Best Photoshop Shortcuts for Artists

Drawing by Gvaat

Photoshop shortcuts speed up workflow. In this post, I compiled the very best Photoshop shortcuts for digital artists. My goal is to include as many most useful shortcuts as possible without making the list too long to memorize.

Once you integrate shortcuts into your creative process, you will create faster. The experience of using Photoshop will become more pleasant, and your creative process will become more pleasant as well.

The ease of use and time-savings greatly outweigh the time it takes to memorize and implement Photoshop shortcuts for digital painting!

We will go over Photoshop shortcuts for basic painting tools, brushes, layers, and adjustments. For easy reference, I compiled all shortcuts into one single list that follows. We will also create our own shortcut for something every digital artist absolutely must use in Photoshop. You can also nominate your best shortcut to be added to this list at the end of this post.

Without further ado, here is the entire list of shortcuts in one place:

Photoshop shortcuts for artists:

  1. Brush tool: B
  2. Eraser tool: E
  3. Lasso tool: L
  4. Add to the lasso selection: with lasso selection active, hold SHIFT
  5. Subtract from the lasso selection: with lasso selection active, hold ALT/OPT
  6. Move the layer or a selection: CTRL/CMD + click and drag
  7. Pan: SPACE+ click and drag
  8. Zoom: CTRL/CMD + click and drag to zoom in and out (You can also hold Z and move left and right to zoom in and out. If you press Z once, you will switch to the ZOOM tool)
  9. Paint bucket – G (cycle through the choices to get to the Gradient tool by pressing SHIFT + G )
  10. Crop tool: C
  11. Hide panels: TAB , show panels by pressing TAB again
  12. Levels: CTRL/CMD+L
  13. Curves: CTRL/CMD+M
  14. Color balance: CTRL/CMD+B
  15. Hue/saturation adjustment: CTRL/CMD+U
  16. Cycle through brushes: , and .
  17. Adjust brush size: [ to decrease, and ] to increase
  18. Adjust brush hardness: { to decrease, and } to increase
  19. Paint a straight line between two points: paint a dot with a brush at point A, then hold down SHIFT and paint a dot at point B
  20. Use eyedropper while painting: ALT/OPT
  21. Toggle foreground and background colors: X
  22. Get color picker – ALT/OPT + SHIFT + right click and hold
  23. Draw horizontal or vertical lines: Hold down SHIFT then draw
  24. Create New layer: CTRL/CMD + SHIFT + N
  25. Cycle through layers: ALT/OPT + [ or ]
  26. Duplicate selected layer: CTRL/CMD+J
  27. Set the opacity of a layer: Number 0 through 9 (when a brush is not selected)
  28. Merge all visible layers on a new layer: CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + E (Win) or CMD + OPT + SHIFT + E (Mac)
  29. Paste a selection onto a new layer: make a selection then press CTRL/CMD+J
  30. Cut a selection onto a new layer: make a selection then press CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+J
  31. Merge one layer down: CTRL/CMD + E
  32. Delete layer: DELETE while target layer is selected
  33. Fill the selected layer with current foreground color: ALT/OPT+J
  34. Marquee selection tool: M
  35. Free transform tool: CTRL + T
  36. Deselect your selection: CTRL/CMD+D

UPDATE: New shortcuts for brush rotation are now working in Photoshop:

SHIFT+ Left Arrow key rotates the brush tip by 15 degrees counter-clockwise
SHIFT + Right Arrow key rotates the brush tip by 15 degrees clockwise
– Left Arrow key rotates the brush tip by 1 degree counter-clockwise
– Right Arrow key rotates the brush tip by 1 degree clockwise

Now that we have the entire list to work with, let’s group these shortcuts into categories and briefly discuss uses for the less obvious ones:

Shortcuts for basic tools:

Basic tools shortcuts will give you the ability to switch between tools most used in Photoshop for painting:

  • Brush tool: B
  • Eraser tool: E
  • Lasso tool: L
  • Add to the lasso selection: with lasso selection active, hold SHIFT. This is useful if you made a selection with the lasso but want to adjust by adding an area to a selection.
  • Subtract from the lasso selection: with lasso selection active, hold ALT/OPT
  • Move the layer or a selection: CTRL/CMD + click and drag. If you made a selection this will move it around when you click and drag, if you did not, it will move around the entire layer.
  • Pan: SPACE+ click and drag. If you are working on a large image, this is useful to move it around.
  • Zoom: CTRL/CMD + click and drag left and right to zoom in and out (You can also hold Z and click and drag left or right to zoom in and out. If you press Z once, you will switch to the ZOOM tool). Using the zoom tool as a stand-alone is not recommended, because it requires switching back to your brush when painting.
  • Paint bucket – G (cycle through the choices to get to the Gradient tool by pressing SHIFT + G ). G will select whatever your default tool is in that tool slot. You can cycle through all the tools available under Paint bucket with SHIFT + G
  • Crop tool: C
  • Hide panels: TAB , show panels by pressing TAB again,
  • Marquee selection tool: M , this tool is similar to the lasso tool, it allows you to select an area of the layer for further editing.
  • Free transform tool: CTRL/CMD + T. To use the free transform tool, first select an area you want to edit (with lasso (L) or marquee tool (M) for example), then press CTRL/CMD + T to quickly scale or rotate your selection. Press ENTER when done.

Brush and painting shortcuts:

  • Cycle through brushes: , and . . This can be very useful if you set the few brushes you use most often next to each other. This way you can move from one brush to another without tinkering with the brushes menu.
  • Adjust brush size: [ to decrease, and ] to increase
  • Brush hardness: { to decrease, and } to increase
  • Paint a straight line between two points: paint a dot with the brush at point A, then hold down SHIFT and paint a dot at point B
  • Use eyedropper while painting: ALT/OPT. One of the most useful shortcuts, it allows you to pick a color off the canvas while holding ALT/OPT, once you let go, you will go back to your brush.
  • Toggle foreground and background colors: X
  • get color picker – ALT/OPT + SHIFT + right-click. This allows you to select a different color from exactly where you are.
  • Draw horizontal or vertical lines: Hold down CTRL/CMD + draw with the brush tool
Color picker tool engaged with ALT/OPT + SHIFT + right click. Drawing by Gvaat.

Layers shortcuts:

  • Create New layer: CTRL/CMD + SHIFT + N
  • Cycle through layers: ALT/OPT + [ or ]. This is super helpful to jump from one layer to another.
  • Duplicate selected layer: CTRL/CMD+J. Super helpful to make a quick copy of a layer.
  • Set the opacity of a layer: Number 0 through 9 (when a brush is not selected)
  • Merge all visible layers on a new layer: CTRL + ALT + SHIFT + E (Win) or CMD + OPT + SHIFT + E (Mac). If you want to flatten the canvas but also keep your progress, this shortcut is very helpful!
  • Paste a selection onto a new layer: make a selection then press CTRL/CMD+J
  • Cut a selection onto a new layer: make a selection then press CTRL/CMD+SHIFT+J
  • Merge one layer down: CTRL/CMD + E
  • Delete layer: DELETE while target layer is selected
  • Fill the selected layer with current foreground color: ALT/OPT+J

Adjustment tools shortcuts:

  • Levels: CTRL/CMD+L
  • Curves: CTRL/CMD+M
  • Color balance: CTRL/CMD+B
  • Hue/saturation adjustment: CTRL/CMD+U

A tip to remember the adjustment shortcuts so you never have to dig in the menus for them again: remember ‘BLUM’ (kind of like ‘plum’ but with a B).

Note that you can also use all of these adjustments by creating an adjustment layer in the layer panel. It may help to do so if you need the ability to go back and change the adjustment.

Where is the Photoshop shortcut menu?

To get to the Photoshop shortcut menu use this shortcut: ALT+SHIFT+CTRL/CMD+K (or go to edit/keyboard shortcuts).

The menu provides the ability to change existing shortcuts or set your own shortcuts for items that do not have one. We will use the menu to create a shortcut for a super important tool next!Flip horizontal shortcut:

As of this writing, there is no default shortcut to flipping the canvas horizontally. Flipping the canvas is something artists use to check their work for mistakes. It is a method very often used in the digital painting process, and should definitely be mapped to a shortcut for anyone painting in Photoshop.

Setting your own shortcuts in Photoshop

I use CTRL/CMD+F for flip horizontal but you can map it to any key you like.

To set your own shortcut in Photoshop:

  1. Open the keyboard shortcut menu (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL/CMD+K)
  2. Navigate to the item for which you want to set a shortcut. For Flip Horizontal, go to Image/Image Rotation/Flip Canvas Horizontal.
  3. Single click this menu item and a field for your new shortcut will appear on the right.
  4. Type in the new shortcut
  5. Click ‘OK’ to close the menu.

I hope you find these shortcuts useful!

Remember the goal is not to memorize and use every shortcut on this list, but to create a better and more pleasant workflow while painting in Photoshop. When we remove barriers and make it easy to paint in a practical sense, I think we also see our work improve at the same time!

Submit Your Shortcut(s)!

Is this Photoshop shortcut list missing your favorite shortcut for digital painting? Submit your suggestion here!

RATED A1.

This article is rated “A1” in the Workshop’s Rating System because it discusses introductory art concepts. For more on the rating system and to find other rated content, follow this link: Workshop’s Rating System.

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