10 Tips for Using Adobe Photoshop in Design

More and more designers are turning to using Adobe Photoshop; it’s the product for future design jobs. The reason for this is that Adobe Photoshop is among the most advanced tools available within the design industry. With an abundance of professional tools and capabilities, it’s perhaps the best suite to bring to life even the most unorthodox creative idea. At the same time, you can boost productivity by getting work done faster.

If you’re new to Photoshop however, it will be harder for you to take full advantage of its abilities. Just like every other technological tool, its true power lies in understanding and wielding what it can do for your own use. Have you ever wondered how one designer can take less than 5 days to come up with a really graphics-heavy web design layout while it takes you more than 10 to do the same?

It’s usually not about how fast or slow you work (or maybe it is), but rather how well you understand your Photoshop. Below, we provide 10 tips to help you unlock the true magic lying untapped in your Photoshop and hence get more done for your time. They include vital shortcuts, setting and features that are not in the public domain, once you learn them by heart, you will not only work better, but also faster.

Point to note: shortcuts provided are intended for Photoshop users in Windows. For Mac users, shortcut keys requiring ‘Ctrl’ are replaced by Command (Cmd) while ‘Alt’ is replaced by Option (Opt).

Multiple Undo

Every designer knows the Ctrl+Z undo shortcut, because you probably need it a million times for each design. This is the universal shortcut for undoing in Windows, but in Photoshop, pressing Ctrl+Z doesn’t undo the next previous action; it redoes the action just undone.

This can be very frustrating since sometimes you want to undo multiple actions to get to some point in the past. In Photoshop, the shortcut for multiple undo actions is Alt+Ctrl+Z. this allows you to reverse multiple actions according to the sequence set in under History States accessible from Edit>>Preference>>Performance.

You can reset your keyboard shortcut undo value back to Ctrl+Z by accessing the keyboard shortcut panel through Ctrl+Shift+Alt+K. The Undo Key shortcut combination is present under the Edit tab.

Sampling colors

Have you every wandered onto a well-designed website and you want to know what colors they are using? The process of getting it can be quite long: launching the color picker, selecting the right color, getting its hex number and inputting it in the color palette in Photoshop.

Using Photoshop’s Eyedropper tool (press I to activate it), you can simply click the Photoshop work screen and drag the icon for Eyedropper to any place within the screen to retrieve the color of interest.

Flexible Guide

Web designers frequently have to deal with guiding and correctly positioning elements in a pixel-perfect manner. To create a guide, you go to View>>New Guide and select a vertical or horizontal guide, enter the input position and then ‘Enter’, right? A shorter way to do this is through the shortcut Crtl+R, which activates the Ruler. Click the ruler tool and drag down to get a horizontal guide or up for vertical guides.

As you use the Move tool to drag your Guide (activated by pressing V), change a guide from horizontal to vertical or vice versa by pressing and holding the Alt key.

Layer Style Cloning

Layer styles offer a unique and charming way to make icons stand out and fun. However, if you’re trying to apply a single layer style to a group of icons e.g. social media icons, it can be rather tedious. However, with the fx icon next to the layer, it gets a lot simpler. Simply drag the fx icon onto a different layer whilst holding down the Alt key. This copies the style from the previous layer to the next layer.

The fx tool is usually used to copy one layer’s styles onto another layer. In this case, you needn’t press the Alt key.

Element Centering

Perfect pixel design is about placing all elements in their exact positions. Using guides, this is much easier, but still, placing an element in the perfect center can be rather daunting, requiring absolute focus, a lot of measurement and multiple guides.

However, a simpler scheme is to select the layer of the element to center, and then press Ctrl+A which selects the entire document. Next, fire your Move tool, which reveals a number of icons adjacent to the Show Transform Controls option. Clicking on the 2nd icon vertically centers the element while the 5th icon is for horizontal centering. With that, your element centers perfectly.

You can also center an element within a smaller area e.g. in the footer area. Just use the Selection tool (Activated by pressing M) to select the area, and follow the same steps to center the element within the area. The other icons under Show Transform Controls provide useful ways to align your elements in different circumstances.

Viewing single selections

In the process of designing layouts, you may need to see how specific elements look on their own or in relation to a few other elements. To do this quick and easy, hold down the Alt key, and click the ‘eye’ icon found beside the button-group that turns off visibility of all layers, leaving only the elements of interest. This trick is also helpful with image slicing.

Customizing Font Tracking

This tip demonstrates how you can increase font’s tracking for a specific section of the type face. This means that it will only be used in specific circumstances e.g. creating buttons or logos. It however helps save time wasted finding fonts that have appropriate typography for the button or logo you are creating.

Select the type whose tracking you want to increase or decrease by pressing T to activate the Type Tool. Next, hold down the Alt key and press the left angle bracket (<) to decrease or right angle bracket (>) to decrease the selected type’s tracking. This tip is also useful when dealing with the tracking issues presented by certain artistic fonts.


So now you have a few more killer tips to improve your design speed, but remember that continuous practice and learning is the only way to improve your comfort using Photoshop and hence progressively raise productivity.

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About the author

Lalit Sharma is an SEO consultant who runs a SEO house called Ranking By SEO. He is specialized in link building and other SEO related activities. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+ and his personal blog.

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