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PHOTOSHOP TIP: Navigating Photoshop Using Quick Keys
By Rich Seiling

One of the tricks to using Photoshop quickly and effortlessly is learning how to navigate using the keyboard shortcuts. When I’m making a creative adjustment to an image, I want to see how each change affects different parts of the image. This means I need to zoom in and out, and pan around within the image constantly--and the quicker I can do this, the better.

Here are some of the shortcuts and tools I use regularly:

The Hand Tool
When I need to pan around within an image, I like to use the hand tool instead of the scroll bars. In the end, the hand tool does the same thing, but it works more quickly and intuitively for me. Oftentimes, I am using a view mode that doesn’t let me see the scroll bars anyway, which makes the hand tool the best tool for panning around. Regardless of what tool you are using in Photoshop, you can switch to the Hand Tool by holding down the space key.

The Zoom Tool
You can use the zoom tool at any time by holding down Ctrl-SPACE to zoom in or ALT-SPACE to zoom out (Mac users zoom in with Command-SPACE, and zoom out with option-SPACE.) When using the zoom tool, you can click and drag a box around an area you want to view closely. This lets you quickly zoom into the area you want to examine.

Fit on Screen
Zooming in to look at a small area of an image is great, but I also need to look at the whole image, too. The quickest way for me to do this is with the Fit On Screen command. There are several ways to invoke this command, but the way that has become second nature for me is Ctrl-zero (command-zero on mac.)

Actual Pixels
Besides looking at the whole image, I often need to look at an image at 100% magnification--especially when I’m cloning an image or unsharp masking. Another name for this is Actual Pixels. This is because at 100% magnification, Photoshop always displays one pixel of the image using one pixel of your monitor--regardless of the resolution your monitor is set to. This is a very valuable feature, because various effects and defects can hide if the screen is averaging several pixels together.

There is a quick key for this (alt-control-zero), but I usually use the contextual menu to choose “View Actual Pixels.” I find that the quick key is awkward use to with one hand, but I can use contextual menu without taking my hand off the mouse. Use what works for you!

Do you ever feel like there are too many palettes on your screen? I swear that they have a secret palette breeding ground somewhere inside Adobe’s San Jose headquarters where these things breed faster than rabbits. If you want them off your screen--even for a little while--use the tab key. It toggles them on and off. Even better, use a second monitor and put all the palettes on that. You’ll never know how you got along without it.

Screen Modes
Photoshop lets us view the image in three different Screen Modes: Standard Screen Mode; Full Screen Mode With Menu Bar; and Full Screen Mode. These are tucked away on the bottom part of the tool palette, but I find it much easier to press the F key to cycle between the three.

These are just a few of the keyboard shortcuts we use here at West Coast Imaging, but each are essential to working with fluidity. There are many more, and you could go nuts learning them all, so my advice is just focus on learning a few at a time for the things you do regularly. If you only use a command once in a blue moon, or it has a hard-to-remember set of keys to press, then just use the menu.

Just one disclaimer: WE ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WORN-OUT KEYBOARDS. If you are Photoshopping that much, then you need professional help that we are not qualified to give. In our experience, spending some time in the field making new photographs may alleviate this keyboard tension. It works for us...but hey, we're just photographers.

Text and photos ©2004 Richard Seiling, All Rights Reserved. This page may not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.

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