4 hacks that will triple your Photoshop productivity

By Jawad Sarwar, UX Specialist Red Blue Blur Ideas — UX

Triple your Photoshop productivity. Yes, you got that right. Boom. In your font face.

As designers, Adobe Photoshop is the first tool that comes to our mind, as a lot of us get scared with images of endless layers and complexity. But Photoshop is not as difficult or time consuming as it may seem, because there are always hacks that can make you a time-saving machine. Based on my experience in Adobe Photoshop, let me take you through a series of shortcuts that can brush up your Photoshop skills and save your valuable time.

1 — Start Working with Shapes

Why should you care?

  • To get pixel-perfect results
  • It’s easy to resize
  • Can manage radius size Or convert Oval shape
  • You can easily design awesome icons from Shapes


To get your customized size shape, simply Press ‘U’ then check mark the field of fixed size shape on the tool bar.

Once you do that, as soon as you click on the page, it will ask you the width and height of the shape. For example, 500px X 600px — it all depends on you what value you want to put for the size.

Fix blurry shapes


You want to use shapes, and you want them to be perfect. Shapes are vectorized objects, so you should be able to resize them as much as you want without affecting their quality or precision. After all, that’s why they are defined by vectors instead of pixels.


It’s not common that you’ll find your shape has gone blurry while resizing. In that case, select the shape with (Direct selection tool ( Cmd + A / Ctrl + A)), select scale, transform (Ctrl+T / Cmd+T) and move navigation arrows on any of the side to overcome the blurry part.

2 — Get Moving with the Move Tool


The move tool is the most essential tool in Photoshop and unlike any shortcut should be the default go-to when working on your document. Mastery of the move tool is essential to selecting, creating, duplicating, moving and resizing — all of which are speedy essentials when working on interface designs off wireframes and to tight deadlines.


A suggestion is to start with the move Tool and disable the auto-select feature. This can easily be toggled on demand holding the (Alt) key to select the object and releasing to interact with other objects on the document. Duplicating can be done by holding (Alt) and dragging or alternatively (Alt + Shift) to lock to X or Y axis depending on the direction — this is perfect for quick duplication and alignment. Using (Shift) when resizing using corners is perfect for retaining aspect ratio. To select multiple objects, holding (Alt) and dragging across objects can be used for a quick selection of multiple objects.

3 — Get in close with Advanced Zoom


The zoom tool is predominantly used to ensure pixel perfect design and is always used as a sister to the move and hand (move around the document) Tools when assembling and for finishing touches. The learning curve of the zoom Tool is fairly minimal and can really speed up your workflow when used collaboratively.


Ensure that “Scrubby Zoom” is selected under the options for the Zoom tool. Zooming can be toggled holding (Space+Cmd), dragging to zoom in or out and once again releasing to reveal the move Tool. Alternative press (z) will activate the zoom Tool (Handy hint — holding down Alt with allow you to zoom out) (Cmd+1) and (Cmd+0) to bring your document to 100% in view or fit on screen respectively. This is great when zoomed in or moving across the document and resetting to view the document as a whole.

4 — Get Precise with the Marquee Tool


The marquee tool is one of the most basic selection tools and often the most useful when working across anything on Photoshop. For the purpose of UI designs, the rectangular marquee is often the only one necessary. We make use of the marquee tool to align selections and ensure perfect alignment and distribution.


The marquee tool can be activated by pressing (m) and is best used with columns and grids. As an additional benefit, with CC, turning on Smart Guides can also speed up your workflow.

With multiple elements selected such as 3 boxes (hint: use either by a drag selection, individually on the document or layer panel), select the marquee tool and drag to guide or block to align to. Switch to the move tool (v) and you can use the alignment controls to align to the top, bottom, left or right. You can use this smartly and efficiently to centre align and distribute elements as well. Remember to drag your marquee across the document directed to your intended use.

Working with custom shortcuts

There are not many short-cuts available in Photoshop, which can make it difficult to work with over the long run. To reach your full efficiency with Adobe’s software, you need to exploit its capacity to create custom shortcuts according to your needs.

My experience taught me a few that I hope will be as useful for you as they were for me. These shortcuts are the ones that I use quite frequently, and without them, it’s hard to really take up your Photoshop speed to the next level.


To get started, go to:

Edit > Keyboard shortcuts

Move tool (M)

Align Left Edges: Shift+Command+, (comma)

Align Right Edges: Shift+Command+. (dot)

Align Horizontal Centers: Shift+Command+H

Align Top Edges: Shift+Command+1

Align Bottom Edges: Shift+Command+0

Align Vertical Centers: Shift+Command+V

Zoom in/Zoom out: Hold Space+Command and drag your mouse down (zoom in) or up (zoom out)

Note: These shortcuts only for that tools what we discussed in the article.

Next big thing is: Page/Artboard, Layers, Shapes, Text and How to organize everything in Folders

There is always room for improvement, and Adobe Photoshop has numerous tricks and shortcuts that you can use to improve your workflow.

Stay tuned for more articles and tutorials to make your Photoshop experience easier.

The above mentioned points are a sheer way of saving time and add value to your work. Experience teaches everything, so apart from articles you would further learn once you try these tricks practically.