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Photoshop Tips


History Brush
If you plan to use the history brush, be sure to save and reopen the file if you crop the image or change its color mode. Otherwise, when you try to use the history brush, you'll get a message indicating that it can't be used because the current state does not match that of the history state (canvas size or color mode).

Cursor Display
Under preferences, Painting Tool cursors can be set as "Standard," to display the pointers as tool icons; "Brush Size" to display the cursors as brush shapes indicating the size of the currently selected brush; or Precise, to display the pointers as cross-hairs. If you've checked Standard or Brush Size, you can access "Precise" cross-hairs on the fly by simply pressing the Caps-Lock key. Release the Caps-Lock key to return to your previous display setting.

Magnification Tool—Zoom In/Zoom Out Shortcuts
To zoom in when using any tool, just press Cmd-Spacebar (PC: Ctrl-Spacebar) and click the mouse button to toggle to the magnification tool and zoom in. To zoom out, press Option-Spacebar (PC: Alt-Spacebar) and click the mouse button.

To quickly zoom in to an image, press Cmd + (the plus sign). To zoom out, press Cmd - (the minus sign). PC would be Ctrl + and Ctrl - respectively.

Crop Tool
Change your mind about cropping an image? Press the Escape (Esc) key to cancel it.

To hide rather than delete a cropped area from an image, use the crop tool to create a marquee, then choose Hide from the options bar. This won't work on a background layer, so be sure to convert your layer to a regular layer first.

Brush Tool
To increase or decrease the brush size while using a brush, press the left bracket [ to decrease or right bracket ] to increase.

To increase or decrease the softness of the brush tool, use shift-left bracket [ to decrease or shift-right bracket ] to increase.

Lasso Tool
If you make a selection with a Lasso tool and want to feather it, just press the Return key. Focus will be in the Feather box (in the Options Palette), and you can quickly enter a value.

To use all three Lasso tools during a single selection, first choose the Magnetic Lasso Tool. When you want to change to the Lasso Tool or Polygonal LassoTool, press the Option key (Mac) or Alt key (PC) then click to change to the Polygonal Lasso Tool and Drag to change to the Lassoo Tool. Release the mouse button to revert back to the Magnetic Lasso Tool.

To use the Lasso tool on the hidden portion of an image you've zoomed in on, just press the spacebar while still holding on to the Lasso tool. The hand tool will activate so you can scroll to whatever portion of the window you need to in order to continue with the Lasso tool.

Cycle Through Nested Tools
You can cycle through nested tools by pressing the quick key for the tool along with the shift key (refer to your user's manual). Example: for the lasso tool, press "L," then to cycle through its nested tools (Polygon Lasso and Magnetic Lasso), press Shift-L. If you'd prefer to just cycle through by pressing the letter only (no shift key), change your General Preferences setting by unchecking "Use Shift Key for Tool Switch."

Hidden Tools
Tools in the toolbox displaying a small triangle at the bottom right corner indicate the presence of additional hidden tools. To quickly access the hidden tools, you can hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) and click on the tool in the toolbox; each click selects the next hidden tool in the hidden tool sequence.

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Toggling Palettes
Do your palettes sometimes get in the way of your work? Press the Tab key to make your palettes disappear (press Tab again to make them visible again). Press Shift-Tab to hide all but the tool palette (Shift-Tab will bring them back).

To change the Cancel button to a Reset button in dialog boxes, hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key.


Incremental Movements
While the move tool is selected, you can press the up/down/left/right arrow keys on your keyboard to move a selection in increments of 1 pixel. To move in increments of 10 pixels, hold the Shift Key while pressing the arrow keys.

Image/Canvas Size Shortcut
Instead of navigating with the mouse to Image from the menu bar, then Image Size or Canvas Size to modify those settings, use this shortcut: Windows users, just right-click on the title bar and choose Image Size or Canvas Size from the contextual menu; Mac users, Ctrl-click on the menu bar.


To hide all layers except for the one you're working on, hold down the Alt (Windows)/ Opt (Mac) key and click the eye icon in the column to the left of the layer you want to remain visible.

In Photoshop 6.0, you can check Auto Select Layer to automatically select the layer of the item you click on. But sometimes that might be inconvenient. An alternative method is to leave Auto Select Layer unchecked and just press the Command key (Windows: Control) while clicking on an object to make that object's layer active.

Shortcut to move selected layers up or down in the layers palette: Ctrl-] (Mac: Cmd-]) moves it up, Ctrl-[ (Mac: Cmd-[) moves the selected layer down.

To copy the pixels of a selection on all visible layers instead of just the active layer, press Ctrl-Shift-C (Mac: Cmd-Shift-C). If you just press Cmd-C or Ctrl-C, only the pixels on the active layer are selected.

To create a composite layer and still retain all your working layers, create a new layer on top, then press the Option key (PC: Alt key) while selecting Merge Visible on the layers palette flyout menu.

To preserve the transparency of a layer, use this shortcut: Alt-Shift-Backspace (PC) or Option-Shift-Delete (Mac).

Did you know you can drag and drop a layer style from the Styles Palette directly to an object on a layer to apply the effect?

It's a good idea to get in the habit of naming layers appropriately. It may be a time saver if you ever have to go back into the file, and if someone follows behind you, they'll be very grateful. Don't forget that layer sets are very useful as well in organizing your layers.

To move two or more layers to another document, link the layers and move them with the Move tool from within the image area of the source document, not the layers palette.

Since by default the background image is locked, you can't move it. To make it editable, just double click on the background layer in the layers palette, then close the dialog box that pops up.

It's easy to move a layer mask from one layer to another. Just click the layer mask on the current layer and drag it to the new layer.

If you hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key when you click the New Layer icon, it opens an options menu that lets you name the new layer, plus — if you want — create a clipping mask, blend mode, and opacity.


Oftentimes, it's handy to stroke a path... for example, to easily clone out a power line marring a blue sky. Just create a path, then under the path palette options, choose stroke path and select the tool you wish to use (paintbrush, rubber stamp, etc.).


To quickly kern between characters, such as WA, place your text cursor between the characters and press Option(PC: Alt) + right arrow key to add space, or Option(PC: Alt) + left arrow to decrease space.

Before rasterizing a type layer, make a duplicate of it in case you need to edit the type in the future. It's easier than trying to guess sizes and typefaces weeks, months, or even days later. Or an alternative, especially when trying to keep file sizes as small as possible, is to include that information when you rename the layer.

Ever wonder how to add a copyright symbol? Select the type tool, then PC users can press and hold the Alt key while typing 0169 on the number keypad. Mac users press Option-G.

To switch to the type tool and simultaneously select all the text in the corresponding layer while in the layers palette, double-click the "T" thumbnail.

To quickly create transparent type: 1) Make type 50% gray; 2) In Layers Palette, set the blending mode to Hard Light; 3) then Choose Bevel and Emboss from Layer Styles. Transparent type is a popular method of watermarking.

To increase the text size of selected characters in 2-point increments, press Ctrl-Shift-> (Windows)/ Cmd-Shift-> (Mac); to decrease in 2-point increments, Ctrl-Shift-< (Windows)/ Cmd-Shift-< (Mac).

Did you know you can hang punctuation (quotes, apostrophes, commas, en dashes, etc.)? Just select the type layer or all the paragraphs to be affected, then choose Roman Hanging Punctuation from the Paragraph panel menu.

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Need to undo more than the last step you did? Multiple undos are possible with Cmd-Opt-Z (Ctrl-Alt-Z).

To fill a layer or selection with the background color, press Cmd-Delete (Control-Backspace on a PC). To fill a layer or selection with the foreground color, press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace).

To repeat a filter you've just done, press Cmd-F (Mac) or Ctr-F (Windows).

Are your ruler increments in pixels, but you want inches for your current project? Simply double-click on the ruler to bring up the preferences dialog box, and choose the increments you want (inches, pixels, etc.) Or, you can also right-click on the ruler (PC) or Control-Click (Mac) and a box will pop up to allow you to select a new unit of measurement.

Press the Option key (PC: Alt) when clicking the New Adjustment Layer or New Fill icon to bring up the Adjustment Layers blending modes.

If you're in a dialog box and change your mind about the changes you made, don't click cancel. Instead, revert to the original state by pressing the Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) key. The "Cancel" button will become a "Reset" button so that you can start over without exiting the dialog box first.

To load a path as a selection, Ctrl-Click (Mac: Cmd-Click) on the path's name in the Paths Palette; using the same commands, you can load a channel as a selection while in the Channel Palette.

Dialog box shortcut: To respond to a "Yes" / "No" choice in a dialog box, you can simply type the letter "Y" or "N" on your keyboard.

If you have a large area to erase, draw a marquee around it and then delete it rather than using the Eraser tool.

Clicking a color with the eyedropper makes it the foreground color; to make it the background color instead, just Opt-Click (Mac) or Alt-Click (PC).

The shortcut to re-apply a filter you last used is Cmd-F (Mac)/Ctrl-F (Windows). To re-apply the filter with a different setting, use Cmd-Opt-F / Ctrl-Alt-F.

To print (or reprint) an image without opening the print dialog screen, use the following quick key combination: Shift-Ctrl-Alt-P (PC)/ Shift-Cmd-Opt-P (Mac). The image will print with the last settings you used.

For maximum efficiency, use shortcut keys to select tools in the Tools panel. For example, press the letter "s" for the stamp tool. To toggle through each tool in that group, press shift and the "s" key.


When you want to apply special effects, are some of the filters grayed out? Check what mode you're in...some filters will not work with CMYK images; change your mode to RGB in order to apply the effects.

Lessen the effects of filters you've applied by using the Fade command under the Edit menu, or use the shortcut Shift-Control-F (PC) or Shift-Command-F (Mac).

Cloning Tips

When cloning, clone on an empty layer so that your original image remains undamaged. Just be sure to select "Use All Layers" in the Options Bar.

Consider using a selection to isolate areas of an image that you want to clone. For example, if you're cloning an imperfection in a wall, but the window is fine, make a selection around the area of the wall so that you don't have to worry about inadvertently cloning into the window. Cloning will be contained within your selection.

Preferences / Defaults

To quickly bring up the General Preferences options (display, file saving, cursor, etc.), press Cmd-K (Ctrl-K in PC).

Is Photoshop suddenly behaving unexpectedly? Your preference files may be damaged. Refer to your User Guide for instructions on how to replace them (or see the following tip for Photoshop CS).

Photoshop CS: To easily reset preferences to their "factory" defaults, simply hold down Ctrl-Alt-Shift (PC) or Cmd-Opt-Shift (Mac) as you launch Photoshop. When you get the prompt asking if you want to delete your preferences, just click OK.

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If you haven't done so, be sure to check the "More Goodies" folder on the application disk. You'll find extra gradients and more to enhance your Photoshop experience. (If you have Illustrator, be sure to do the same in order to access extra brushes, etc.)

Get in the habit of taking snapshots before applying filters or creating effects. If you decide you don't like the effect or filter, it's easier to return to the previous state, especially if you've performed so many steps that states in the History palette have scrolled off and become inaccessible.

When sharpening an image, be sure your image is set to 100% view.

Use New View (View > New View) to display different views of the same image. For example, you can enlarge one view as you work on it, but see the results at 100% in another view at the same time.

If you copy an image to the clipboard then create a new document, the new document will have the same specs—size, resolution, and color mode—as the image saved to the clipboard.

When making tonal corrections to an image, save a copy or use adjustment layers so that you can revert back to the original image if necessary.

To center an image when moving it from one document to another, hold the shift key while you drag it to the new document window.

Use Photoshop's File Info (under the File Menu) to record important details about your images, such as date of creation, settings, etc. Although my Nikon digital camera creates a record of when the photo was taken, that information is altered to reflect the date of transfer when the images are moved to a CD. Adding the date under File Info ensures that the correct date of creation will remain with the Photoshop image.

During my relatively recent move, I was interrupted for a prolonged period of time on an old photo I was restoring. This weekend when I finally got back to it, I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the file to find that I had left a note to myself indicating where I had left off and what I had planned to do next. It was one of the rare instances I used Photoshop's Notes Tool (shortcut: N) and was glad I did. Whether you're working alone or sharing files among co-workers, don't overlook the power and practicality of the Notes Tool.

It's easy to make dashed or dotted lines in Photoshop. Just increase the spacing of your brush or pencil tool until you get the desired effect. And if you're drawing a straight dashed or dotted line, just hold the shift key while you drag your mouse.

If you make a selection but want to modify or tweak it a bit before making it permanent, go under the Select menu and choose Transform Selection.

Quick trick to find the center of an object: drag a crop marquee snugly around the object. Then drag horizontal and vertical rulers out to the center of the marquee, and hit the Esc key to get rid of the crop marquee. The rulers will cross at the center point of the object.

For more precision when working in the Curves dialog box, change the graph so it's divided into 10 sections rather than the default of 4. Just press the Alt (Mac: Opt) key and click anywhere inside the graph. Just repeat the process to return to 4 sections.

When my hard drive failed one year, I was very happy that I had backed up my custom Actions onto a separate disk. If you have custom actions and haven't backed them up, it's something you might want to consider doing.

To change the direction of a guide as you drag it out (i.e., from horizontal to vertical and vice versa, hold the Alt key as you drag (Mac: Option key).

If you experience performance problems related to memory, especially if you work on large images, try lowering the number of History states that Photoshop remembers to less than 20 (the default). You can lower that number in the General Preferences (Cmd-K Mac, Ctrl-K Windows).

Need arrowheads? Just select the line tool, then in the shapes options bar click on the triangle (located to the right of the shape buttons) to access the arrowheads pop-up dialog box.

Document states and snapshots in the history palette are lost when a document is closed. To save a state or snapshot as a new document, select the state in the history palette and click the far-left icon on the bottom of the palette (it creates a new document from the current state). Alternatively, you can drag the state onto the icon.

Photoshop CS: To match the zoom and location between images, choose Window > Arrange > Tile, then Window > Arrange > Match Zoom and Location. Select the Zoom or Hand tool, hold the Shift key and click in an area of one of the images. The other image(s) magnify to the same percentage and snap to the corresponding area you clicked.

One shortcut for changing the unit of measurement on your ruler is to right-click (PC) or Control-Click (Mac) on the ruler. A pop-up will appear, which will allow you to change the current unit of measurement to another one.

To make a new document identical in size, resolution, and mode as an open document, press Ctrl-N (PC) or Cmd-N (Mac) to open a new document dialog box. In the Preset dropdown, select the name of your open document. A new document will be created with the same settings as those in the file name you chose.

Cycle Through Open Documents
There's a quick, easy way to cycle through all of your currently open Photoshop documents. Just type Cmd-Tab (Mac) or Ctrl-Tab (PC).

Good Work Habits: Back Ups

If you've rearranged your workspace and like how it's set up, you can save it by going to Window -> Workspace -> Save Workspace and giving it a custom name. You can switch between the default workspace and any custom workspaces you've saved.

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