Part 2 is out now! Learn to customize keyboard shortcuts in the second part of this blog.

Time is a valuable asset. Moving the mouse around the screen, finding tools and clicking on them seems like a matter of seconds. But if you do the same thing repeatedly, seconds can stack up to minutes, then hours of just moving the mouse around to perform simple actions. One of the major benefits of drawing on digital devices and applications over traditional methods is the availability of shortcut keys.

If you're an artist or a graphic designer using Adobe Photoshop daily for work, consider using shortcut keys to save time. Alongside saving time, it will also help boost work efficiency and make us more productive. The functionalities of these shortcut keys might take a while to learn. But in the long term, these can make the workflow smoother by optimizing one's time.

Shortcuts for Basic Tools

Before getting started, I hope you have some basic idea of Photoshop. However, I'll explain the tools simply so you can follow along effortlessly, even as a beginner.

If you learn these keys at the start of your Photoshop journey, you might be able to learn faster and have a pleasant workflow. Another good thing about learning these shortcut keys is that these keys are mostly similar in other drawing applications like Clip Studio Paint, Krita and MediBang Paint Pro.

1. B - Brush Tool

If you use Photoshop for painting, you will use the brush and eraser tools the most. By simply pressing the B key on your keyboard, you can switch your current tool to the Brush Tool.

2. E - Eraser Tool

Using the Eraser Tool, you can delete the mistaken paint created by the Brush Tool. Pressing the E key will switch to the Eraser Tool from the selected Brush Tool. Additionally, holding Shift while clicking and dragging the Brush/Eraser Tool will draw straight lines.

You can also do the same thing by clicking at one point with Brush Tool. Hold Shift and click somewhere else; it will be considered the ending point and create a straight line.  

3. [ / ] - Resize the Brush/Eraser Tool

Using the same-sized brush for the entire painting is not always required. When drawing digitally, you might need to switch and use a smaller brush for drawing details or a bigger brush for colouring large areas. While you have the Brush or Eraser Tool selected, you can press [ key to increase and ] key to decrease the size of the respective tools.

4. { /} - Change the hardness of the Brush/Eraser Tool

Similarly, holding Shift and pressing on [ or ] will increase or decrease the hardness of the brush or the eraser tool. High hardness will have clear and sharp edges, while low hardness will have blurry and softer edges.

5. X - Switch the foreground and background colour

Photoshop allows you to set two colours: foreground and background. Instead of going over to the colour panel to pick the colours repeatedly, you can select two colours and press X to switch between them.

6. Ctrl + Del / Alt + Del - Fill the entire document area with colour

You can press Alt + Del (Windows) or Option(⌥) + Delete (Mac) to fill the entire canvas with the selected foreground colour. Likewise, pressing Ctrl + Del (Windows) or Command(⌘) + Delete (Mac) will use the background colour to fill the document.

7. , / . - Toggle brushes

You can pick various brushes from the Brush panel by clicking on them with the mouse. Pressing the , key will switch your current brush to the next brush in the panel, and pressing . will switch to the previous one.

8. G - Paint Bucket/Gradient Tool

Use the Paint Bucket Tool to fill a certain closed area. You can right-click the Paint Bucket Tool in the toolbar to switch to Gradient Tool. When Gradient Tool is selected in the toolbar, pressing G will select the Gradient Tool.

9. Alt or Option(⌥) - Toggle the Eyedropper Tool

You can select any colour from any image by clicking on the colour area with the Eyedropper Tool. The shortcut key for this tool is I, but holding Alt (Windows) or Option(⌥) (Mac) will switch to this tool while you have the key pressed. When you let go of the key, your tool will immediately change back to the previously selected tool. This way, you will not have to keep switching between the tools while painting.

10. Alt/Option (⌥) + Mouse wheel - Zoom

In Windows, you can hold Alt and scroll your mouse wheel forward to zoom in and backwards to zoom out. In Mac, you might have to change the mouse settings to zoom with scroll and hold Option(⌥).

11. L - Lasso Tool

This tool is used to make selections by clicking and dragging the mouse. After you have made a selection, you can hold Shift while dragging with this tool to add selections and Alt (Windows) or Option(⌥) (Mac) to subtract them from the existing selection. My other article on Lasso Tool explains more about it. The selection can be deselected by pressing Ctrl + D on Windows and Command(⌘) + D on Mac.

12. Ctrl/Command(⌘) + Z - Undo

Undoing your mistakes in real life is hard, but while drawing in Photoshop, you can do it by pressing just two keys, Ctrl + Z (Windows) or Command(⌘) + Z (Mac).

13. Shift + Ctrl/Command(⌘) + Z  - Redo

If you undo an action with Ctrl + Z, you can redo that step by clicking Shift + Ctrl + Z on Windows and Shift + Command(⌘) + Z on Mac. If you have performed the undo action a certain number of times, you can redo them the same number of times.

If you quit Photoshop, you cannot undo the actions from before. However, you can change the number of times you can undo it by increasing the history state by going to Preference > Performance.

These are the basic shortcut keys which will help make your painting workflow in Photoshop faster and more efficient. These are only thirteen shortcuts; I will explain more in the next article. Stay tuned for part 2!

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