7 Tips & Tricks to Increase Adobe Photoshop Workflow

April 30, 2018     Digital Tools

Image of photoshop application being selected

Photoshop is a powerful program with an endless number of ways to design what you need. Although the program itself is user-friendly and the basics are fairly intuitive, there are a lot of neat tricks and tips that will help your overall workflow. Before we begin, make sure the layer you are adjusting does not have the lock on it, otherwise many of these tools won’t work correctly.

Unlock a layer before you modify it.

1. Hot Keys are Essential

You would not believe the amount of time saved by not having to drag your cursor to the tools panel. Instead of repeatedly trying to locate the type text, path selection or magic wand tools, there are hot keys for every single one that you could use instead. It also helps you when you need to copy, paste, cut or save. Here’s a list of just some of the most commonly used hot keys (if you are using a mac, replace Ctrl (control) with  (command):

  • Copy: Ctrl + C

  • Paste: Ctrl + V

  • Cut: Ctrl + X

  • Deselect: Ctrl + D

  • Undo/Redo: Ctrl + Z

  • Undo multiple times: Ctrl + Alt + Z

  • Create new project: Ctrl + N

  • Save: Ctrl + S

  • Move tool: V

  • Brush tool: B

  • Crop tool: C

  • Path Selection Tool: A

  • Eraser Tool: E

  • Paint Bucket: G

  • Type Tool: T

If there is a tool or command you use frequently that doesn’t have a shortcut, you can create one by going to Edit—Keyboard Shortcuts. You can also find or change shortcuts.

Hot Keys preferences

2. Cut Out Any Object

There are a lot of ways that you can cut an object out of its background, but my personal favorite is with the pen tool. It can be time consuming if there are a lot of curves, but it’s well worth it if you want a clean cut out. To do this, go to the pen tool (P) and start creating an outline of the object you want to cut out. Once you have a solid outline around it and you connect the first and last pen points to cut off your line, left-click on ‘Selection’ in the top left bar of your work space. This will bring up a new window where you can adjust the feather radius. For a clean cut, make sure that’s at 0. Once you hit ‘OK,’ your selection should have moving dashes around it, informing you that you can now interact with that selection. You can now copy, cut or delete that selection. You can also invert the selection by pressing Ctrl + Shift + I. This will select the rest of the image and deselect your original selection.

Where to find the pen tool on the tool sidebar Cut Out in Photoshop

Use the pen tool to put a solid border around what you want to cut out

Screenshot of where the selection tool is located

Click on the Selection button to turn your outline into a selection

Selecting Feather Radius in Photoshop

Set your Feather Radius to 0

Skyline photo used for selection tool process

Moving dashed lines show that the selection is now ready to be interacted with

The selected portion is now deleted

Delete the selection

The inverted selection

Invert the selection to delete the rest of the image

3. Magic Wand Tool

Let’s say you need to cut out a logo from a solid background. Instead of going through all the effort to manually cut them out using the pen tool, you can use the magic wand tool (W) to do it for you. This tool is found with the Quick Selection Tool, so if the hotkey isn’t bringing it up, you will need to go switch it manually from the Quick Selection Tool. This tool is great when it comes to cutting things out with solid backgrounds. It will select everything that matches the color you click on, so if you are cutting out a logo from a solid background, it will cut it out within seconds. Again, if you want to invert your selection, press Ctrl + Shift + I. This tool is only useful when there are solid colors though, if the image contains a variety of shades of one color, it won’t work nearly as well.

Location of Magic Wand Highlight selection in Photoshop

Click to highlight the area you want to delete

Removing highlighted section in Photoshop

Highlighted section is now deleted

4. Clone Stamp Tool

This frequently comes in handy for us when we are working with client projects. The clone stamp tool (S) essentially allows you to duplicate any part of an image. You pick an area on the image that becomes the sampling point and will be used as a reference to create a new cloned area. We use it a lot when editing product photos. Oftentimes you want to duplicate a specific piece of the image into another spot. The clone stamp tool is perfect for this. To use this tool, find the area that you want to duplicate and hold Alt + Left-click to copy that selection. Use the left and right brackets on your keyboard ([ or ]) to grow or shrink your brush size (this works anytime you are using a brush). Once it’s selected, you can essentially paint in your selection. Left-click and draw where you want the cloned image to appear. As you draw, a cross will appear on the original image while a corresponding circle appears where you are drawing.

Clone tool usage

Choose your starting point

Clone Tool in Photoshop

Paint the rest of the image you want to duplicate

5. Taking Advantage of Adjustment Layers

Oftentimes when you are editing an image, you are messing with the colors, highlights, and hues of the image. If you alter these and decide you don’t like the alterations, you may end up losing the original image. One way you can avoid this is by creating an adjustment layer. To do this, click on the adjustment/fill button at the bottom of your layers panel. This creates a layer on top of the original image that allows you to alter the image as much as you’d like, but also keeps the original layer from being touched. It’s a great habit to make so you don’t mess up your project.

Adjustment Layer placement in Photoshop

Adjustment Layer Button.

Adjustment Layer creation in Photoshop

Create the adjustment layer (like levels)

Adjustment layer in Photoshop

When you change these levels, it only effects the adjustment layer

6. Birds Eye View

When you’re working with a lot of detail on a photo, you may be zoomed in to a particular spot. That is great for working on detail, but it prevents you from seeing the project as a whole. A quick way to jump back and forth between these views is by holding down the ‘H’ key and left-clicking. This will bring up a full view of your project. This shortcut also brings up the option to quickly zoom in on another point in the project. When holding the ‘H’ key and left-clicking, you can move your cursor to the place where you want to zoom into. The area you’ll be zooming into will have a box around it.

Zooming in on Photoshop

Birds eye view not in use

Birds Eye view in Photoshop

Birds eye view in effect

7. View One Layer at A Time

Some projects become pretty complex with a number of layers being created to get the effects that you need. Sometimes when this happens, you need to just focus on one layer alone. Instead of going through and manually hiding all the other layers, there’s an easy shortcut that will do it for you. Simply hold down Alt + Left-click on the eye icon on the layer you want to see. This will automatically turn off the other layers. When you’re ready to view them all together again, just hold Alt + Left-click on that same eye icon again and they will reappear.

Layers visible in Photoshop

All layers are showing

Layers hidden in Photoshop

Click the eye icon and press 'Alt' to hide all other layers

Hide and Show Layers in Photoshop

Re-click and press 'Alt' to show all layers again

With such a powerful application, there’s no limit to the amazing things you can create. Just don’t waste your time with old habits when quicker techniques exist. Now get out there and start creating something amazing!

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