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Photoshop / Illustrator tricks you never knew existed

Why don't we post some little Photoshop and Illustrator tricks we've just recently learned? Don't be bashful, I've been a professional in this field for nearly ten years, and I'm still learning about new functionalities whenever I care to investigate.


Recently I learned that in 'Liquify', if you select the pucker tool and click on spot, then shift-click somewhere else, it'll automatically smooth out rough edges along a line. I thought it was cool when I first saw it, but didn't know when I'd use it. Now I'm using it ALL the time!

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jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Staff

i think it's essential for everyone to learn the hotkeys on photoshop

melmike
melmike profile pic Alumni

Definitely a must ^^

Ferz

I found content aware option cool....When using puppet warp tool,for example,using the Content-Aware option will automatically fill out the background seemlessly....Also when you cut out an object from a photo,It'll fill the empty space with matching background.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

Holding R to rotate view. A painfully obvious thing that never occurred to me.

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

Masks. They completely baffled me until I got my last job. Working with other artists' files, I was able to finally figure them out and they're awesome. Use masks all of the time now.

JacquesMaes
JacquesMaes profile pic Alumni

If you hold shift + press an arrow key, you can budge something 10px instead of just 1px, also works for changing values in any prompt window and so many other things.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -
Jaakie201 said:

If you hold shift + press an arrow key, you can budge something 10px instead of just 1px, also works for changing values in any prompt window and so many other things.

This is also news to me. Super useful!

nickv47
nickv47 profile pic Alumni

the letter D resets the colors back to black and white in p-shop and illustrator. X toggles between them. when you're in the brush tool, clicking any of the number keys sets the opacity to that percent 1 = 10%, 2 = 20% and so on.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

One of the most useful things for me is locking layer transparency. I use it for coloring parts of linework and adding shading and highlights to fill color layers etc

blackhand_
blackhand_ profile pic Alumni

Whoa, take it easy, guys. Stop giving away all these secrets. People might use them and get their designs printed.

Lately I've been using the color overlay layer effect on my artwork to change the color of line art and flat colors. Keep all the colors on separate layers and if you need to change or adjust colors, use the color overlay effect instead of using magic wand and fill command. Much cleaner.

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

It took me forever to realize that you could toggle between your colors with x and I found it by accident. Best day ever.

When using the pen tool in Photoshop, hold alt and click on an anchor point to reset it. Makes things much easier.

Chayground

I've been using colour overlay on all my recent subs after I read about it on here, it's fantastic! (also just like Morkki I only discovered "R to rotate the canvas" painfully late on in my Photoshop career!

TheInfamousBaka
TheInfamousBaka profile pic Alumni

The rotate feature is pretty new to Photoshop (CS5, I think), so it would be easy to miss if you've been using Photoshop for a while.

38Sunsets
38Sunsets profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

discovered recently:

cmd+alt+backspace that filling selected area/layer with "white" even you have no white in foreground/background colors


double click on zoom tool reset it to 100%


for most opened dialog boxes, holding "alt" key will change CANCEL button to RESET. this is very cool - you do not need close the dialog box and reopen it to start over when you your settings goes into the wild


shortcuts are so much time saving! cool topic melmike!

Mantichore
Mantichore profile pic Alumni

I guess most of this is known to advanced users, but I'm posting this for everyone:


A fast way to add space to your canvas is to use the crop tool (C key), select your whole canvas, then make the selection larger by dragging (one of) the corners outside your canvas to make it larger.


Shortcuts I use a lot:

  • CTRL+SHIFT+N: new layer
  • CTRL+SHIFT+U: desaturate
  • CTRL+SHIFT+I: invert selection
  • CTRL+H: hide/unhide selection
  • CTRL+L: Adjust Levels
  • CTRL+A: select canvas
  • CTRL+D: deselect

You can press enter to confirm an adjustment in stead of having to push the V button.


Recording actions can be a time-saving tool, especially when you have to perform the same actions multiple times.


I also set the History state (Edit->Preferences->General->Performance Tab) way higher than default (usues more memory though), when painting this can come in very handy when you need to go back many brushstrokes in your History.


My pixel design workflow: first I make my canvas really small (example: 150x150 pixels) so I'm actually painting pixel per pixel. I use Pencil tool in stead of Brush. Set Eraser to Pencil mode as well. Sometimes I start by only drawing in gray-scale (example: black, dark gray, light gray, white) to get the lighting right. After that I use CTRL+u (Hue/saturation) and I click on colorize, then adjust the sliders to give it a color. When I'm done with my design, I go to image size (CTRL+ALT+i) then change the size (example: 150*20=3000) and make sure the resample Image is set to Nearest Neigbour, that way it scales without blurring, thus keeping the pixels crisp and straight.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

Copy Merged (ctrl+shift+C) is useful for presentations and mock-ups since you don't have to make a separate flattened copy. Also I always set one button in Wacoms for going back in history (ctrl+alt+Z), it's more useful than regular Undo for me.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

A couple of things about using PS and Illustrator together: You can copy objects or groups of objects and paste them straight to PS as pixels, paths or smart objects. But if you copy something from PS and paste it to Illustrator, like linework to use as a sketch layer you lose transparency. As a solution I save the stuff I want to import to Illustrator as a png with transparency and drag that png file straight from the folder to the Illustrator window. Voila! Transparency preserved.

merkinspurlock
merkinspurlock profile pic Staff

I don't know how often anyone would need this since type doesn't do well around these parts but for any other instance, you can increase/decrease point size by highlighting the type and holding shift + cmd + > or <

melmike
melmike profile pic Alumni

Wow! This is great. So many tips. I'm taking notes. Will definitely be posting more as I think of them.

Ferz

This completely stunned me:

You have your design,scattered in differet layers...One simple way to Get all of the design into 1 Seperate Layer Without effecting any other existing Layers:

1: Make a New empty layer above all other layers, 2: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E

You'll get all the visible design into that (new) single layer. Boom! ..I use it at the end for all my designs.

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Staff

Morkki already said this for setting his buttons on his wacom but

Undo once: cmd + z Undo more than once: cmd + option + z

idk sounds silly but maybe someone else doesnt know :P

Goldendust

The square brackets [ and ] for increasing and decreasing brush size are invaluable when you're working with a pen tablet.

Also I've been using the clipping mask feature a lot lately, it masks the artwork on a layer within the one below it. I guess it's just another way of masking but without all the black and white hassle - It's useful as a non-destructive alternative to locking layer transparency like Morkki mentioned earlier.

Goldendust

I used to reset ctrl + z to regular undo on every computer I worked on because I was so used to it and undo once made me so angry. I finally learned to deal with it, but still slip up from time to time, especially if I'm switching between PS and AI.

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

I always have to reassign a bunch of shortcuts because they were made for US keyboards - our keyboards have many things like brackets in different places making those shortcuts uncomfortable or even impossible to use. Thanks Adobe!

digsy
digsy profile pic Alumni

Best blog ever. Reminds how little I know - there's already a bunch of stuff in here I can't wait to try out. Thanks!

melmike
melmike profile pic Alumni

Converting layers into smart objects is a good one, it's a non-destructive method of applying filters like sharpening. Also, it means you can then go in and change the method of opacity of your filter. For instance, when sharpening, luminosity is best because it cuts down on halos and artefacts.

38Sunsets
38Sunsets profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -
38 Sunsets said:

discovered recently:

cmd+alt+backspace that filling selected area/layer with "white" even you have no white in foreground/background colors

well, this command does not work quite as I have described it: layer are filled or created depends what is in your history, and if you change the size of your file it does not work at all. I am on a Mac, CS2, so this is rather older system... I haven't seen this command listed anywhere so would be good to know if& how it works for you.

BubbleHezza
BubbleHezza profile pic Alumni

Ahh man I'm so lazy. I haven't even bothered to set up my hot keys on my Cintiq. I still click plus on my zoom window to zoom in. I don't have any presets set. I even create a new brush every single time I go into illustrator. Why I just don't save it I don't know. I'm lazy too lazy infact to make life less lazy. Sometimes I even colour with the brush instead of filling with colour. This post makes me sleepy

AlanBao
AlanBao profile pic Alumni

Layer masks are terrific. I almost never draw in regular layers anymore. I fill a layer with color, put on a mask, and draw directly into that mask - which means at any time, if you wanted to change color, you can just paint bucket the color layer. Plus, it's just much easier to draw when you can just tap x and switch between drawing and erasing.

melmike
melmike profile pic Alumni
38 Sunsets said:
38 Sunsets said:

discovered recently:

cmd+alt+backspace that filling selected area/layer with "white" even you have no white in foreground/background colors

well, this command does not work quite as I have described it: layer are filled or created depends what is in your history, and if you change the size of your file it does not work at all. I am on a Mac, CS2, so this is rather older system... I haven't seen this command listed anywhere so would be good to know if& how it works for you.

On CS5 I use cmd+backspace to fill any layer with white. Or for those who don't know, shift+F5 will bring up the fill layer dialogue box.

briancook
briancook profile pic Alumni

Over the past year the one thing I've learned that I can't believe I didn't know about was locking the transparency of a layer. It has changed the entire way I work in Photoshop.

Here's my mini-tutorial on how it works. Sorry for crappy quality, I should redo it one of these days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ_ZCDoHhlc

melmike
melmike profile pic Alumni

^^ interesting video. I don't use the lock transparency function much, like Alan mentioned above, I usually just work off layer masks, but the way you've shown it looks so simple, might have to make some changes too.

Jake Friedman

command + s to save your files. pretty helpful if you want to keep anything.

nickv47
nickv47 profile pic Alumni

if you hold the spacebar while in illustrator and in the pen tool, you can move the point of the pen around while the mouse is still clicked.

olie!
olie! profile pic Alumni
Jake Friedman said:

command + s to save your files. pretty helpful if you want to keep anything.

Protip of the year

Morkki
Morkki profile pic Alumni
1 design submitted -

I use this almost as much as locking layer transparency which means all the time: ctrl-click on the thumbnail of a layer to select all the non-transparent pixels. This has so many uses because it's essentially an instant mask.

gabras

Amazing stuff, guys! How many time wasted...

quick-brown-fox
quick-brown-fox profile pic Alumni
3 designs submitted - Score now!

The first tip I remember picking up was cmd clicking a layer thumbnail makes a selection of anything that's not transparent on that layer. Works on channels too.

digsy
digsy profile pic Alumni
Morkki said:

I use this almost as much as locking layer transparency which means all the time: ctrl-click on the thumbnail of a layer to select all the non-transparent pixels. This has so many uses because it's essentially an instant mask.

oh yeah, i discovered this recently - really really useful tool, i use it all the time now.

moosabman
moosabman profile pic Alumni

obvious stuff 99% already use but would be a major time saver if you don't. Spacebar for hand tool to look at what your're doing, add ctrl and you have the zoom in tool, but if you click and hold you can zoom in/out and dont need to add alt in order to zoom out. Don't ever "draw" with the eraser simply click the quick mask button in the layers panel and draw away, that way if you mess something up bad, you can simply disable the mask. If you are on the selection tool and and you crtl+click on something it will select whatever layer it is on. save. just save it anyway. Why didn't you save it. If you change 1 pixel save it. Make a copy. Save it anyway.

...save.....

chuck p comics
chuck p comics profile pic Alumni

just learned recently that, pressing the x button deletes your bad design! ;D

max.schulze.127

All of this is actually really helpful! I actually have a little problem that I don't know how to solve so I thought some of you might know the trick, in Photoshop when I select something and click 'delete', the area I delete doesn't go away, it turns into a block in the colour that I've used for brushes, etc. Does anyone know how to fix this?

dyefly

Check the Alt key (Option MAC) is not pressed (Alt+Del = Fill tool command :)

moosabman
moosabman profile pic Alumni

yeah are you hitting the delete key or the backspace?

dyefly

Yep, both work. Max used the del key or command. I like this one which is bigger :) Depend from a kind of board. Max, check Alt key - it likes sometimes lock in the keyboard.

max.schulze.127
dyefly said:

Yep, both work. Max used the del key or command. I like this one which is bigger :) Depend from a kind of board. Max, check Alt key - it likes sometimes lock in the keyboard.

Hmm, I always use cmd + backspace. I don't know if it's about the alt key being pressed or not, I don't think so...

Merryman1975

Thanks guys. Awesome tips.

Akaka
Akaka profile pic Alumni

All of this is actually really helpful! I actually have a little problem that I don't know how to solve so I thought some of you might know the trick, in Photoshop when I select something and click 'delete', the area I delete doesn't go away, it turns into a block in the colour that I've used for brushes, etc. Does anyone know how to fix this?

This may be a really stupid question BUT did you make a new layer for your art or are you still on the background layer?

taz-pie
quick-brown-fox said:

The first tip I remember picking up was cmd clicking a layer thumbnail makes a selection of anything that's not transparent on that layer. Works on channels too.

can i ask a dumb question? i used to use this tip all the time on older versions of potatoshop, but now on CS6 it doesn't work anymore? how do?

dyefly
Akaka said:

All of this is actually really helpful! I actually have a little problem that I don't know how to solve so I thought some of you might know the trick, in Photoshop when I select something and click 'delete', the area I delete doesn't go away, it turns into a block in the colour that I've used for brushes, etc. Does anyone know how to fix this?

This may be a really stupid question BUT did you make a new layer for your art or are you still on the background layer?

You right Akaka it's another case, may be this ..

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