My Most Common Photoshop Shortcuts

Learning how to use the tools and panels in Photoshop is really only the first step to mastery of the program.  Knowing the order to click things is a good start, but knowing how to replace some of those mouse clicks with keyboard shortcuts and modifiers will enhance your productivity with the program, and make you more confident going forward.

The best habit for a budding Photoshop artist to get into is to keep one hand on the keyboard at all times.  For an expert, Photoshop is a program that requires coordination between both hands.

Open up Photoshop while you read this post, and try out these shortcuts as you read.  Getting the tactile sense of these shortcuts will help you remember them. Also, many of these shortcuts and modifiers will work in other Adobe programs.


Moving around the document and zooming in on exactly what you want to see is essential to working efficiently.  We have two main tools that help us do this: the Zoom tool (Zoom Tool) and the Hand tool (Hand Tool), located near the bottom of the toolbox.  The Zoom tool allows us to zoom in and out of the image, and the Hand tool allows us to move the image around within the viewer.

If you’ve taken IT Training Photoshop workshops in the past, you know that double-clicking the tool icon in the toolbox has different effects.  Double-clicking the Zoom tool will set your image view to 100%. Double-clicking the Hand tool will set your image view so that you can see the entire image in the view panel.  However, Ctrl-0 will have the same effect as double-clicking the hand tool, and Ctrl-1 will have the same effect as double-clicking the Zoom tool.

I find myself frequently zooming out so that I can see the entire image.  This helps with understanding how the changes you are making look in the image as a whole.

You might also know that with the Zoom tool selected,  you can press and drag a rectangle around an area of the image to focus on just that section.  This is especially helpful when you need to do delicate work on a specific area.

However, it’s not very efficient to click the Zoom tool, zoom in, and then switch back to your previous tool.  In fact, it’s wildly inefficient. But we have a shortcut to quickly switch to the Zoom tool or the Hand tool, and then switch back automatically.  Try out the following short cuts.

First of all, select any tool that isn’t the Hand tool or the Zoom tool. Then place your cursor over the image.

  • Holding down the Space bar turns your current tool into the Hand tool.
  • Holding down Ctrl and the Space bar at the same time turns your current tool into the Zoom tool.
  • Holding down Ctrl, Alt and the Space bar at the same time turns your current tool into the Zoom out tool.

When we release the keys, we can now see that our tool is returned to whatever tool we had selected previously.  With this technique, we can quickly switch tools, navigate to a different location, and then go back to what we were doing previously.

Let’s look at a different section of the program.


Working with Brushes can be time consuming.  Frequently, we have to change sizes, and sometimes opacity to work on a project.  However, we can control the size, hardness, and opacity with keyboard shortcuts.  Normally, these are controlled in the Options panel, which changes based on the tool you have active, but constantly clicking to make minor changes to brush size and opacity can be time consuming.  It’s much easier to keep your cursor over the image, and use the keyboard shortcut.

For this set of shortcuts, select the Brush tool (Brush Tool) in the toolbox.

These shortcuts work with any tool that uses the brush options, such as the Clone Stamp tool, Healing Brush tool, and Eraser tool among others. Once again, place your cursor over the image.

  • To decrease the size of the brush, on the keyboard type [. To increase the size of the brush, on the keyboard type ]. Watch the brush cursor as you hit each key.  Hitting the key multiple times will increase or decrease the brush size accordingly.
  • To increase or decrease the hardness, use the { and } keys. (Shift-[ and Shift-]). Watch the brush size icon in the Options panel to see the change in the hardness.
  • To change the opacity, we can use the number keys on the keyboard. Each individual number will change the opacity to that number times 10.  For instance, hitting 5 on the keyboard (either the keypad, or the numbered row above the letter keys), will change the opacity to 50%.  Hitting 8 will change the opacity to 80%.  To get to 100%, just hit the 0 key.
  • Additionally, hitting two number keys in quick succession will set the opacity to that exact percentage.  For example, hitting the 2 and 5 keys in quick succession will change the opacity percentage to 25%.  Hitting 0 and 8 quickly will change the percentage to 8%.
  • Some tools like the Dodge and Burn tools work with “Strength”, instead of “Opacity”.  The number keys will work in the same way on those tools, however, they will change the Strength option instead of Opacity.
  • Finally, some tools have an additional percentage based option, called Flow by the Brush tool and the Clone Stamp tool.  Holding the Shift key and using the number keys in the same way as above will alter this value.

Working at low opacities is essential for delicate Photoshop work, especially in retouching, so being able to set these quickly is a great skill to have.

Finally, let’s look at a couple of shortcuts for Layers.


Working with layers is an important aspect of Photoshop, and almost every project will have multiple layers (and if it doesn’t, it probably should).

There are a couple of keyboard shortcuts that can greatly increase your efficiency.  One shortcut I use very frequently in my retouching work is Ctrl-J. This shortcut will copy the currently selected layer to a new layer and place it one level above the currently selected layer.  Try it now.

While that’s helpful, the real power of this shortcut comes with a selection active.

Make any selection over a portion of your open image. Press and Drag with the Lasso tool (Lasso Tool).

  • With the selection active, hitting Ctrl-J on the keyboard will copy only the current selection to a new layer.  This will work with any selection.  It’s incredibly useful when trying to replace backgrounds, or duplicate information.
  • Another useful shortcut is Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E. This shortcut will combine all of your current layers into a new layer above the currently selected layer.  This is great because some tools and filters won’t work on multiple layers.  This way, rather than flattening your image and losing all of your flexibility, you can give yourself a fresh working surface that allows you the option of keeping your layers intact for future editing.

With this list, I’ve barely scratched the surface of keyboard shortcuts with Photoshop. Photoshop is very flexible, and you can even make your own keyboard shortcuts, or review ones that ship with the program with Edit->Keyboard Shortcuts.

Spend some time as you learn to use the program to get comfortable with these shortcuts, and before long you’ll feel like an expert.

For more information on shortcuts, and more importantly, when you might use some of these shortcuts, check out our advanced Photoshop classes, viewable at

And for a PDF list of all the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop by program, check out this link from Trevor Morris Photographics: Adobe Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet


  1. web design

    Most used shortcut by me is Ctrl-Alt-Shift-S Save for web. It is also good to know shortcuts for resizing, cropping and tool selection because it reduces the time needed to complete editing an image. Last but not least, you have great article-tutorials about photoshop.

  2. Contabilitate

    The editor prefs often get corrupted. You may need to rebuild the editor preferences to resolve any conflicts.
    Hold down the Ctrl+Shift+Alt keys and simultaneously click on the Edit button on the welcome screen. Release the three keys and look behind the welcome screen by closing it. Or hold down the keys whilst double clicking on PhotoshopElementsEditor.exe
    You should see a pop up box with the words: Delete Adobe Photoshop Elements Settings File?
    Click on Yes
    Close down Elements and re-open it in the normal way – then wait whilst it rebuilds the preferences

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