Useful GIMP Keyboard Shortcuts

Learn How to Deselect and Other GIMP Shortcuts

Screenshot of GIMP in Windows 7

Sue Chastain provides a great article sharing her favorite keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop, and we thought it would be helpful to highlight some handy shortcuts for GIMP users, too. GIMP has a large number of default keyboard shortcuts and I've previously covered all the shortcuts for the Tools palette. You can even set up your own keyboard shortcuts using GIMP's shortcut editor, or by making use of GIMP's dynamic keyboard shortcuts.

These are just a selection of some useful keyboard shortcuts that can help you speed up your workflow. I have personally experienced problems with shortcuts that combine the Shift and Ctrl keys because the Shift key appears to be ignored when the Ctrl key is also pressed. I use a Spanish keyboard, however. I've set my own shortcuts using GIMP's shortcut editor to get around this. 


GIMP offers a strong range of selection tools, but you'll want to deselect a selection after you've finished working with it. Rather than using Select None to remove the marching ants outline, you can press Shift+Ctrl+A. Marching ants can also denote a floating selection, and doing this will not have any effect in that case. You can either add a new layer to anchor the selection, or go Layer Anchor Layer (Ctrl+H) to merge it with the next layer down.

Use the Space Bar for Document Panning

Using the scroll bars to the right and bottom of the window to pan around the image when you're zoomed in on it can be slow. But there's a quicker way – you only have to hold down the space bar and the cursor will change to the move cursor. You can click your mouse button and drag the image within the window to pan to a different part of the image. And don't forget the Display Navigation palette if you want a better sense of the overall context of the part of the image you're currently working on. This option can be turned off or set to "Switch to the Move Tool" in the Image Windows section of GIMP Preferences.

Zooming In and Out

These are shortcuts that every GIMP user should get into the habit of using to help speed up the way you work with your images. They offer another quick way to zoom and navigate an image without going to the View menu or switching to the Zoom Tool if you have the Display Navigation palette open. 

  • Press the + key to zoom in incrementally.
  • Press the - key to zoom out in increments.
  • Press the 1 key to zoom in to 100 percent. One 1 pixel in your image matches 1 pixel on your monitor.
  • Press Shift+Ctrl+E to fit the image to the window.

Fill Shortcuts

You'll often find that you want to add a solid fill to a layer or a selection. You can do this quickly from the keyboard rather than going to the Edit menu.

  • Press Ctrl+, to fill with the foreground color.
  • Press Ctrl+. to fill with the background color.

Default Colors

GIMP sets the foreground color to black and the background color to white by default, and it can be surprising how often you want to use these two colors. Just press the D key to reset these colors quickly. You can also easily swap the foreground and background colors by pressing the X key.