The Top Photoshop Shortcuts All Graphic Designers Should Know

Posted on December 12, 2019 | Updated on June 11, 2024

When you first use Photoshop, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. You’ll experience a definite learning curve. However, it’s easy to get comfortable with  processes and learn shortcuts. Time-saving methods allow you to be more productive in your work. You’ll also gain a sense of accomplishment over conquering a difficult software.

If you search Google for Photoshop shortcuts, you’ll discover millions of results. How do you narrow them into something you can use?

Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of all the shortcuts graphic designers should know.

1. Hand Tool

The H on your keyboard is the hand tool command. If you’re zoomed in on a photo, H allows you to pan from one side to the next. Once the hand tool is active, you can use the CTRL key to zoom in without switching gears. Of all the Photoshop shortcuts, you’ll probably use this one the most.

2. Zoom

When you’re editing small details, you’ll often need to zoom in on various elements. To inspect something, simply click Z. You can hold down ALT to zoom back out. Another way to zoom is to press and hold both the CTRL button and space bar. If you need yet another way to zoom in and out, pair the CTRL key with the + and – buttons.

3. Fit Photo

With Photoshop shortcuts, there is typically an opposite command. When you’re zoomed in, you can click on CTRL and zero to fit the photo on the screen. This shortcut is particularly useful if you’re zoomed in and want to avoid a bunch of commands.

4. Brush Tool

The letter B pulls up the brush tool. This Photoshop shortcut is handy when you’re working with masks and want to flip back and forth to add details. Use Shift and [ to decrease the brush hardness and Shift plus ] to increase it.

5. Undo Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes when working on photos. Perhaps a filter you thought would look great looks bad. Maybe you put color in the wrong location. Whatever the problem, you can undo your last action with CTRL and Z. You can continue to undo actions until you’re back to square one. Keep in mind that shortcuts may vary slightly for Photoshop CC 2019 compared to previous versions.

6. Hide Palettes

As you begin to dig into photo edits, it’s easy to fill up your workspace with palettes. Hide and pull them up seamlessly as you work on different tasks. The TAB key hides palettes. Hitting it again shows them.

7. Rotate an Image

Rotating an image is as simple as hitting the R key. If you want to move the image in 15-degree increments, use R paired with Shift. Then, drag your mouse in the direction you want the image to move.

8. Increase Brush Size

Need to make your brush size bigger or smaller? It’s easy. The [ key decreases brush size while ] increases it. These buttons are close together — it can be easy to get them mixed up. Once you use this shortcut a few times, however, you’re bound to remember.

9. Try Different Colors

Finding the right palette for a project isn’t easy. Color is a science, one that can affect communication, signal action and influence psychological reactions. To make the selection process easier, try this Photoshop shortcut. Hold down the ALT button to open the eyedropper. Then, select a color you like. To undo the results, remember to use CTRL and Z.

10. Change Opacity

If you need to change the opacity of layers, use the numbers on your keyboard to shift up or down. Choose from zero to 9 and watch the shift. Number one offers up 10% opacity, while nine offers 90%. Do you want 25% opacity? Then quickly hit the two and five in quick succession. This Photoshop shortcut will save you tons of time.

11. Add a Layer

Do you want to create a new layer in your project? Use the CTRL paired with Shift and N. If you don’t need a new dialogue box, pair CTRL with ALT, Shift and N. As you enter complex editing territory, consider a free Photoshop tutorial. You can learn all about the software from someone with more than 20 years of experience.

12. Swap Background Colors

If you’re working with masks, you might need to exchange your foreground and background colors. Luckily, there’s a Photoshop shortcut that will save you time. Simply hit X to switch your colors. Hit it again to switch them back. It’s simple!

13. Save Your Work

It’s vital to save your work. What happens if your computer crashes and you didn’t log your work? It might be lost forever. Instead, learn quick Photoshop shortcuts to preserve your ideas. Every few minutes, hit CTRL and the letter S. This habit will save you hours of effort.

14. Merge Layers

You’ll typically merge layers near the end of your work. For this process, you’ll need to learn several commands. For example, CTRL and E merges the selected layer with the one below it. Want to merge all visible layers? Use the shortcut CTRL with Shift and E. CTRL, ALT and E merges all selected layers into one.

The Top Photoshop Shortcuts for Graphic Designers 

Photoshop shortcuts will save time and make your life easier. Of the list above, some are simple, while others are advanced. As you work, you’ll discover which are best for you and your needs.

Once you become a Photoshop pro, you’ll want to branch out to other devices. The software recently launched on the iPad, though reviews are mixed. Experts claim it lacks many of the vital tools designers need to finish a project.

Think you’ll forget these commands once you open Photoshop? You’re not alone. Luckily, you can gain access to the entire shortcut list with CTRL, ALT, Shift and the letter K. Remember this command, if nothing else. From there, you’ll be unstoppable.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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