Increase Design Efficiency with Hot Keys

Work prioritization is nothing simple. It takes time to perfect and have a system that works for you…and everyone can also work with. One thing that helps: Efficiency.

One of the key things to being efficient is taking issues of the program away; narrow it down to just you. Your woes with Photoshop or 3ds Max or InDesign are the easiest things to resolve. Our last article references issues of letting go of our artwork, Artistic Negotiation, as I called it. This is still important as is regular project prioritization, also covered. However these are issues that we must solve within our selves as artists and is often times more difficult and more confusing. Step by step you build your skills.

Don't be a victim—Take on Photoshop

Optimize Screen Real-estate

Photoshop has, and most Adobe programs, many ways to customize the layout you work in. Go through the menus and windows and see what you use most frequently, and keep that front and center at all times.

Having a second monitor can help you out tremendously. The investment is 100% worth it. Many designers use the right monitor for all of their menus—works for them, not for me. The right monitor is just about sacred…I use it for referencing code, designs, or copy, CSS and it is invaluable when designing full-time.

Picking the right windows and set up to best suit needs.

Know your Keys

Do you know your hotkeys? A hot key by definition is a key or sequence of keys that when pressed executes a command or performs a task. Photoshop and your other programs have a lot of them—a lot.

Here is a list of my favorite and most used photoshop hotkeys:

  • v: Move tool
  • m: Marque tool
  • w: Magic Wand
  • p: Pen tool
  • b: Brush tool
  • t: Text tool
  • x: Switches foreground and background colors
  • d: Resets foreground and background colors to b&w
  • a: Direct Selection tool

Those are simple enough and fairly straight forward hence how easy they are. Did you know that if you held shift and the letter of each tool you would then cycle through that tool? Holding shift+m will change selection of the square marque and circle marque tool, quick and easy without even moving your mouse. What about other hotkeys, slightly more complicated?

  • cmd+s: Save
  • cmd+n: New
  • cmd+o: Open
  • cmd+t: Free Transform
  • cmd+g: Creates Group (active selected layers join)
  • cmd+p: Print
  • cmd+f: Last used Filter

Optimizing menus to best suit your needs

Still hanging in there? This is not so bad. Almost there, the rest of the hotkeys are game changers. Use them actively and you will find yourself saving much time. Most of these hotkeys are marginally more complex because you are actually skipping the use of menus, and therefore require more keys.

  • hold option+drag item: Duplicate item
  • cmd+option+control+left click: Do this on a particular graphic item to select its layer
  • cmd+left click: Do this on layer to highlight/select items in the layer
  • cmd+shift+i: Invert Selection
  • cmd+d: Deselect selection
  • cmd+a: Select All
  • cmd+shift+s: Save As
  • cmd+option+shift+s: Save for Web & Devices
  • cmd+option+c: Canvas Size
  • cmd+option+i: Image Size
  • cmd+1: Window fullsize
  • cmd+w: Close Window in active App
  • cmd+option+w: Close All Windows of App
  • cmd+tab: Jump to last used App
  • cmd+shift+n: Create New Layer (on top of active layer)
  • f: Changes Screen Mode (this one actually lacks a hotkey found in the menus)
    • Hit f once: Full Screen Mode with Menu Bar
    • Hit f twice: Full Screen Mode with no Menu Bar
    • Hit f three times: Back to standard view
  • tab: Hides toolbars
  • spacebar: Drag view space around document (combine this with full screen mode)
  • With a hotkey selected, right clicking gives you the menu (or control+left click) of the tool you’re using.
  • Layers with blending effects can be duplicated on to other layers by holding option+left clicking the blending effect you wish to drag to which layer.

These Hot Keys will save your life. I can safely say I use them every day in enough times that it is uncountable. Don’t let the program slow you down, make it work for you. Your actions per minute (APM) will make simpler tasks complete sooner and easier. Which are your favorite keys that you use the most?