The Ultimate Cheat Sheet of Photo Editing

photo editing cheat sheet

Photo editing using a graphic design software like Photoshop is a time consuming job. If you are a busy professional photographer sitting in your studio with a truck load of photos to be edited, you must be looking tensed. You got deadlines to be met. In this situation, you may want to look for a graphic design company to outsource your workload. That is okay as a busy photographer. But you should know the shortcut keys professional graphics designers use to make their work substantially faster. Whoever works on Photoshop knows some shortcuts. There are plenty of alternatives for the same or similar tasks in Photoshop. It is better that you know as much alternatives possible. Different method of work may be convenient and efficient for different situations. I am sure you know many of the shortcuts discussed here, still then you can go through this writing in case you may learn something useful. Let’s learn Some Photoshop shortcuts. I am writing the shortcuts for Windows based Photoshop. For Mac users just replace the Ctrl key with the Command key.


image editing

Zooming is the task required very often while doing the image manipulation work. There are a number of ways you can do the zooming.

  • Fit to Screen and 100% View

-To make the image fit to the image viewing area press Ctrl+0

  • To view the image in 100% view Ctrl+1

-Zooming Interactively


I prefer this method of zooming. Press Ctrl + Space-bar and drag the mouse right to zoom in or drag the mouse left to zoom out.

  • Alt + Scrolling Wheel of Mouse

-Press Alt while you scroll up the mouse to zoom in.

-Press Alt while you scroll down the mouse to zoom out.

  • Zooming In or Out in Steps

-Press Ctrl and + to zoom in one step. Press Ctrl and + to zoom in again in steps. Keep pressing Ctrl                    and + until you get your desired zoom.

Ctrl and – in the same fashion to zoom out.

Zooming is very important to work with ease in Photoshop. You may prefer 1/2 ways of zooming, but if you know the other techniques, this may be more efficient for some types of work.

Moving the Viewing Area of the Image

Press and hold the key H and move the rectangle created by clicking and dragging with the mouse, to bring the area to the image viewing area.

Moving a Layers

Ctrl + ] to move the current layer above the top layer. Ctrl + [ to move the current layer to the bottom of the lower layer.

Going to Other Layers

Press Alt + ] to go to the upper layer. Alt + [ to go to the lower layer.

Shortcut for Hide All Layer Mask

Press and hold Alt while clicking on the layer mask icon. This will give you a black mask, which will hide everything on that layer. You can paint with a white color to the areas needed to be revealed. It is the opposite way of working with the layer masks.

View a Layer Mask

To view only the mask and hide all the layers – Alt + Click on the layer mask thumbnail. To bring the normal view back, hold the Alt key and click on the mask thumbnail again. This is handy if you just want to have a look of your mask only.

Viewing only a single layer

Generally, we use a number of layers to work with Photoshop. Sometime we may want to look at a single layer to check what it looks like without the effects of other layers. Simply, click on the Eye icon of that layer just presses the ALT key while clicking. Alt + Click again to show the other layers.

Merge Visible Layers to a New Layer

This is different than the Merge Visible and the Flatten Image operation. Merge Visible option merges all the visible layers into one layer. All the previously visible layers are gone after this process. Similar to the Flatten Image option, all the layers are merged into a single layer.

But with “merging the visible layers to a new layer” option, all layers remain intact. Just a new layer with the result of merging the visible layers is created above the selected layer. The merged layers remains intact. The shortcut is to press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E.

Hidden tools

photo editing

When we hover our mouse over the Photoshop toolbar we see the shortcut keys for those tools. For example, the shortcut for Dodge Tool is “O”. There are other two options hidden within that tool category. Those are Burn Tool and Sponge Tool. Rather than selecting those tools by first long clicking on the icon and then clicking on the other icon from the fly out menu, you can hold the Shift key and press the “O” key to cycle through the options “Burn Tool”, “Sponge Tool”, and back to “Dodge Tool”. We can cycle through the hidden tools of other Tool Groups by pressing the shortcut key for that tool while pressing down the Shift key.

Changing Brush Size and Hardness

brash tools

Very often we need to change the brush size for the brush-based tools like the brush tool of course, dodge/burn/sponge tool, clone stamp/pattern stamp tool etc. Press] to increase the size, press [ to decrease the size. Use Shift + ] to increase the hardness and Shift + [ to decrease the hardness. Hardness will be changed in 25% increments.

A better option, which I like, is to hold the Alt and the right mouse button and drag right to increase the brush size. Alt + the left mouse button and drag left to decrease the size. Alt + right button and drag down to increase hardness. Alt + left button and drag up to decrease hardness. I like this method because it shows the change of size and hardness in a better way and colorfully. Also, this method shows the brush size and hardness information numerically.

Brush opacity

To set the opacity type a digit between 0 and 9. Typing 0 will set the opacity to 100%. 1 will set the opacity to 10%. 5 for 50% opacity. If you type two digits quickly 68, for example, it will set the brush opacity to exactly 68%.

Setting Layer Opacity

We can set the layer opacity applying the same manner described above for brush opacity. The condition is that the selected tool cannot be a brush based tool. If the selected tool is a brush based tool, it will change the opacity of the brush not the layer.

Shortcut for Blend Modes

To change the blend mode, use Shift + or Shift – to cycle through the blending mode. If the tool selected does not have the blending mode option, it will change the blending mode of the layer. If the selected tool has a blending mode option, this method will change the blending mode of that tool, not the layer’s blending mode.

Shortcut for Selection

Holding Shift while using the Quick Selection Tool will add the marked area to the selection. Reversely, holding Alt while making a selection, deducts the area from the other area that is already selected.

Step Forward/Backward

To undo the last operation, press Ctrl + Z. To go back further use Ctrl + Alt + Z, and keep pressing Ctrl + Alt + Z until you get to the previous state you want. But there is a limit for going backward. You can go up to the point Photoshop keeps record of your history. You can increase or decrease the setting of how much Photoshop will keep record of your editing. To go forward from a previous state press the key combination Ctrl + Shift + Z.

Resource: You can learn more about Photoshop shortcuts from here

So, how do you feel? A lot to remember? Yes, but with practice you can make these shortcuts your natural reflexes. Then you’ll realize again that you just got to learn to ride a bi-cycle once in a life. After that everything will become automatic. So do practice with patience for some days. I can guarantee that your speed of photo editing or image manipulation work will increase dramatically. One of the secret Mantra for the speed, efficiency, and quality outputs of expert professionals of graphic design firms, is to take advantage of the proper shortcuts in appropriate time. Oh… forgot to tell it’s not cheating, it’s just taking the fast track. Cheers…