Every Photoshop user probably has their personal favorite selection of keyboard shortcuts they consider essential, and I'm no different. I'm not going to say these are the best shortcuts to memorize, or the most important Photoshop shortcuts, but they are the keyboard shortcuts that I use the most, along with some that I don't use often, but always end up having to look up when I need them. All these keyboard shortcuts are the same for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. If your favorite keyboard shortcut isn't in this list, feel free to share it by following the link at the end of this list.
Mac users: Replace Cmd for the Ctrl key and Opt for the Alt key.
Pressing the space bar will temporarily switch you to the hand tool for panning your document no matter what tool is active (except the text tool in typing mode). Also, you can use the space bar to move selections and shapes as you are creating them. As start drawing a selection or shape, press the space bar while keeping the left mouse button held down, and reposition the selection or shape.
Space-Ctrl and click to zoom in.
Space-Alt and click to zoom out.
The caps lock key will change your cursor from crosshairs to brush shape and vice-versa. Switching to a crosshair cursor for precision work can be useful, but the main reason this shortcut is listed here is because it trips so many people up when they accidentally hit the caps lock key and then can't figure out how to get the cursor back to their preferred style.
The quickest way to zoom in and out is the hold the Alt key while rolling the scroll wheel on your mouse, but if you need to zoom in and out in precise increments the following shortcuts are worth memorizing.
Ctrl-+ (plus) to zoom in
Ctrl-- (minus) to zoom out
Ctrl-0 (zero) fits the document to your screen
Ctrl-1 zooms to 100% or 1:1 pixel magnification
You may know the Ctrl-Z shortcut which performs "undo" in most programs, but in Photoshop, that keyboard shortcut only goes back one step in your editing process. If you want to undo multiple steps, get in the habit of using Alt-Ctrl-Z instead so you can hit it repeatedly to go back many steps.
Alt-Ctrl-Z = Step Backward (undo previous action)
Shift-Ctrl-Z = Step Forward (redo previous action)
After you have made selection, at some point you are going to need to deselect it. You'll use this one a lot, so you may as well memorize it.
Ctrl-D = Deselect
The square bracket keys [ and ] are used to increase or decrease brush size. By adding the Shift key, you can adjust brush hardness.
[ = decrease brush size
Shift-[ = decrease brush hardness or soften brush edge
] = increase brush size
Shift-] = increase brush hardness
Filling areas with color is a common Photoshop action, so it helps to know the shortcuts for filling with the foreground and background colors.
Alt-backspace = fill with foreground color
Ctrl-backspace = fill with background color
Add the Shift key to preserve transparency while filling (this only fills the areas containing pixels).
Shift-backspace = opens the fill dialog box
Also useful when working with fills, here are the color picker shortcuts:
D = reset color picker to default colors (black foreground, white background)
X = swap foreground and background colors
When you want to create a selection from the filled pixels of a layer, press the Ctrl key while clicking on a layer thumbnail in the layers palette. Note that this takes into account the transparency of the layer's contents, so if you create a selection from a layer with partially transparent areas, that transparency will carry over to your selection.
When you're working in a dialog box and gotten off-track, there is no need to cancel the dialog and then reopen it to start over. Simply hold your Alt key down and in most dialog boxes, the "Cancel" button will change to a "Reset" button so you can get back to where you started.
Generally, selecting layers is easier to do using your mouse, but if you ever need to record an action
with layer selection changes, you will need to know the shortcuts for selecting layers. If you select layers with the mouse while recording an action, the layer name is recorded in the action, and therefore, the specific layer name may not be found when the action is played back on a different file. When you select layers using keyboard shortcuts while recording an action, then it is recorded in the action as a forward or backward selection instead of a fixed layer name. Here are the shortcuts for selecting layers with the keyboard:
Alt-[ = select the layer below the currently selected layer (select backward)
Alt-] = select the layer above the currently selected layer (select forward)
Alt-, (comma) = select the bottom-most layer (select back layer)
Alt-. (period) = select the top-most layer (select front layer)
Add Shift to these shortcuts to select multiple layers. Experiment to the get the hang of the Shift modifier.