Look, it’s hard to find time to practice hand lettering, right? We talked about that yesterday. Sure, it comes down to sacrifices and saying no, but you’re probably wasting a lot of time you’re not even aware of!

I’m going to come out of left field and share some custom Photoshop shortcuts with you today. I know what you’re thinking—wait a minute, Sean… this isn’t lettering! I know. Please don’t get angry. This is really going to help you save time and streamline your process when it comes to digitizing your lettering which is something we’re going to talk more about in the future.

Not to mention, these tips will help you out in just about any field where you might use Photoshop (everything from user interface design to photography). The idea here is not necessarily that you use the same shortcuts I do (unless of course it helps), but more so that it gets you thinking about ways you can speed up your workflow!

In most cases, you’re probably not even thinking about this stuff. You found a way that works so why bother, right? Well, I’m here to disrupt that—and for good reason! I care about your time and you should too. Let’s save some of it!

Sean’s Custom Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts

Alright, here are some my most frequently used custom keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop. I make it a point to do absolutely as much as possible from the keyboard.

The idea is to minimize the time wasted by switching back and forth between the keyboard and the post. With just about every action I perform regularly being mapped to a shortcut, I can positively fly through the application and create graphics in record time. I mean, it looks like I’m playing the piano or something.

Please note: Almost all of these are custom shortcuts. You can’t just go in your Photoshop application and start trying these. You have to set them up first.

That’s why I’ve included in italics exactly where you need to go to set them.

Do yourself a favor: you’re going to want to set the first shortcut for the Keyboard Shortcuts Menu itself (meta, I know). You’ll be using it a lot—or at least you should!

Below, I’m using ⌘ and ⌥ symbols to represent Command and Option on a Mac. You can substitute these for Control and Alt on PC respectively. Of course, these are just my own personal shortcuts. You can set them to whatever you like!

  • Keyboard Shortcuts: ⌘ + ⌥ + ⇧ + K
    • Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts…
    • Because of course you need a keyboard shortcut to get to the Keyboard Shortcuts panel.
  • Image Size: ⌘ + ⌥ + I
    • Image > Image Size
    • For resizing your image.
  • Crop: ⌘ + ⇧ + R
    • Image > Crop
    • This resizes your image to the current selection (you do use M to quickly grab your Marquee tool, right?).
  • Canvas Size: ⌃ + ⌘ + ⇧ + C
    • Image > Canvas Size…
    • Resize your canvas.
  • New Layer: ⌘ + N
    • Layer > Layer…
    • For the love of all things good, please set this. Ask yourself, which do you do more often: Create a new layer or create a new document? My guess is it’s creating layers. Don’t make yourself work so hard.
    • New Document: ⌘ + ⇧ + N
      • File > New…
  • Create New Group: ⌘ + ⌥ + G
    • Layer > New > Group…
    • Sure, you can group selected layers with ⌘ + G but can you create a new empty group from scratch?
    • Ungroup Selected Layers: ⌘ + ⇧ + G
      • Layer > Ungroup Layers
  • Super-Secret Background Unlock Hack: ⌘ + ⌥ + ⇧ + G
    • Layer > Background
    • You know how when you open a document and the background layer is locked and you can’t do anything? Stop clicking it to unlock and instead hit this key combo + Enter and your background layer is unlocked!
  • Duplicate Layer (Group) ⌘ + ⇧ + J
    • Layer > Duplicate Layer (Group)
    • You probably know you can duplicate the selected layer(s) with ⌘ + D, but this sets it up so you can duplicate Groups just the same!
  • Rename Layer: F2
    • Layer > Rename Layer…
    • One-key layer rename. Super handy.
  • Copy Layer Style: ⌘ + ⇧ + W
    • Layer > Copy Layer Style
    • Use this in conjunction with the next shortcut to quickly transfer styles from one layer to another. Stop using your mouse! Every time you use your mouse, I shed a tear.
  • Paste Layer Style: ⌘ + ⇧ + E
    • Layer > Paste Layer Style
    • Same deal here—I just use E because it’s right next to W.
  • Clear Layer Style: ⌘ + ⌥ + ⇧ + W
    • Layer > Clear Layer Style
    • Just the same, if you no longer want the style, clear it. Same shortcut as Copy, with a ⌥ thrown in there.
  • Levels Adjustment Layer: ⌘ + ⇧ + L
    • Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels…
  • Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer: ⌘ + ⇧ + H
    • Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation…
    • I have more Adjustment Layer shortcuts, but you get the picture.
  • New Blank Layer Mask: ⌘ + ⇧ + B
    • Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All
    • This is my favorite one. Instantly get a blank mask for the currently selected layer. Draw texture on this mask to only affect your layer (perfect for giving your letters a distressed look).
  • Reveal Selection Layer Mask: ⌘ + ⌥ + S
    • Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection
    • Another favorite. Use the marquee tool to grab a selection first then use this shortcut to create a layer mask that reveals only what you currently have selected.
  • Hide Layers: ⌘ + ⌥ + H
    • Layer > Hide Layers
    • I forgot that life existed before this one. There’s never been a quicker way to toggle visibility of your current layer. Want to see what your composition looks like without the current layer? Boom. Done. On, off, on, off.
  • Moving Your Current Layer Selection:
    • Select Next Layer Above: ⌥ + ]
      • Built In
    • Select Next Layer Below: ⌥ + [
      • Built In
    • Please tell me you won’t ever click another layer to select it again. Please. Don’t make me cry.
  • Arranging Layers:
    • Bring Forward: ⌘ + ]
      • Layer > Arrange > Bring Forward
    • Send Backward: ⌘ + [
      • Layer > Arrange > Send Backwards
  • Get Selection for Current Layer: ⌘ + L
    • Select > Load Selection…
    • You will thank me forever for this one. You know how you can ⌘ + Click on a layer’s thumbnail to get a selection of the bounds of that layer? Well, no more hassle! Trigger this shortcut + Enter and you have your selection. Easy.

Stop. Going. To. The. Mouse.

Here’s my rule of thumb:

If you do it more than once, automate it.

What’s the Takeaway?

Your software should be working for you! The less time you spend editing, the more time you get to spend creating.

Your time is important. Shortcuts may not seem like a big deal, but all of those seconds add up into minutes. Minutes become hours and you’re wasting away those precious hours!

Maybe you were eating this up and had a bunch of “aha!” moments when going through my list above. You’re excited this is going to save you some significant time in the long run.

Or maybe you don’t even use Photoshop. You might be wondering, “What’s the point? Is this for me?” That’s ok! What I hope you take away from this post is more than just some shortcut suggestions for one specific (albeit popular) piece of software.

I want you to think in terms of optimizing your workflow.

  • When was the last time you took an objective look at your process?
  • What are some things you’re doing more than once?
  • What repetitious actions could you create shortcuts for?

You’re not just saving one minute. You’re saving one minute hundreds of times! That’s a big deal. That time is time you can spend doing something you love.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe below! It’s a part of a 30-day series on hand lettering leading up to the launch of the new Learn Lettering 2.0.