When you’re a graphic designer you’ve got to know Adobe Photoshop inside and out, but even the most proficient Photoshop users don’t always have every single keystroke memorized. Photoshop itself makes use of tons of keyboard shortcuts that make the pro level user’s life easier, but again, these are tough to recall without a cheat sheet.
Here is a complete list of all the best Photoshop cheats you’ll ever need for your graphic design work.
To launch: in Mac click the Photoshop icon in the dock; in Windows click the Start menu or a taskbar icon. Create a Photoshop alias or shortcut on your desktop if you use it frequently and prefer to just double-click on the shortcut to open it.
To set your preferences: in Mac choose Photoshop→Preferences and in Windows choose Edit→Preferences. Move panels or combine them, modify your shortcuts for the keyboard and menus, and customize your options bar until you’ve got things perfect for your preferences. Save your workspace: Window→Workspace→New Workspace.
To open an image: click on File→Open. Whether you’re using Mac or Windows you can cycle through multiple open images by pressing Control+Tab.
To zoom in and out: in Mac, press Command and + ; in Windows, Ctrl and +. To zoom out just swap out the minus sign for the plus sign.
To scroll an image: in both Mac and Windows press the spacebar and drag.
Using shortcuts to access the tools palette
There are tons of tools in Photoshop CS6 and CC, so we’ve grouped them here key by key:
- ~/`: switch open tabs. This lets you save time by switching between open tabbed documents.
- 1 through 0: each number key is a percentage opacity shortcut, so 1 is 10% opacity, 6 is 60% opacity, 9 is 90% opacity, and 0 is 100% opacity. You can combine keys for a specific opacity—so if you needed 16% opacity you’d use 1 and 6. The opacity just controls the transparency of the layers you’re adding (along with the fill).
- -: zoom out
- +: zoom in
- q: quick mask. Quick mask lets you to create and edit selections fast and see what you’re doing as you work on it; you can edit with any editing or painting tool, just remember to save it if you want to keep it because quick masks are temporary.
- w: magic wand and quick selection tools. These tools let you select based on tones and colors. The magic wand tool works best with solid colors; the quick selection tool is better if there is a combination of tones and colors.
- e: background eraser, eraser, and magic eraser tools. Using the eraser tool you brush away portions of the image. The background eraser erases backgrounds, large sections of your image with a single click instead of the usual eraser brush strokes. The magic eraser clicks instead of brushes like the background eraser but with a targeted crosshairs feature so you can take out specific items in an image.
- r: rotate view tool. This tool rotates the entire image window.
- t: text tools, including vertical type, horizontal type, vertical type mask, and horizontal type mask tools. The vertical type tool lets you create type oriented in a vertical column. The horizontal type tool lets you create type oriented in a horizontal column. Both of these create the type with its own layer. The horizontal and vertical type mask tools are just like the others except they let you cut out type of a layer.
- y: history and art history brush tools. Both of these tools paint over your image using information from a previous state, usually a contrasting filter to give you an interesting visual effect. The art history brush tool refines this, allowing you to apply brush-stroke effects to the image.
- u: shape tools including ellipse, line, polygon, rectangle, rounded rectangle, and custom shape tools. These all let you click-drag to create shapes by selecting the right tool and desired options. Pressing the shift key as you drag maintains the width-to-height ratio or constrains the proportions; using the option or alt key places the shape centered where you clicked. Pressing shift and option or alt together centers where you click and constrains the proportions.
- i: eyedropper tools including 3D material eyedropper, basic eyedropper, color sampler, ruler, note, and count tools. The basic eyedropper tool lets you lift an existing color to use in your image. The 3D material eyedropper does the same thing but with 3D materials for 3D modeling. The color sampler tool just measures colors you click on and gives you their numeric values. The ruler tool is just like it sounds: it lets you measure onscreen. The note tool lets you add a note to your project, and the count tool counts objects in an image.
- o: dodge, burn, and sponge tools. The dodge tool lets you make selected areas of your photos lighter, fixing underexposure problems; the burn tool does just the opposite. The sponge tool allows you to adjust color saturation.
- p: pen and freeform pen tools. Both let you draw with your mouse or stylus.
- a: path selection and direct selection tools. The path and direct selection tools let you capture and isolate pixels to edit or manipulate only part of your image.
- s: clone stamp and pattern stamp tools. Both of these tools paste into your image. The clone stamp takes part of an existing image and copies and pastes it. The pattern stamp lets you create and paste a patterns into the image.
- g: gradient and paint bucket tools. The gradient tool lets you blend colors and create a gradient between them. The paint bucket tool lets you fill in areas with a color you choose.
- h: hand tool. The hand tool lets you move around in your image fast as you work, but you can also simply hold down the space bar as you use any other tool to the hand appear so you can move by dragging.
- j: content-aware move, healing brush, content-aware patch, spot healing brush, and red eye tools. The healing brush and the spot healing brush both let you remove unwanted items from your image and replace them with a preferred color, texture, or value, and both match the surrounding values and colors. However, the healing brush lets you choose a specific source to match while the spot healing brush analyzes what’s there and comes up with its best guess match. Content aware patching works similarly, letting you remove elements and replace them; content-aware moving allows you to simply manipulate elements of the image. The red eye tool corrects red eye in photos.
- k: 3D tools. These tools let you import, texture, edit, and render 3D files and are designed for moving and manipulating 3D objects along the canvas in different ways. The 3D tools include 3D Pan/Drag, 3D Roll, 3D Rotate, 3D Scale, and 3D Slide.
- l: lasso, polygonal lasso, and magnetic lasso tools. The lasso tools let you trace around things to select them. Use the regular lasso tool to draw your selection freehand; if you’re selecting something with sharp edges you can use the polygonal lasso tool to create a selection edge between two clicks or the magnetic lasso tool which “snaps” to your well-defined edge.
- :/;: hide/show guides. Guides look like lines floating over your image and are used to help you position elements of your image exactly where you want them. This tool lets you show or hide them.
- “’: hide/show grids. Grids work a lot like guides and can appear as lines or dots to help you keep elements and designs symmetrical. This tool lets you show or hide them.
- z: zoom. This lets you zoom in and out on an image.
- c: crop. Just like it sounds, this allows you to crop images.
- v: selection tool. This allows you to select certain areas of an image with a painting motion.
- b: brush, pencil, color replacement, and mixer brush tools. The brush and pencil tools both let you draw freehand lines, click and release draw, and click to swap colors in various ways as you draw; the pencil tool has sharp edges and the brush tool has softer edges. The color replacement tool lets you replace the original color of an image with the foreground color while preserving all tones; it samples the original colors and then replaces them. You can use it to colorize black and white photos in part or completely, for example. The mixer brush tool gives you a more realistic painted look by combining colors and wetness variations in a single brush stroke; you can get a more natural painting effect without a filter this way.
- n: 3D camera tools. The 3D camera tools give you most of the same options as the 3D tools, but they do that by moving the camera around your 3D object so that the whole scene moves rather than the item.
- m: rectangular marquee, elliptical marquee tools. These tools capture rectangular or elliptical selections, or even single columns or rows, of pixels for editing or manipulation.
Photoshop is filled with amazing shortcuts and tools—so many that even many experienced users can’t remember them all without cheat sheets. When you’re a graphic designer it’s important to know Adobe Photoshop as well as you can, because Photoshop provides so many keyboard shortcuts that make the routine user’s life so much simpler. Keep this complete list of all the best Photoshop cheats you’ll ever need for your graphic design work handy for your graphic design projects and handle Photoshop like a pro.