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Photoshop Shortcut Keys

July 21, 2003

Working on a PC, I have never found a satisfactory way of building my own macros. (Mac OS has offered AppleScript for years, of course.) Some software allows me to define my own shortcut keys, others don’t. Photoshop allows for simple automation in the form of ‘Actions’, and I’ve put them to some use which I figured I’d share.

Built–in keyboard shortcuts are great, but not all functions have them straight out of the box. I’ve remapped the function keys to give me an extra set of keyboard shortcuts. Some effects I use every day, others I never touch. I want the frequent ones at my fingertips, so hijacking the basic function keys (which show and hide specific palettes by default, not nearly as important to me) was the way to go. Your milage may vary, but here’s my list which I’ve been using for well over two years now (F7 and F9 are strangely vacant):

F2 — Crop

I use Marquees for near everything. When I want to crop an image, I’m far more inclined to select an area with a marquee and then Image->Crop, rather than use Photoshop’s built–in Crop tool. This is one of the quirks about my workflow, but I find it particularly handy when working with smaller GIFs and bits of images that need tiny little adjustments.

F3 — Image Size

Mainly for scaling down images. Judicious use of both this tool, cropping, and canvas re–sizing are completely must–have tools. Literally every single image I work on requires use of at least one of the three, but frequently a combination of them.

F4 — Canvas Size

To add extra space around the image, or to crop, canvas re–sizing is one of the holy trinity of image sizing mentioned above.

F5 — Gaussian Blur

Blur is often over–used, but I do find it completely necessary in many instances. Whether I’m fudging detail in a low–res image, building texture by blurring layers and blending them, or even building a drop shadow by hand — blur control makes my life easier.

F6 — Unsharp Mask

The opposite of blur in many regards, Unsharp Mask is mainly useful when scaling images. A reduction in size blurs an image after a certain level, and Unsharp Mask is the best way to reduce the blur and emphasize detail. The easiest tool to use completely wrong, there are plenty of tips on using sharpening properly. I find the easiest setting for web purposes is leaving my radius at 0.2 and adjusting the amount as necessary, while ignoring the levels.

F8 — Stroke

Not the most necessary tool at my disposal, but I frequently find it valuable when working with small graphics specifically for the web. I use it much the same as I do my cropping — first I’ll build the selection with the marquee, then I’ll add a stroke. With Photoshop 6+ and its built–in shape tools, I often times find myself selecting a shape layer, then stroking a simple border on a new layer.

F10 — Convert to RGB

A quick way to convert a recently–opened GIF to something I can work with, as well as a less-frequently–used way of converting CMYK stock photos to the colour model the web knows and loves. When I’m making small changes to GIF files I find I don’t always need to do this — but any changes requiring out–of–palette colour need a cleansing first.

(Anyone still remembering this still–empty promise need not fear: I haven’t forgotten. I’ve just had a better project to work on in the meantime. One day it will come, however.)

Reader Comments

Ethan says:
July 21, 04h

Awesome write-up; it’s always cool to get a glimpse of someone else’s Photoshop habits.

I typically group like-minded functions to one function key, using shift/ctrl+Fx to create families of functions. So F2 is New Layer, but shift+F2 is Duplicate Layer, and ctrl+F2 is Delete Layer—just the way I think, I suppose…

Dave S. says:
July 21, 04h

Makes sense to me. I’m surprised I’ve never though of shortcutting layer functions - although I guess I’ve got my mouse in the palette anyway to select the active layer, so may as well just move it an extra half inch to use the buttons. I almost never want to delete the current layer or create a new layer above it - I’m so non-linear like that.

I’ve been using my shortcuts so long I keep forgetting they’re not built in to Photoshop.

Ethan says:
July 21, 04h

I’m surprised I’ve never though of shortcutting layer functions - although I guess I’ve got my mouse in the palette anyway to select the active layer, so may as well just move it an extra half inch to use the buttons.

Heh, cool. I typically stretch the hell out of my layer palette, so I’m basically too damn lazy to move my mouse.

Shortcutting layer mask functions (Reveal Selection/Hide Selection/Delete Layer Mask)—also a beautiful thing.