5 Useful Photoshop Tips That Will Improve Your Workflow

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to work smoother in Photoshop. In that thought process, I have come up with five things that really helped me over time to work faster and more efficient.

These tips are not rocket science, but merely a couple of tricks I use on a daily basis and found worthy of sharing.

Edit Text Fields More Easily

The following scenario has been bugging me for at least 6 years:

Press (T) » Edit text » Click on the move tool (V) since you can’t press (T) again » Edit another piece (T) » Repeat this cycle for as many times as you need.

Why is it not possible to edit another text field by simply clicking on it? Well … it is!

A colleague showed me a super simple solution — the enter key on the number pad.

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This key is like a “submit” button and when you press this after editing text, you can simply select another text field. Way more efficient, especially when you’re doing production work or dealing with multiple of layer compositions.

Select Colors Outside of Photoshop

Did you know that you can select colors with the drop tool outside of the Photoshop application? It’s something that I first did by accident, but I’ve been using it ever since.

How it works: Simply select a color with the drop tool wherever you want in your Photoshop document. Click to select, hold and simply drag the drop tool outside of your screen. Et voilà!

Select Colours outside of Photoshop

Stop Rasterizing Objects

Another super-simple tip I stumbled upon. When creating websites with design elements that included rounded corners, I would flatten the image for two reasons:

  • No “select border” around the object (for adding effects and alignment by hand)
  • For resizing objects (to keep consistent spacing between buttons and text)

Even though this worked, with responsiveness and easy adjustable Photoshop files in mind, I had to find another way.

Solution: Use the Direct Selection Tool (A)

  • You can deselect an object by pressing ‘A’ followed by enter. Just like in the first tip, the layer will still be selected but the border is gone.
  • Resizing is also easier. Just press ‘A’, click on the object and select the part you want to adjust. Unfortunately in this mode the object will have the selected border but, then again, you only have to press enter to determine if it’s perfect.

Add Custom Shortcuts

How many times have you asked “Why is there no shortcut for that?”

I noticed this for the first time when I had to rasterize another image.

A couple of months ago these same thoughts crossed my mind again when turning layers into smart objects, so I figured it was time for a solution that would better my workflow. (This might not save you a lot of time but it does help me to stay in the right flow.)

Adding Custom Shortcuts

Go to Edit » Keyboard Shortcuts (1) and a panel will pop up. As you can see in the image, you can apply a shortcut to every command available in the Photoshop menu (2) and it’s sorted in the exact same way, making navigation simple.

Once you’ve applied a new shortcut, it might take a few days to get used to but fortunately the shortcut is shown in the same way as the default shortcuts. Each adjusted menu will show available options and corresponding keyboard shortcuts.

Use The Layer Comps Tab

Using the layer compositions tab is a feature that every web designer needs to know. I use it a lot to show different states of web pages. In the past I would just use the timeline and create different frames but layer compositions offer better support and flexibility.

Go to Window » Layer Comps to show the menu (1).

What you’ll see is a simple window with the possibilities to add more compositions. Click the Create New Layer Comp (2) button.

The Layer Comps Tab

Every new layer composition allows you to change the visibility, position and appearance of a layer. You could select different boxes for every layer comp but I generally select them all to make sure the proper effects are applied.

  • Visibility: Turn a layer on and off in different compositions
  • Position: Different positions of a layer
  • Appearance: Different layer styles on different compositions

The thing I love most about this tool is that you can adjust your element’s style without having to duplicate everything. Also, Photoshop Scripts is a big help. You can easily export all different compositions with one click (3). These options can be found in: File » Scripts. (Make sure to give it a try.)

That’s it! My five personal tips to make your life as a designer somewhat easier. Are there other tricks you use on a daily basis? Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below.

Eelco Guntlisbergen

I am a Web & App designer based in the Netherlands. Next to being a freelancer I also work on a full-time basis for Adidas Group. I love clean designs that make sense and are easy to use. More about me can be found on my Website, Twitter, Google+ or Dribbble profile.

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22 Comments
  1. Benjamin Mar 26, 12:04 pm

    For the first tip, you can also use CTRL + Enter (CMD + Enter on Mac I guess).

    Reply
    +18
    • Francis Mar 26, 1:34 pm

      Sure, cmd+enter works.
      Esc key works too and you just have to press one key :P

      Reply
      +1
      • Eelco Guntlisbergen
        Eelco Guntlisbergen Mar 26, 1:50 pm

        Francis unfortunately Esc won’t work since it won’t save the stuff you’ve edited.

        Reply
        +6
        • Francis Mar 26, 2:13 pm

          Works for me in osx and windows :S Photoshop 14.2

          Reply
          -1
          • Eelco Guntlisbergen
            Eelco Guntlisbergen Mar 26, 4:17 pm

            Yes you’re right my bad. Im still on CS6 that’s probably why ;)

            0
    • Eelco Guntlisbergen
      Eelco Guntlisbergen Mar 26, 1:51 pm

      Hey Benjamin, Thanks for the tip!

      I think there are a lot of apple users who use the small wireless keyboard without the numpad so thanks for the useful comment.

      Reply
      +1
    • Chris Wilson May 30, 5:29 pm

      That’s awesome! I have a number pad when at my work station, but this has been bugging me for YEARS on my laptop keyboard.

      Reply
      0
  2. Lourens Mar 26, 2:59 pm

    Another tip when using the pen tool:
    If you drew a line and want to draw another line, but separate from the previous…press enter between the points where you want to break the line

    Reply
    +5
  3. Tim Mar 26, 3:18 pm

    Esc works in CC, saves and exits the text field!

    Reply
    +2
  4. Ayden Mar 26, 3:29 pm

    Excellent article man, good tips indeed! One tip I can suggest that could be useful for ambidextrous people: get an extra stylus…. Doubled my productivity… Boom

    Reply
    0
  5. Sarah Mar 26, 9:50 pm

    I have had issues with Layer Comps in CS6. What has happened is that I make a layout, save a comp then make more layouts. But over time I needed to make changes to layer comps, sometimes deleting layers. After a while the layer comps were no longer saving the position of an element and I had wasted a lot of time fixing layouts for each layer comp. Adobe was not able to help me fix this issue so I had to abandon using this feature all together. Which is too bad because it had huge potential.

    Reply
    +1
    • Bionik6 Mar 27, 2:18 pm

      I think the best usage of layer comps are the variations of a layout. Organize your work into separated folders and for each of them, create a comp for reveal and hide it.
      Let’s suppose you’re doing a wireframe of many pages for a clients. Just create a group for each page, put revelant layers inside and for each group, just create a layer comp.
      After finishing your work, you can use the ‘Layer Comps to PDF’ that PS offer to showcase the entire site’s wireframe to your clients :)

      PS: when creating a layer comp for a group which is the page you’re working on, don’t forget to hide the visibility of other layers.

      Reply
      +8
    • Josée Mar 27, 8:10 pm

      Sarah, I experienced the same thing. That means we have to use this tool for the purpose I remember Photoshop creators told it was made for. It is supposed to help you do presentations to clients. In my case, I set my layers comps only when my document is final. So if I have modifications to do, it won’t be a big deal.

      Reply
      0
    • Valentin Apr 1, 12:58 pm

      Sarah, you could give this a try http://www.jasonforal.com/composer/

      Reply
      0
  6. Bionik6 Mar 27, 2:11 pm

    Another tip I always use for grouping layers:
    Select the layers you want to group and hit Maj+Ctrl+Alt+the folder icon in the layer panel.
    A dial box appear and you can type the name of the group and eventually attach a color to it. I think it’s one thing crucial when working in PS: always keep your layers organized into folders and layer comps to show variations ;) .

    PS: @Francis, thank you for the tip, am on Windows with PS CC 14.2.1 and ESC works with text :)

    Reply
    +2
    • Josée Mar 27, 8:30 pm

      Even faster for grouping layers. I made my own shortcut. So I only need to do my shortcut, no need to hit Maj+Ctrl+Alt plus clic on folder icon in the layer panel. And the dial box appears too. :) Just find the New group from selected layers in the shortcut Prefs and set your own.

      Reply
      +2
    • Eelco Guntlisbergen
      Eelco Guntlisbergen Mar 27, 9:27 pm

      For some reason I always group layers during my design process but definitely a useful tip. Keep ‘em coming guys. :)

      Reply
      +1
  7. Lourens Mar 28, 10:36 am

    I just remembered another one, using your numpad keys to quickly change the object opacity:

    1 – 10%
    2 – 20%

    55 – 55%
    0 – 0% or 0 – 100%

    Reply
    +4
  8. Kristin Mar 30, 5:51 am

    I fricken love CMD+J for multiplying a layer.

    Reply
    +3
  9. patilking Mar 30, 4:45 pm

    wow! great tips and the comments too!!
    here is my small tip for moving from layers up and down:
    Ctr+] or Ctr+[ (Brekets with Ctr Kyes on PC)

    Thank you all again!!

    Reply
    0
  10. Matthew Apr 1, 5:28 pm

    I only found out about layer comps the other week and already they are saving me hours of work. Especially when I have to show someone a few pages I’m working on, now I don’t need to search through layers turning them on and off, I can just select the comp!

    Reply
    0
  11. JASKNi Apr 14, 10:29 am

    Stop Rasterizing Objects is useful!
    Thank you!

    Reply
    0

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