Are your photo editing skills a little on the slow side? Could your Photoshop knowledge be better? If so, you’re in the right place. Below we’ve culled from experts 101 of the best Photoshop tips and tricks you need to streamline your photo editing skills and start working faster and smarter.
We’ve broken our list down into categories of Quick tips, Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge tips, Tips for using Layers, Tips for using Photoshop’s many tools and, finally, Tips for using Brushes. We hope our round-up of cunning techniques, shortcuts and cool effects gives you the help you need, and if you have a suggestion for something we missed… let us know!
Quick Photoshop Tips
01 Combine images with text
There’s a really easy way to overlay an image on top of text. Drop an image layer over a type layer then hold down Alt and click the line between the two layers in the Layers Panel to clip the image to the text.
02 Rotating patterns
You can make amazing kaleidoscopic patterns with the help of a keyboard shortcut. Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+T lets you duplicate a layer and repeat a transformation in one go. To demonstrate, we’ve made a narrow glowing shape by squeezing a lens flare effect, but you can use any shape, image or effect you like. First, make an initial rotation by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+T and turning slightly, then hit Enter to apply. Next, press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+T repeatedly to create a pattern (download our 50 free photo frames and borders for Photoshop and see which ones work best with your creations).
03 Bird’s Eye View
When zoomed in close, hold down H and drag in the image to instantly dart out to full screen then jump back to another area.
04 Quick full
You can Alt-click on the Layer Mask icon to add a full mask that hides everything on the layer.
05 Easier marquee selections
Hold down Alt to start a selection at the centre point with any Marquee tool, and then hold Space to temporarily move the selection around.
06 Funky backgrounds
Want to change the default grey background to something more funky? Shift–click over the background area with the Paint Bucket tool to fill it with your foreground colour. Right-click it to go back to grey.
07 1000 History states
Go to Edit>Preferences>Performance to change the number of History states up to a maximum of 1000. Beware though of the effect that this has on performance.
08 Colour code layers
Use colour coding to organise your Layers Panel. Right-click over a layer’s eye icon to quickly access 8 colour code choices.
09 Close all images
To close all of your documents at the same time, Shift-click any image window’s close icon.
10 Spring-loaded Move
While using any tool, hold Cmd/Ctrl to temporarily switch to the Move tool. Release to go back to your original tool. Note that spring-loaded keyboard shortcuts work for other tool shortcuts, too.
11 Interactive Zoom
For interactive zooming, hold Cmd/Ctrl+Space then drag right to zoom in, or left to zoom out. The zoom targets where your mouse icon is, so it’s one of the quickest ways to navigate around an image.
12 Lightning fast
Hold down Cmd+Alt and drag any layer to instantly make a copy.
13 Diffuse effects
The Diffuse Glow filter can give highlights a soft ethereal feel, especially when you combine the effect with desaturation. Hit D to reset colours then go to Filter>Distort>Diffuse Glow. Keep the effect fairly subtle, then go to Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation and drop the saturation down to complete the dreamlike effect.
14 Undo, Undo, Undo
You probably know that Cmd/Ctrl+Z is Undo, but you may not know Cmd/Ctrl+Alt+Z lets you undo more than one history state.
15 Cycle Blend Modes
Shift + or – will cycle through different layer Blend Modes, so long as you don’t have a tool that uses Blend Mode options settings.
Tips 16-25: Essential Photoshop shortcuts
16 Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E will merge a copy of all Layers
17 F Cycle through workspace backgrounds
18 X Change your foreground and background colours
19 D Reset foreground and background colours to black and white
20 ] and [ Change your brush tip size
21 Cmd/Ctrl+J Duplicate a layer or selection
22 Space Bar Hold Space and drag to navigate around the image
23 TAB Hides or shows all panels and tools
24 Cmd/Ctrl+T Transform a layer
25 Cmd/Ctrl+E Merge selected layer down, or merges several highlighted layers
Adobe Camera Raw and Bridge Tips
26 Use Select All
To quickly batch process a group of images, open them all in Adobe Camera Raw (the easiest way to do this is through Adobe Bridge) and then click Select All. Now, any changes you make to one image will be applied to all the open files.
27 Open Smart Objects
Hold down Shift in Adobe Camera Raw and the Open Image button switches to Open Object. Now the file opens as a Smart Object, which means you can double-click the layer thumbnail in Photoshop to go back and edit the layer in ACR.
28 Mask Sharpening
The Masking slider in the Detail Panel lets you control which areas of an image are sharpened, but it’s impossible to judge unless you hold down Alt as you drag. This displays a greyscale view, in which black areas are protected from sharpening, enabling you to isolate the sharpening to edge areas.
29 Reset the sliders quickly
Double-click any slider to reset it to 0. If you click once, then the slider jumps to the point you’re over. So if you keep the mouse still, you can single-click, then double-click over a point for a quick ‘before and after’ view of any adjustment you’ve made.
30 Crop ratios
Square crops can help to make your images stand out from the crowd. For a list of different crop ratios, hold down the mouse button over the Crop tool. Remember, like everything else in ACR, cropping is non-destructive, so you can try out different ratios and adjust the crop at any time.
31 Exposure before colour
It’s always best to adjust exposure before you move on to colour correction.
32 Adjustment Brush controls
The Adjustment Brush is perfect for selective toning in ACR. The brush works by setting pins, each linked to a painted mask that specifies the area you want to tweak. You’ll need to view the mask when painting, and hide it when using the sliders to adjust the area. Hit Y to switch the view of the mask on or off.
33 Erase masks
When painting with the Adjustment Brush, hold down Alt to erase parts of the mask.
34 Clip the blacks
Deep blacks give an image extra punch, so it’s okay to clip the blacks a little. For deep blacks, drag the Black point slider inwards while holding down Alt until a few dark spots appear.
35 Straighten horizons
Hold down A and drag a line to straighten your images.
36 Clipping views
Hold down Alt while dragging the Exposure, Blacks or Recovery slider to see any clipped pixels, or click the icons at the top right and left of the histogram to see them all the time.
37 Screen real estate
Make the most of your screen size by hitting F to switch the ACR display to Full Screen Mode.
38 3D carousel view
Hit Cmd/Ctrl+B to see your images in a snazzy 3D carousel. Scroll through the images with the left and right arrow keys and hit down to remove an image from the view.
39 Paste ACR settings
You can copy ACR treatments from one file to another in Bridge. Right-click any file with the circular ACR icon, then go to Develop Settings>Copy Settings. Right-click another file (or hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click to select more than one) then choose Paste settings.
40 Stack similar images
Stacks can help you keep your workspace tidy and easier to navigate by grouping similar images together. Select a group of files (hold down Shift and click the first and last) then go to Stacks>Group as Stack.
41 Open in Adobe Camera Raw
Raw files open automatically into Adobe Camera Raw, but you can open JPEGs and TIFFs, too, by right-clicking them and choosing ‘Open in Camera Raw’, or simply hit Cmd/Ctrl+R.
42 Open as layers
You can load a group of images into layers of a single document by going to Tools> Photoshop>Load Files into Photoshop Layers.
43 Step-by-step Solarisation in Adobe Camera Raw
01 Make a cone-shaped curve Open an image in ACR, then click the Tone Curve Panel. Drag all the points off the curve to delete them, then make one single point in the middle. Drag this down, then drag the bottom left of the curve to line up to the top, making an inverted cone shape.
02 Convert to mono Click the HSL/Greyscale Panel and check ‘Convert to Black and White’. Use the sliders to tweak the black and white conversion. If you want to add some colour, go to Split Toning and adjust the sliders to add colour to the shadows and highlights.
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