If you spend a lot of time doing any type of work in Photoshop, you likely use a few of the default keyboard shortcuts to work more efficiently. Or if you’re anything like me, you use as many shortcuts as you can remember. These shortcuts not only speed up your workflow, but more importantly, they help you maintain your Photoshop sanity. After all, the less time you spend diving through menus, the more time you can spend actually designing.

Selecting tools, adjusting fills and opacities, changing blending modes or transforming and merging layers are just a handful of the shortcuts included by default in Photoshop. If those tips are new to you, then you should definitely take a look at these tips on saving time in Photoshop and collaborating on Photoshop projects.

Recently, I stumbled across this post showcasing a handful of great Photoshop tricks and realized how helpful (and easy) it is to roll your own keyboard shortcuts. This makes it super simple to fill the gaps left behind by the default set of Photoshop shortcuts. Let’s get started.

Creating Custom Shortcuts 101

The first thing is to launch the Keyboard Shortcuts manager in Photoshop. You can launch it with a shortcut, of course! (CMD + OPT + Shift + K) Or you can navigate over to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts in the Application Menu. Simply select the menu item within the Shortcut Manager that you wish to add. You’ll see an input asking for the desired shortcut. Simply type the shortcut for it to be recorded. Don’t worry, it’ll warn you if you’re trying to overwrite a pre-existing shortcut. You can save these to their own set of shortcuts, which I recommend if you’re overwriting any defaults. Or you can append them to the default set, which is what I’ve chosen to do.

The most used shortcuts for interface design live within the Application Menu (i.e. File, Edit, Layer, Select, Filter, etc); but you can also make shortcuts for anything inside the Panel Menu or Tools. So if you frequently find yourself mousing into any of these menus for tasks, they are ideal candidates for custom shortcuts. Here are some that we’re getting a lot of mileage out of currently:

Manage Layer Styles

Photoshop has a funny way of hanging onto layer styles you’ve previously used in that file, only to then afterwards apply them to new shape layers. Normally, you’d right click said layer and choose “Clear Layer Style”, or “Copy Layer Style” to apply it elsewhere. Try these for starters to never right click for layer styles again.

You can find these in the Shortcut Manager under Layer > Layer Style

Clear Layer Styles

Copy Layer Styles

Paste Layer Styles

Create Layer Styles

This one is a great tip in and of itself and is excellent for fine-tuning your styles in really detailed work. Such as applying multiple drop shadows or other layer styles to a single layer. Check out this tutorial from the fine folks at Method & Craft to get the full details.

Work Smarter

Smart Objects are great because they’re… ummm, smart! Get that icon, logo or anything else just right, then select those layers and create a smart object. Copy it and reuse it wherever it’s needed. When it’s time to change it, just change one smart object; it’ll reflect all of the changes made with the other copied smart objects. It’s about as close as you’ll ever get to having CSS into your PSD.

You can find these in the Shortcut Manager under Layer > Smart Objects

Create Smart Object

Convert for Smart Filters

This one is great for a non-destructive way to add filters to a layer or edit them later. Now you can get that Gaussian Blur just right for that Dribbble shot!

Line’em Up!

How often do you click on this in a given day? Well, try these shortcuts to keep things centered vertically, horizontally or both:

You can find these in the Shortcut Manager under Layer > Align

Vertical Centers

Horizontal Centers

Use both of these in succession to get your icons and graphics back in balance. Also, feel free to create shortcuts to top, left, right or bottom edges. While we’re at it, we should take care of flipping horizontally and vertically. Try these:

You can find these in the Shortcut Manager under Edit > Transform

Flip Vertically (along the y axis)

Flip Horizontally (along the x axis)

The Junk Drawer

These last few are a little obscure, but they’re important. The belong in the Photoshop Shortcut Swiss Army Knife for sure!

Convert Type to Point or Paragraph Style

You can find this in in the Shortcut Manager under Layer > Type

Ever type out or paste in text, and then realize that it would have worked better inside a bounding box that you could resize, or visa versa? This is just the trick to save you from hitting return to create a paragraph manually, only to have it look terrible when you resize the type.

Place File

You can find these in the Shortcut Manager under File > Place

Why this shortcut isn’t included in the default set has boggled my mind. This is ideal for dropping other visual assets into your file. If you’ve ever inserted multiple product images for an ecommerce page or team photos over and over, you’ll really appreciate this one.

Insert a new guide exactly where you need it

Sure, there are template PSD’s and actions to set up new files with your favorite default guides. However, this way offers the most freedom and takes seconds – especially now that we’re designing responsively. Rather than dragging out guides to what looks like your intended breakpoint, only to then zoom in to make sure it’s right, just use this stroke and type exactly what you want. You can use percentage values too!

Remember, there are tons of others you may find helpful and now you know how simple it is to whip up your own. Have any awesome custom shortcuts of your own? Or did this ideas inspire you to create some go-to shortcuts of your own? Share them below in the comments.


Comments
  • This really inspired me to create my own shortcuts. Very informational post thanks for sharing. Shared!

    • Thanks for sharing! We really love shortcuts here at dt…

  • Mith V

    Huge thanks for this article. Before I didn’t know I can set a shortcut for alignment!

    • You’re welcome Mith. Thankfully, you can set a shortcut in Ps for almost anything!

  • Nicolas

    Thanks for the article!

    Great for shortcut junkies like me…

    By the way, have you seen this tool that visualizes PS shortcuts for Mac?

    http://keycommands.info/adobe-photoshop-cs6-keyboard-shortcuts.php

    (the entire CS is there)

    Cheers!

    • Jason Amunwa

      Ah, nice find!

  • staus

    Ok this article also have broken links to images :/ I start to see a pattern here

    • jamie3d

      Fixed it! We’re doing some house-cleaning here and some stuff got misplaced.