Tips to help even occasional designers work faster

Selecting tools with a mouse is for suckers. Since the advent of Photoshop, Adobe has been baking easy-to-access keyboard tools into its software that make navigating and manipulating your composition a breeze. Just watch any accomplished designer at work and you will see an efficient marriage of mouse and keyboard. Things like pushing your canvas around and zooming in/out are much more quickly done by combining key presses with mouse clicks than with the mouse alone. Here we will outline the key commands that even hobbyists can leverage to make life in Adobe’s creative apps much easier.

Command the Canvas

It is rare that one will compose something in an Adobe creative application without needing to zoom into a specific area to view/manipulate it on a more detailed level. And if you’re zoomed in, you need to be able to move around the canvas in order to see the other areas. This is where the Zoom and Hand tools come in, and most designers (and here we’re referring to anyone who uses these apps) will need the use of both of those tools at least a dozen times during a given project. But clicking on them in the toolbar is unnecessary if you have your other hand on the keyboard. To temporarily access the Hand tool so that you can move your canvas around, just hold the space bar down, and to temporarily access the Zoom tool so that you can either click to zoom in on an area or click and drag a box to zoom to that specific that area, hold the Command (Control on Windows) and space bar down. You can also zoom out by adding the Option (or Alt on Windows) to the above key combination (Command-Option-Space).

Become One with the Tools

Once you’ve mastered the navigation modifier keys, the next step in becoming an Adobe wizard is to learn the single-key commands for the tools that you use most. You can switch to nearly any tool in the toolbar by typing the single key command that’s assigned to that tool. Here are the keys associated with a few of the most common tools:

M = Marquee
V = Move
L = Lasso
W = Magic Wand
I = Eyedropper
B = Paintbrush
T = Text
C = Crop

The Less Obvious Helpers

Then there are functions that are incredibly helpful but a bit more esoteric than the above. For example, you can press the Tab key to temporarily hide all of your palettes, which makes it easier to see your canvas. You can also press the D key to set the foreground color to black and the background to white, and press the X key to flip the foreground and background colors. Another handy trick is to hold the Shift key while moving an object with the cursor keys to jump 10 pixels/points at a time instead of one.


Bear in mind that not all of the above key commands work for all Adobe applications, but the majority of them are universal. Now go forth and command your design apps like you were born with them!

Watch for Angled End’s official “Design Efficiency” whitepaper to debut in the next few weeks!