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Tech tips

Tech tip: 20 must-know keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop

If there’s one thing that separates beginners from experienced computer users, it’s keyboard shortcuts.

On your PC, you probably use Ctrl + C to copy and Ctrl + V to paste all the time. Here are all the other Windows 10 shortcuts you need to know.

What about shortcuts in specific programs? Shortcuts can help you move faster, be more productive and (let’s be honest) show off a bit. While it’s possible to just use a mouse, keyboard shortcuts let you do things more effectively.

How to start using these Photoshop keyboard shortcuts

Some shortcuts take a single keypress and others are done by holding several keys. For example, if the shortcut is Ctrl-C, you must first press and hold Control (Ctrl) and press C, then release both.

Note: These shortcuts are for PCs. For macOS, the shortcuts are generally the same but the alt key is replaced by the option ey. You will also use the Command key instead of Control. Some shortcuts are different in earlier versions of Photoshop.

Keep using them and eventually, the shortcuts will become muscle memory and you won’t even have to think twice about using them. A lot of the shortcuts below are universal across various programs, so you probably already know a few of them.

Most popular Photoshop shortcuts and what they do

Alt-Shift-Ctrl-K: See all shortcuts

This shortcut shows you all available keyboard shortcuts and lets you edit them if the default shortcut doesn’t do it for you. For macOS users the shortcut is Alt-Shift-Command-K.

Ctrl-Z: Undo

Undo will reverse the last action you did. If you want to redo something or undo your “undo,” just press Ctrl-Shift-Z. Repeated presses will undo or redo more actions based on your command history.

Ctrl-S: Save

This shortcut saves your project and overwrites your previous save file. If you wish to make a new save file and preserve your old file, use Ctrl-Shift-S for “save as.”

Ctrl-N: New

New project file. You can quickly begin a new project with this shortcut.

Ctrl-O: Open

Open a saved file.

Ctrl-W: Close window

Closes current project and get a prompt to save.

Alt-Shift-Ctrl-W: Export

Export current project, for example if you wish to make a JPEG from a layered image.

Ctrl-F: Search

Opens a search box for searching through the interface and Adobe help

Let’s take a look at some shortcuts for manipulating layers. Layers are an important feature and being able to work with them effectively is important.

Ctrl-Shift-N: New Layer

Adds a new layer, by default an empty transparent layer.

Ctrl-J: New layer via copy

Copies selection into a new layer or duplicates the whole layer into a new layer if nothing is selected.

D: Default foreground and background colors

Selects “default” background and foreground colors (black and white). Useful for example in masking.

X: Toggle foreground and background colors

Toggles between your selected background and foreground color.

Ctrl-Backspace and Alt-Backspace:

Fills your selected layer with background or foreground color, respectively. Hold Shift key to preserve transparency.

Tools and other related shortcuts: Pressing the tool keys once selects the tool. Holding the tool key down, completing an action with it and releasing the key returns you to the previous used tool. Useful when you need to move a layer between brush strokes for example.

V: Move tool

L: Lasso tool

B: Brush tool

[ and ]: Change brush size

With brush tools selected, these keys will change your brush size.

Finally, a few shortcuts for making quick image color, brightness and exposure adjustments.

Ctrl-M: Curves

Ctrl-L: Levels

Ctrl-U: Hue and Saturation

These shortcuts are just scratching the surface of what you can do with your keyboard in Photoshop. There’s a ton more, but just learning the most common ones will make skyrocket your productivity. You can find all the keyboard shortcuts on Adobe website.

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