Keyboard Shortcuts for a Digital Artists

Keyboard shortcuts are an artist’s best friend...

Just for a second try to imagine your life without keyboard shortcuts. No more saving your project without thinking about it, bye-bye second nature copy-pasting, or selecting all the things with a simple Ctrl + A. Sounds grim, doesn’t it?

These are just the basics, Photoshop specific shortcuts offer so much more! Down below I’m going to list all the shortcuts that help me to be a more productive artist.

Learning them requires a bit of initial work when you might feel like you’re spending more time trying to remember a shortcut than the actual time you’re saving. But hang in there, If you use them daily the hard part will be over in a week. And they will change the way you do art forever.


Tip: Write down the shortcuts on sticky notes and put them on the bottom of your monitor or the side of your laptop screen, so you’ll be able to glance at them easily.

Access Photoshop Shortcuts menu with Alt+Shift+Ctrl+K/Option+Shift+Cmd+K. A shortcut for the shortcuts menu? Pretty neat, right?


1. Basic shortcuts

The ones marked with * are not default shortcuts. I set them up to be more convenient for me.

Undo – Ctrl/Cmd + Z*

By default, this is the Step Backward – Step Forward shortcut, but I set it to Step Backward (Undo) because I like to spam it.

Save – Ctrl/Cmd + S

Open File – Ctrl/Cmd + O

New File – Ctrl/Cmd + N

Copy – Ctrl/Cmd + C

Paste – Ctrl/Cmd + P

2. Shortcuts for digital painting

Brush – B

Eraser – E

Increase brush size – N*

Decrease brush size – H*

These two are vital. The 10 seconds it takes you to increase/decrease the size of your brush adds up to quite a few minutes a day. You’d be surprised.

Quick color pick – Alt/Option + left click on the canvas

Fill a selection with the foreground color – Alt/Option + Backspace

Merge layers – Ctrl/Cmd + E

If you select multiple layers (in the layers panel) this will merge them together. If you select a single layer this will merge that with the one below it, IF that layer is rasterized.

New layer – Ctrl /Cmd + Shift + N

New layer via copy – Ctrl/Cmd + J

This is a non-destructive way of editing your painting. I use it a lot when I want to move around a specific part of the painting, but I’m not sure where to put it exactly. The shortcut pastes the selected area onto a new layer, so you’ll be able to move it freely. You only need to erase the hard edges before merging it down.

Add layer mask – Ctrl/Cmd + L*

Hide and reveal things on a layer by painting on the layer mask with black or white. It’s like erasing but you can change your mind.

Note: This doesn’t have a default shortcut. You need to assign one here: Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus/ Application Menus/Layer Mask/Reveal all

Flip canvas horizontally – Ctrl/Cmd + F

Rotate canvas – R + left click on the canvas and move the mouse

Hue and Saturation Tool – Ctrl/Cmd + U

Transform Tool – Ctrl/Cmd + T

Liquify Tool – Ctrl – Shift + X

3. Selections

Marquee Tool – M

Lasso Tool – L

Invert Selection – Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + i

Hide the selection line – Ctrl/Cmd + H

This hides the ‘marching ants’, but keeps the selection active.

Deselect – Ctrl/Cmd + D

If you accidentally click away from the selection just Ctrl/Cmd + Z


Note: When you change the shortcuts it’ll probably pop up a warning saying something like “these keys are already in use”. If they are attached to a tool that you won’t be using anyway just ignore it. You can always set everything back to default.


Warning! If you set up custom keyboard shortcuts – for the love of God – save them, because sometimes Photoshop randomly decides to set everything back to default. If you follow my advice and the next time this happens you won’t get a heart attack, does that mean that I saved your life?

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