Your ultimate goal when mastering the Photoshop user interface is to make it as transparent as possible. When you want to switch to a different tool, change a brush size, or open a dialog box, you shouldn't have to stop what you're doing to waste your time looking for the tool, palette, menu item, and so on, choosing it, and then coming back to where you were. The true Photoshop gods simply press a key or key combination, and things just happen.
Hundreds of keyboard shortcuts are listed in this book. Don't try to memorize all of them all at once ”you'll freak and get overwhelmed. Start by looking at the following Top 15 Tips list. Some of the items in the list are not single shortcuts, but are a category of shortcuts that you should commit to memory. Master one category, work them into your workflow, and then move on to the next category. After a while, something magical happens: The Photoshop UI becomes a subconscious thing, and you experience Pixel Nirvana. You think Paintbrush tool , and your finger instinctively presses the B key without you having to actually think the B key or even look at the keyboard.
This list is presented in the order that I recommend people memorize them, but of course, your mind probably works differently from mine, so do what works for you.
Every tool has a letter assigned to it. To select the particular tool you want, just press its letter on the keyboard. Most of the shortcuts make sense, like M for the Marquee tool, E for the Eraser tool, and so on. Some tools on the toolbar actually house several options. To cycle through a tool slot's options, simply use Shift plus the letter for the tool. Starting in version 6.0, you can set a preference not to require the Shift key to cycle through a tool slot's tools (Edit > Preferences > General). The real power behind learning these particular shortcuts first is that when you know them all, it doesn't matter whether the Toolbar is actually open because you will be able to get to the tool you want at any time. See page 29 “31 for a key to all the tools and their respective shortcuts.
Changing your brush size on the fly without moving your mouse from the area that you are currently using the brush on is a huge timesaver and keeps your brain centered on the task at hand. Less than (<) and greater than (>) symbols select the first and last brush. Left bracket ([) and right bracket (]) decrease and increase the current brush size. Shift-[ and Shift-] decrease and increase the hardness of the current brush. Comma (,) and period (.) select the next and previous brush, but only if the current "working" brush did not have its size or hardness changed with the shortcut keys.
The Move tool is arguably the most-used tool in Photoshop. To that end, Adobe has made it easy to temporarily switch to that tool when you are in any other tool. Just hold down the (Cmd) [Ctrl] key while using any other tool.
Cmd/Ctrl gets to the Path Component Select Tool when any Shape tool is selected.
Cmd/Ctrl gets to the Direct Selection Tool when any Pen tool is selected.
This is the equivalent to switching to the Move tool for Shapes and Paths.
Just like the tools, every palette has a keystroke assigned to it to make showing and hiding palettes quick and efficient. Learn them. Until you have them memorized, just keep pressing any of the F5 through the F9 keys (F5 through F11 for ImageReady 2.0) until you see the palette tab you are looking for. After a while, you will have them memorized, and you won't think about it anymore.
Also, don't waste a lot of time opening and closing and moving palettes around the screen. I arrange them on the screen once and then leave them open at all times, always keeping them in the same position. That way, I always know where to look when I need to interact with a specific palette, and they don't get lost behind each other. If they get in the way, I just press the Tab key to hide them, and then Tab again to bring them back.
New to Photoshop 7 is the ability to save the current palette configuration as a workspace preset. This makes it handy to save different palette scenarios and switch between them quickly. To save the current palette configuration as a new workspace, simply go to the Window > Workspaces > Save Workspace menu command and give it a useful name .
Panning and zooming around an image can be a huge waste of time. Learn how to do it efficiently , and then raise your rates or ask for a raise. See pages 51 “55 for all the navigation shortcuts. You'll notice that there are a lot of them. Pick one or two at a time to add to your repertoire , memorize them, and then add a couple more. After a while, you will begin to appreciate the subtle differences between them and, more importantly, when to use one instead of another.
The typical Photoshop user often overlooks this particular category of shortcuts, which is too bad because there is a contextual menu for just about everything in Photoshop. All the tools and most of the palettes have contextual menus that provide quick access to options and commands specific to that tool or palette. One of my favorites is the contextual menu for a Type layer that gives me a quick pop-up menu from which I can rasterize the type by choosing Render Layer. To access a contextual menu, hold down the Ctrl key on the Mac or the right-mouse button on Windows. See page 6 for a key to all the available contextual menus.
Exchange Foreground and Background Colors ; reset Foreground and Background to Default Black and White
X for exchange, D for default. Next.
Okay, it's time to face the fact that the Bucket tool is for wimps! Learn the Fill command shortcuts to quickly change the color of a selection or a layer. See pages 74 “76 for all the Fill command shortcuts.
There are far too many shortcuts for creating, selecting, viewing, and moving layers to list here. The more of these you know, the more of a pro you will be. See pages 91 “110.
After you master creating, selecting, viewing, and moving layers, you will want to know the quick ways to merge and delete them, particularly the shortcuts for deleting multiple layers at once. See pages 107 “108.
Type a single number; the opacity changes to a 10% increment. Type two numbers quickly; the opacity changes to a 1% increment. For example, if you press 6, you get 60%. If you press 66 quickly, you get 66%. Just don't type 666 ”that reformats your hard drive. If you have the Move tool selected, you will be changing the opacity of the active layer. If you have a painting tool selected, you are changing the opacity of that tool. Otherwise, you will be changing the opacity of the active layer.
Multiple Undo/Redo Shortcuts
Learn these. Quicker. See page 23.
F12. Learn it, live it, love it.
Image Adjust Dialog Shortcuts
Levels, Curves, Color Balance, and Hue/Saturation. You are in these dialog boxes every day! They all have shortcuts to open, reopen, and cancel them. Turn to pages 81 “89 for these everyday dialog box shortcuts.
Reset Dialog Boxes
When you make a mistake while editing the values in a dialog box and you just want to start over from the beginning, don't bother clicking the Cancel button to reopen the dialog box. Just hold down the (Option) [Alt] key, and the Cancel button changes to a Reset button. The dialog will be reset to the same values it had when you first made it appear.