How to Learn Photoshop Hotkeys Like A Boss

How to Learn Photoshop Hotkeys Like A Boss

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Hotkeys (or keyboard shortcuts) make working in Photoshop So. Much. Faster.  But if you’re just getting started with Photoshop it can seem daunting to try to learn a whole set of hotkeys while you’re also learning the basics of the program.

But if you’re systematic about using those keyboard shortcuts, you’ll be able to learn them pretty painlessly, even if you’re a Photoshop beginner.

Here’s how I approach learning Photoshop hotkeys.

Step One: Decide Which Hotkeys To Focus On

make a list of the keyboard shortcuts you want to focus on

Photoshop has a keyboard shortcut for almost everything. But if you aren’t using a feature, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to learn the hotkey for it.

What actions in Photoshop are you actually using, and which ones are really slowing you down? Those are the hotkeys you’ll want to focus on.

Fire up Photoshop, and start working on a typical project.  Pay attention to how you are working right now, without hotkeys. Make note of the following:

  • What tools are you using frequently?
  • What actions are the slowest for you?
  • Which tools are the hardest for you to access, or the hardest to find?

The hotkeys for these tools will make the most appreciable difference to your workflow, and since you’ll have a chance to use them frequently, they’ll be the easiest to learn. If your list is more than a few tools/actions long, you might want to focus on the top two or three for now so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Now that you’ve figured out which keys to focus on, you can move on to step two.

Step Two: Grab A Hotkey Reference

Some of Photoshop’s hotkeys

Photoshop has a built-in keyboard shortcut reference buried in its preferences, and an online reference but you’ll want something handier than that as you start using these hotkeys. Photoshop’s official list can be found here. We’ll start with that, but we’re not going to use it as-is.

Here’s how I recommend using your hotkey reference:

  • Double check to make sure the reference is for your operating system and version of Photoshop. Mac keyboard shortcuts are often different than Windows shortcuts, and shortcuts may have changed between versions of Photoshop.
  • From Photoshops reference, make a list of only the hotkeys you want to learn right now. Alternatively, put those hot keys at the top of the list. You don’t want to search through a long list for the shortcut you need.
  • Consider printing the list and keeping it next to your computer. Otherwise, make sure it’s in a andy place that you can access quickly. Again, if it’s hard to find, it’s defeating the purpose.

My simplified keyboard shortcut reference might look like this:

simplified keyboard shortcut reference

Now that you’ve got a handy reference for the hotkeys you actually want to use, you can move on to using them.

Step Three: Actually Use The Shortcuts

you have to actually use the hotkeys to learn them

The first two steps are designed to make using shortcuts as painless as possible. Because if it’s painful, you won’t do it. Now that you have a set of shortcuts narrowed down, and you know what they are at a glance, the last step is to actually use them. The more often you use them, the faster you’ll commit them to muscle memory, and the sooner you can move on to learning more shortcuts.

Here are a few tricks to actually make yourself use those keyboard shortcuts:

  • Start with a small/quick Photoshop project. Force yourself to use the shortcuts instead of the long way for the whole project. (That’s why it’s important to make it a SMALL project. Make up a quick 10 minute project if you have to!)
  • Use your handy reference! This is supposed to be painless. There’s no use beating yourself up over not remembering a combination of keys, so look at your reference if you need to.
  • Use spaced repetition. Learning a new skill, waiting a while, then reviewing it again helps cement things into your memory. Once that small Photoshop project is complete, wait a while. A few minutes to an hour should do. Now fire up Photoshop again. Make another simple micro project and practice using your shortcuts. The next day, make another project and do the same thing.

By now you should have the beginnings of muscle memory happening, and it won’t be long before you don’t have to look at your reference at all.

Congrats, Photoshop Hotkey Boss!

If you’re anything like me, learning hotkeys is something I’m grateful for after the fact, but reluctant to do in the moment. I know it will speed up my process in the long run, but when I feel like I have to learn a whole bunch of new things it feels even slower in the short term.

Thankfully, you can get a lot of benefit from shortcuts even if you only learn a few. And being systematic about your choices can help you learn those hotkeys lightning fast.

Now, go make your list of Photoshop hotkeys to learn and get cracking!

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