10 Time-Saving Photoshop Shortcuts for Digital Artists
Jul 31 2015


Did you know the average person wastes a staggering 64 hours a year by neglecting to use keyboard shortcuts? Time is a precious resource. Don’t squander it hunting for tools when you could be painting instead. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, the time you invest in learning a few shortcuts will be well worth the added efficiency boost.

Chances are, you’re familiar with the universal shortcuts: CTRL + S, CTRL + Z, CTRL + C, and CTRL + V (and if you’re not, learn them now), but did you know nearly every key on your keyboard can access a shortcut in Photoshop?The full power of this incredible program is literally at one’s fingertips, yet it’s often underutilized. While looking at cheatsheets with a dizzying number of quick keys can be daunting, don’t let Photoshop’s complexity scare you. Start small with these 10 easy time-saving shortcuts for artists.

1. Brush Tool

  • Mac: B
  • Windows: B

Press the letter ‘B’ and you’ve found the number one artist shortcut, the brush tool. Pressing one key is much faster than hunting for tools in the side panel.

2. Toggle Brushes

  • Mac: , / .
  • Windows: , / .

Like traditional artists, digital artists use various brushes to paint. Use the period and comma keys to toggle between them without opening the brush panel.

3. Re-size Brush

  • Mac: [ / ]
  • Windows: [ / ]

Painting hair? No need to open the brush panel to get a smaller brush. Just use the left bracket to shrink the bush size and the right bracket to increase it.

4. Increase/Decrease Hardness

  • Mac: { / }
  • Windows: { / }

Sometimes you need sharper details than your current brush offers. Increase or decrease the hardness of your brush by using curly brackets.

straightlinePRO TIP: To paint a straight line, select the brush tool, paint a dot, hold down ‘shift’, and paint another dot off to the side. Photoshop will connect them for you.

5. Select a New Color

  • Mac: OPTION
  • Windows: ALT

Don’t interrupt your work to find the eyedropper. Just hold down ALT / OPTION to quickly pick a color and Photoshop will go back to your previous tool.

6. Switch Foreground/Background

  • Mac: X
  • Windows: X

Quickly toggle between your foreground and background colors by pressing X.

7. Zoom in or Out

  • Mac: SHIFT + Spacebar
  • Windows: SHIFT + Spacebar

A must for the digital artist—zoom in and out instantly by pressing SHIFT + spacebar and scrolling or moving the mouse or down (up zooms in, down zooms out). When you let go of the keys, Photoshop will revert back to your last used tool.

8. Move/Hand Tool

  • Mac: CMD / Spacebar
  • Windows: CTRL / Spacebar

Don’t bother with the move or hand tools. Just press and hold CTRL / CMD to move a layer or the spacebar to move the canvas inside the viewport. Release the button to go back to your previous tool.

fillPRO TIP: Fill the canvas (or current selection) by pressing ALT/OPTION + DELETE for the foreground color or CTRL/CMD + DELETE for the background color.

9. Create a Duplicate Merged Layer

  • Windows:CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E

Sometimes an artist needs a merged version of layers without flattening the file. Simply press CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + E OR CMD + OPTION + SHIFT + E to create a duplicate merged layer on top of your work.

10. Select the Layer Above or Below

  • Mac: OPTION + [ / ]
  • Windows: ALT + [ / ]

Press the ALT / OPTION key, then press the right bracket ] to select the layer above or the left bracket [ to select the layer below. Photoshop will automatically circle back around when you reach the top or bottom.

Final Notes

Notice there’s no need to select the eyedropper tool, hand tool, zoom tool, etc. By temporarily switching to the function of that tool without deselecting your brush you can move much faster. The difference might seem minuscule, but it adds up. Imagine gaining 64 hours a year over a lifetime. The benefits are undeniable.

What are your favorite Photoshop shortcuts for painting?

Sources: Photoshop Shortcuts | How Much Time Can You Save by Using Keyboard Shortcuts | Shortcuts | Photoshop Layers Tricks and Shortcuts | 25 Awesome Keyboard Shortcuts for Photoshop You May Not Know

Follow me on facebook and twitter for the most up-to-date news and art tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *