Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick Tips

“Photoshoppers" are very particular in the way they use the program. Many utilize a workflow that includes tricks, keyboard short cuts, etc. Some get used on a daily basis. Others are reserved for special tasks. Regardless of their reason, each is important to the user. I want to share some of the quick tips I use on a regular basis. I find them extremely valuable. Some may be common knowledge, but this may be an assumption on my part. If they're already part of your workflow, excellent. If not and you find them efficacious, this is a beneficial Tip of the Week.

#1 Resize All Brushes Quickly: Many tools in Photoshop are brush based—the clone stamp, healing brush, dodge tool, burn tool, saturation tool, brush tool and eraser are some. To resize the diameter of any brush-based tool, most users go to the top left portion of the OPTIONS bar. The OPTIONS bar runs across the top of the Photoshop workspace. On the left side of the Options Bar, there’s a pull-down arrow that brings up a dialog box that allows you to resize any brush.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

As the “Size” slider is moved, the brush gets bigger or smaller. The problem is there’s nothing in real time that shows the change in size. If you rely on it to do your resizing, you’ve experienced the same trial and error, time-consuming process of many Photoshop users: move the slider, check the size of the brush, move the slider, check the size of the brush, move the slider, check the size of the brush, etc.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

Rather than use the OPTIONS bar dialog box to resize brush-based tools, simply tap the left or right bracket keys next to the letter P on the keyboard. The left bracket key makes any brush smaller and the right bracket key makes it bigger. You watch the size of the brush change as either key is tapped, which allows you to precisely size it for the task.

#2 Brush Opacity: When any brush-based tool is used, the opacity often needs to be changed. There are three ways to accomplish this: a) Along the OPTIONS bar next to the word Opacity, there’s a pull-down arrow. Click on it to bring up a slider. Move it to the left to lower the opacity and to the right to increase it. b) Hover your mouse over the word Opacity and it turns into a “Scrubby Slider.” Click and hold the mouse and move it to the left to lower the opacity and to the right to increase it.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

c) The method I prefer is to simply hit a number on the keyboard to change the opacity in multiples of 10%. Tap the 1 key to change the opacity to 10%, the 3 key to 30%, the 8 key to 80% etc. It’s direct and efficient.

#3 Need A Clean Workspace? There are times you want to devote the full screen to just your image. You don’t want to be distracted by the tool palette, tabs, options bar or anything else. If this is the case, toggle the “tab” key.Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

Tap the tab key and all distractions temporarily disappear. Tap it again to have all your tools and menus reappear. If you become proficient with keyboard shortcuts, toggle the palettes off and use shortcuts to access tools.

#4 Eliminate Visual Distractions: If you want to simplify the background of your workspace, tap the “f” key three times to see three different options. If you’re in the default space and you tap the f key once, the background goes dark and the tools remain.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

Tap it again, and your image is set against a total black background with no tools. I use this to decide if I’m done optimizing a photo. Nothing draws my eye away from the image, which allows me focus on it 100%. Tap the F key again to return to the default space. If you have an old version of Photoshop, go to WINDOW along the top of the Photoshop workspace and uncheck Application Frame at the bottom of the pull-down menu.

#5 Scroll To Zoom: I often need to temporarily zoom in and out of a photo. For instance, when I use the clone stamp tool, I work at 100% but then pull back to see the effect on the entire ph  oto. I could jockey the mouse to the zoom tool or go to the options bar when I have the zoom tool active and toggle between “100%” and “Fit To Screen,” but there’s an easier way regardless of what tool you have active.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

In order to take advantage of this feature, your mouse has to have a scroll wheel. With any tool active, hold the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC and scroll the wheel up to increase the size of the photo or scroll the wheel down to decrease its size. My hand never has to leave the mouse nor does it have to move to the tool or options bar to change the magnification of the photo.

Five Must-Know Photoshop Quick TIps

If your mouse doesn’t scroll, if you double click the Magnifying Glass in the tool bar, the photo automatically goes to 100%. Double click the Hand tool in the tool bar and the image fills the screen.

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Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.


    Amy and Gene – thanks for your positive comments.

    Fred – not sure what you mean in that these are tips on how to navigate Photoshop, nothing to do with manipulation!

    g’day Russ,
    Do these tips only apply to apple computers using photoshop??
    I thank you anyway, they are very helpful.
    phillglan – Australia

    Hi Phil – I’m a devoted Mac user, but I believe these tips also apply to a PC in that they’re written into the Photoshop software. Give them a try to see if they work.

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