Tigz Rice’s 13 Best Photoshop Tips

As these images show, the Photoshop tips in this feature are relevant for photographers, illustrators and designers. For tutorials linked to these images, check out Tigz Rice's tutorial on how to brighten a photo in Photoshop, or Adi Gilbert's Photoshop tutorial on how to create artwork with both real and digital brushstrokes.

Most of us spend a lot of time in Photoshop, here’s a list of Tigz Rice’s 13 favourite shortcuts to help you speed up your work – whether you’re a photographer and retoucher like Tigz, or an artist or designer.

Image kindly provided by The Underpinnings Museum

If you find yourself repeating a process in Photoshop on a regular basis, it’s worth setting it up as an Action. Actions are one click button that, when pressed, apply a sequence of user-defined changes to your image. By not having to go through the set up manually, you’ll be saving time on every image.

To set up a new Action, click on the New Icon in the Actions panel, give it a name and then click on the Record dot icon when you are ready to record your action. After you’ve finished, press the Stop square icon to let Photoshop know you are done. Your action can now be used by highlighting it in the Actions panel and pressing the Play icon.

If you use a Wacom tablet, you can also set your actions to appear at the tip of your pen via the Radial Menu. To do this, you’ll need to click on the properties icon at the top right of the Actions panel, go to Action Options and define each of your Actions with a Function Key.

Once you’ve done this, pop into your Wacom preferences and, under Functions > On-Screen Controls, create a Radial Menu and assign each button using the Keystroke option.

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Then, click on your Pen settings and change one of the two buttons on your pen to display the radial menu when clicked.

Sometimes you may even want to set actions going without opening Photoshop at all. Droplets are great for this, allowing you to drag and drop folders of images on top of the icon for immediate action running. I have one set up on my desktop for web resizing my images. 

To set up, go to File > Automate > Create Droplet.

Choose a location to keep your Droplet (desktop is a handy place for this) and then choose your action from the dropdown menu. Your settings will vary depending on your action and your filing system, but here’s how my one looks when set up.

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Libraries are a great way of storing assets that you rely on regularly, like logos, brand colour swatches and layer effects. With everything stored in the cloud, you can log onto any machine to access your libraries, as well as the ability to share libraries or create collaborative libraries with teams working on the same project.

For those using a Wacom tablet, there are some great tools built into Photoshop that allow you to use your pen pressure to control brush size in several of the tools, as well as brush opacity.

You can find the controls for both of these settings at the top of your Photoshop workspace. And, if you want to go into full pressure sensitive customisation, check out the brush presets panel too.

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If you’re constantly changing your brush size and hardness, here’s a really handy shortcut you need to know. Pressing Cmd/Ctrl + Alt while dragging up/down/left/right with your pen or mouse controls all of your brush settings in one easy to use setting without using any menus.

Trying out some new effects on your image? Try using Smart Filters, a great tool that allows you to apply multiple filters – and even Camera Raw processing – to your layer in a non-destructive format, allowing you to go back and make adjustments as and when needed, building up an aesthetic that is fully customisable at every step of the creative process.

To turn a normal layer into a Smart Object, right click on the layer and choose Convert To Smart Object.

Need to quickly fill a layer with a block colour? Cmd/Ctrl + Backspace will instantly fill your layer with your background colour, while Alt + Backspace will instantly fill your layer with your foreground colour.

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Looking to match a font from an existing design? Photoshop now makes that easy with Match Font, which can be found in the Type menu. Once you’ve highlighted the text with your selection box, Photoshop will analyse the pixels and make suggestions of similar fonts from your font library as well as those available on Typekit via your Creative Cloud account.

Check out Tigz's full tutorial on how to use Match Font to identify fonts used in photos and designs.

Stamp Visible is a great way to work non-destructively in Photoshop, allowing you to create a new layer that contains a copy of all the assets from visible layers below. There’s no set menu option for this in Photoshop, but you can access the shortcut by pressing Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E.

Using guides in your artwork? Rather than working on a measurement basis and getting out the calculator, you can also place your guides by using percentages. Go to View > New Guide and in the Position box type in '50%'. Photoshop will then automatically work out the pixels for you and place the guide in the correct place.

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Another common editing process in Photoshop is changing opacity, both on brushes and on layers. Instead of using the sliders, you can use the 0-9 keys to change opacity. For example: 5 = 50%, 55 = 55%, 0 = 100% and 00 = 0%. Most of the time, pressing the number keys will affect your brush opacity, but with the Move tool (V) selected, your number keys will affect the opacity of the layer instead.

Cutting out has never been easier with the new Select and Mask feature in Photoshop. Combining the Quick Selection, Refine Edge, Brush and Lasso tools along with a little bit of Adobe magic, you can access Select and Mask via the Select menu, as well as from the Quick Selection, Refine Edge and Lasso tools. Want to know how to use the Select and Mask tool? Here’s a detailed tutorial