-most layer (select front layer)

Add Shift to these shortcuts to select several layers. Experiment to the get the hang of the Shift modifier.