Using and Customizing Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

[The examples used in this article were written using Photoshop with Windows XP.  For Mac computers, substitute Command for Ctrl and Option for Alt]

One of the marks of a truly expert user of any software program is the ability to keep his or her hands off the mouse once in awhile when navigating menus and toolbars.  Photoshop provides keyboard shortcuts for most of its functions:   saving a file – Ctrl-S, creating a new file Ctrl-N, toggling the palette windows off and on – TAB, selecting the Move tool – V, etc. Not only can users take advantage of the built-in default keyboard shortcuts, they can customize the keyboard shortcuts to adapt the setup to their own needs.

Keyboard shortcuts are typically created through some combination of the Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys along with a letter.  Some shortcuts, the most common being the ones for the standard toolbar, involve simply pressing a letter on the keyboard.  To select the Paint Bucket Tool, you’d press G.  Other shortcuts are much more complex.  To pull up the Save For Web and Devices window (which allows you to save a graphic optimized in a smaller file size so that it loads on a web page more quickly), you have to press Alt -Shift- Ctrl –S all together.  Web designers use this command often, since they’re constantly saving their images optimized for the web.  That shortcut can take some getting used to.  Don’t worry, though.  You can change it.  Here’s how.

Under the Photoshop Edit menu, there is an option for Keyboard Shortcuts.  [Oddly enough, the shortcut for Keyboard Shortcuts is one of the complicated ones: Alt-Shift-Ctrl-K.  You can change this one too if you’d like.]

To change the Save For Web and Devices shortcut, find that command under the File menu section.  Then click on the line corresponding to the shortcut.   You’ll notice that the keystroke section for the shortcut becomes editable.   At this point, rather than typing out the letters (C-t-r-l, for instance) representing the keyboard shortcut you want to use, you simply press the keys you’d like to use as a shortcut.  In our example, since we use the Save For Web and Devices tool so often, we want to change the shortcut for this command so that it’s not so complicated to use.  I’m going to choose Ctrl+. (the Ctrl key and the period) as my new shortcut.

Because there are so many tools and functions in Photoshop, it can be hard to find a simpler shortcut for than what is already used as the default.  Most of the easier shortcuts are already in use for other commands.  If you can’t find a shortcut that works well for you that isn’t already in use, you might consider overriding an existing keyboard shortcut that you don’t use or don’t expect to use very often.  You may have to experiment a little to see what works best for you.  Each time you try to enter a shortcut that is already in use, you are notified by Photoshop so that you can consider whether to try out a different shortcut.

You can create a new keyboard shortcut set based upon Photoshop’s default set by clicking the middle icon of the three next to the Set dropdown box.  By creating a new set of shortcuts and making your shortcut changes on the copy, you can reset your shortcuts to the default later.

Like a pilot in the cockpit of an airplane (sometimes Photoshop can feel the same), you should feel comfortable maneuvering around Photoshop’s toolbars, palettes, menus.  Understanding, using, and customizing the default shortcuts to suit your taste will help you work more efficiently.

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