Not to be overly dramatic, but keyboard shortcuts can– and will– change your life. Okay, maybe it’s a little overly dramatic after all, but I’m not kidding. Considering how much time some of us spend in front of the hypnotic glow of a computer screen, it makes sense to incorporate something into our workflow that’s specifically designed to reduce some of that time– at least the part spent in editing and post-production. I can’t help you with the hours you wile away on Facebook, Pinterest, solitaire, or cat videos, but I can help you draw a line in the sand when it comes to Photoshop.
I can tell you’re skeptical. I mean, how long does it take to drag the mouse over to the tools menu and click on the crop tool, right? While I’ve never actually timed it, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s longer than the time it takes to hit “C” on your keyboard. Or “T” for the text tool or “B” for the brush tool. While every tool or command in Photoshop is accessible with the mouse, almost as many are also available through simple keyboard shortcuts. You may not always remember where something appears in a drop-down menu, but once you’ve learned a keyboard shortcut, you’re not likely to forget it.
Let me start out by saying that this article does not address every single keyboard shortcut in Photoshop. It would not only take up too much time and space, but it would also be way too intimidating. It would be one of those articles you add to your Favorites/Bookmarks to go back and read later, but you never do. Instead, I really want to show you how so many of Photoshop’s most basic functions work with the keyboard shortcuts. When I first started learning these several years ago, I swear it was like clouds parting and angels singing.
One Button, Multiple Shortcuts
One important thing to keep in mind is that virtually every key contains multiple shortcuts. For example, simply tapping the “D” key will set the foreground/background colors back to their default settings, but holding the Ctrl key (Command on a Mac) down while tapping that same “D” key will deselect any selections you have made within the open image. And while “M” will bring up the Marquee tool, Ctrl+M will open the Curves dialog box. See where I’m going with this?
All Mapped Out
The image below shows over 60 keyboard shortcuts, many of which I use just about every day. We’ve also made a handy PDF version available for you to download and save. Even if you’re eager to dive in, don’t try learning everything at once. You’ll make yourself crazy. Instead, look for the tools and commands that you know you rely on regularly and start with those. Learning the shortcuts for selecting tools is a great place to start.
Don’t Forget the Menus
Just like a lot of the commands you use in Photoshop are located in the drop-down menus at the top of the screen, that’s also where you will find many of the keyboard shortcuts. As you can see in this screen shot, if a command has a keyboard shortcut, it is listed next to the command in the menu. These will almost always be multiple key combinations. For instance, Alt + Ctrl + C opens the Image Size dialog box, or Shift + Ctrl + S brings up the “Save As” box.
One of My All-Time Favorites…Really
Whichever developer created this shortcut is no mere mortal and I am forever in his or her debt. How often have you been making adjustments in a dialog box– curves, hue/saturation, levels, whatever– and found yourself with a less-than-desirable result? It happens all the time, right? Instead of clicking “cancel,” re-opening the dialog, and starting over, next time just hold down the Alt key and watch the “cancel” button magically turn into a “reset” button. This one shortcut is probably the single-most time-saving shortcut of the entire program.
What About Lightroom?
We’re hard at work putting together an extensive keyboard map for Lightroom, because just like Photoshop, Lightroom is also full of great keyboard shortcuts. You’ll actually find a help screen with almost 40 of them by going into the Lightroom Help menu and clicking on Develop Module Shortcuts. Not surprisingly, the shortcut Ctrl + / will also bring up the list. Also like Photoshop, many shortcuts will appear in the drop-down menus next to their commands.
If you haven’t been using keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, now is a great time to start. If you have, you may not be taking full advantage of them. In either case, investing a little time in learning the shortcuts will pay big dividends down the road by saving you quite a bit of time– which you can spend on Facebook, Pinterest, solitaire, or cat videos.
Do you have a favorite keyboard shortcut? Share it with us in the comments.