Top 10 Killer Photoshop Combo Moves


Is time kickin’ your ass? Well, learn to defend yourself! Master these killer Photoshop keyboard combos and you’ll find yourself with more time for the important things (e.g. Facebook trivia questions). These combos assume you’re using Photoshop CS3 on Windows platform with default keyboard shortcuts.

( ) = Repeat as desired
{ } = Manual Input Required

Top 10 Killer Photoshop Combos
Image source1

10. Cloak of Invisibility

Remove everything from the screen except for your file.

  • F, F, F | Cycle through Screen Modes
  • Tab | Remove Tools and Palettes
  • Ctrl+H | Hide Extras (Grid, Guides, Slices, etc.)
  • Ctrl+R | Hide Rulers

9. Quick Brush Jab

Quickly and easily customize a brush. This combo is a staple for digital painting.

  • B | Brush Tool
  • Right-Click and Select or F5 and Select | Open condensed or full Brush Palette
  • or . or , or Shift+. or Shift+, | Cycle through brushes or jump to first or last brush
  • [ or ]: | Shrink or enlarge brush radius
  • Shift+[ or Shift+] | Decrease or increase brush hardness
  • {Numeric Input} | Change brush opacity (e.g. ‘5’ = 50%, ’55’ = 55%)

8. Quick Brush Jab Path Stroke

Stroke a path with a customized brush.

  • {Draw Path} | Use any tool to draw a path
  • B | Select Brush Tool
  • Quick Brush Jab | Use the Quick Brush Jab Combo to customize brush
  • Enter | Stroke the path with your customized brush

7. Gaussian Attack

Apply a filter, fade it and apply again. Good combo for fine-tweaking filters.

  • {Apply a Filter} | Manually choose and apply a filter (warning: using the Lens Flare filter may result in a swift kick to the mouse balls)
  • Ctrl+Shift+F | Fade the filter
  • (Ctrl+F or Ctrl+Shift+F) | Reapply filter with or without dialog box

6. Shadow Maker

Create a basic shadow based on a chosen layer.

  • {Select Layer} | Select the layer the shadow will be created after. The transparency of this layer needs to resemble the desired shape of the shadow.
  • Ctrl+J | Layer via Copy
  • Ctrl+[ | Move layer down
  • D | Reset color defaults
  • Alt+Shift+Backspace | Fill with black and preserve transparency
  • Ctrl+T | Free transform
  • {Transform} | Modify to your liking
  • Enter | Commit

5. Layer Catcher

Select, group and mask layers. Often easier than using the layers palette.

  • V | Selection Tool
  • Ctrl+Click or Ctrl+Shift+Click or Ctrl+Shift+Right-Click | Select your layers
  • Ctrl+G | Group Layers

4. OCD Layer Sort

Rearrange your layers quickly and easily. Great cure for you neuroticism.

  • F7 | Show Layer Palette
  • Alt+[ or Alt+] or Alt+, or Alt+. | Select a layer
  • Shift+Alt+[ or Shift+Alt+] or Shift+Alt+, or Shift+Alt+. | Select more layers
  • Ctrl+[ or Ctrl+] or Shift+Ctrl+[ or Shift+Control+] | Move layers down or up or send to bottom or bring to top

3. Ultimate Flattener

Merge All Layers (even those hidden). Quick way to flatten a file.

  • Alt+. | Select Top Layer
  • Shift+Alt+, | Select all layers between currently selected and bottom layer
  • Ctrl+E | Merge the selected layers

2. Infinite Dupe

Duplicate and evenly distribute or transform items. Nice way to distribute something like nav buttons.

  • Ctrl+T | Transform
  • {Transform/Move} | Manually Move or Transform
  • Enter | Commit Transform
  • (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+T) | Duplicate and transform relative to the newest item

1. Finishing Move – The Web Extractor

Extract a selection and save it for the web. Extremely useful when pulling individual elements from a design, such as buttons or rules.

  • {Create Selection} | Select the area you want to extract
  • Ctrl+Shift+C | Copy Merged to clipboard
  • Ctrl+N | Create New Image based on selection size
  • Enter | Confirm New Image
  • Ctrl+V | Paste from clipboard
  • Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S | Save for the Web

Editor’s note

This post is one of the finalists of our guest author contest2. Over three weeks selected top-10-lists and discussion articles will be published. To rate the articles we’ll analyze their popularity, users activity, quality of backlinks, traffic and further data.


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Tom Giannattasio happily makes things at nclud. He works as an Editor for Smashing Magazine and teaches at Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts. He loves to experiment and share his work on his personal site: attasi.

  1. 1

    @Lucifix (#13): Select the Eyedropper Tool, click and hold down mousebutton, switch to Firefox (Alt+Tab), move to the color you want, release mousebutton. Voilà.

  2. 2

    Very good !

  3. 3

    Not a bad list.

  4. 4

    Flawless Victory!

    Brilliant as usual!

  5. 5

    Please make a cheat cheet ;-)

  6. 6

    Great, infinite dupe is extremely helpful. Cloak of invisibilty aswell, but knew that before.

  7. 7

    Yep, all the combo’s I use on a daily basis. Love the keyboard!

  8. 8

    Good article – though it’s not really a “Top Ten List” – not the authors fault really since SM put the restrictions on the contest.

    A top ten list should have some sort of priority or order in the list from good to bad or bad to good – this is nothing other than a list (though a good one) of Photoshop shortcuts in no order whatsoever. For example, as a pure graphic designer, I never use #2 / #1 as I have no need for them (though copy selection to new image is of course handy).

    Anyway, just a shame that this article couldn’t have been more free to be like “Killer Photoshop Combo Moves!” and not worry about the Top Ten structure. I bet the author could have made 15 / 20 (or even more) that would have been even better!

    All in all, good work. No idea how 1200 character articles are going to try and compete with monsters like this though…

  9. 9

    Definitely the best contest article so far. “Finish him” move (Mortal Kombat paraphrase) has been my favorite combo for years now.

  10. 10

    Vitaly Friedman & Sven Lennartz

    August 13, 2008 1:33 am

    @Daniel (#8): if the article goes well, we’ll ask the author to write a large article about the same topic.

  11. 11

    an even quicker way to merge the layers quickly, is simply to hit ctrl+shift+alt+e this makes a new layer with all the visible layers merged.

  12. 12

    I love this article especially because it reminds me of fighting games. Now I’m going to use photoshop and think I’m a Tekken character. It just totally makes PS more fun!

  13. 13

    Great list, there’s quite a few there I didn’t know. :o

  14. 14

    Does anyone know how can you select color in Photoshop from Firefox? Once I saw that trick but I forgot shortkeys.

  15. 15

    Simply the best

  16. 16

    This is an fantastic article. The title really caught my eye in Google Reader ;D

  17. 17

    Good work. Usefull

  18. 18

    Thanks for the list, but, will there be a MAC version?

  19. 19

    Agreed- would it have been so hard to add in the mac versions too?!

    Cool idea for a post though

  20. 20

    maybe a little pedantic but intro goes “These combos assume you’re using Photoshop CS3 on Windows platform.” Then the main image is of a Mac?

    Good and useful article, best so far of competition entries.

  21. 21

    That’s a superb title image. I like how it’s slightly tilted and shows the edge of the MacBook Pro screen, too. A “how to make” tutorial might be in suitable order!

  22. 22

    مختصر و مفید

  23. 23

    Excuse me, I’m Italian and I don’t totally get the meaning of the word “combo”. Is it something like actions?

  24. 24

    alt+shift+ctrl+K — and all shortcut u can learn manualy. And what good in that post?

  25. 25


    No, there won’t. A Mac version may, however.

  26. 26

    Thanks for this reminder!

    Loved the names!

    “taste a taste of my gaussian attack, you evil multi-layered-rasterized psd!!!!!”

  27. 27

    Thanks for putting the Mac equivalents…

  28. 28

    Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S is my bestfriend

  29. 29

    Hey everyone. Thanks for checking out my article! In response to some of the comments, tonight I’m going to whip up a printable cheat sheet which will include the Mac shortcuts. Be on the lookout!

  30. 30

    Nice idea, poor execution. I was excited when I saw the headline of the post, and then the image of CS3 on a Mac. But wait… :

    Not all designers use PCs… come on SM. Posting shortcuts for both PC and Mac would be the least I would expect.

  31. 31

    combo = combination, more than one thing at once

  32. 32

    Simple, alot of these are just experience. You need to learn the hotkeys, and get used to them.

    And it really works well for those who don’t know these things, to read articles like this.
    Thanks alot for sharing it.

  33. 33

    Good stuff!

  34. 34

    Incredbly creative execution. Most of these people probably already know but I actually wanted to read through the entire list.

    Great Job.

  35. 35

    amazing… thank ya SM for the photoshop moves :)

  36. 36

    all seemed good to me – i may have been reading this wrong but not sure why you also need the alt key to select multiple layers. In CS3 you just need to shift or ctrl select.

    My favorite shortcut: alt+scroll wheel

  37. 37

    Flawless victory!
    Finish him!:)
    Killer moves man, you got me:)

  38. 38

    People use CS3 on PC?

  39. 39

    I remember when I (accidentally) discovered the tab key would hide your palettes . I was Apple + tabbing too fast, and totally panicked when all my palettes disappeared! It was a very sad day indeed.

    Seriously, nice article Tom – very handy shortcuts.


  40. 40

    Ultimate Flattener is a new one for me

  41. 41

    I use the web extractor all the time. Never thought anything of it.

  42. 42

    How stupid to you have to be to not realize that the only difference between Mac and PC shortcuts is that the ctrl key = the command key.

    Replace where you see “ctrl” with “command” and stop your bitching.

  43. 43

    Papa’s got a brand new bag..

  44. 44

    Great info, but it would be nice to have both the PC & MAC platform keyboard notes. Yes I know I can figure it out, sometimes we designers are just lazy!

  45. 45

    You could put the keys in the KBD tags and style it a bit.

  46. 46

    I have been using Photoshop for a few years now… I find the most useful tool in the PS arsenal is one that is very rarely used.. even by a lot of advanced users. The Keyboard Shortcuts option. Everyone has their own style of using Photoshop.. there are a ton of shortcuts that I NEVER use.. and there are some that I use more than others… It really helps to customize your shortcuts to tools/filters/options that you actually use. For instance.. Sure F5 pops up brushes… but I almost always have that pane open anyways.. So i switched out F5 to “Convert to Smart Object”.

    Even though I know the majority of these steps/shortcuts from being self taught.. It’s great to have someone really show how useful and powerful keyboard shortcuts really are.. they save so much time!! Great article!

  47. 47

    As a rookie to PS, I can use all the tips I can get. Thanks!

  48. 48

    Great Stuff

  49. 49

    It’s missing the best shortcut ever.

    Ctrl + Alt + Right Click
    Selects the layer directly under your cursor, without fail.

    I don’t know how much time this has saved me since I found it.

  50. 50

    Number 3 can easily be condensed into ctrl (cmd) + shift + e to merge all visible layers.

    Otherwise, excellent list. There’s always something to learn in photoshop.

  51. 51

    Oh my god, the final one is going to save me so much time!

    @Hamish M — NO WAY! You’re my new hero. Until now, I’ve been hitting V -> Ctrl-Left Click to select layers, being able to do it without switching tools is going to be fantastic!

  52. 52

    this list is better than bacon!

  53. 53

    good list. do it for fireworks and illustrator too :)

  54. 54

    The real magic comes in using actions to eliminate keystrokes.

    I’ve got #1 cued to F2.

    One stroke.

  55. 55

    Hey everyone.

    I put together a pdf cheat sheet for anyone interested. It can be downloaded from my site at:

    Thanks to all for viewing/voting/commenting!

  56. 56

    The title made me laugh! Witty ;).

    It’s interesting seeing photoshop combinations presented in a combo to yield a net result, cool. Although the article could probably be assuaged even more with some screenshots that give an overview of the result.

  57. 57

    up up down down left right left right b a select start

  58. 58

    Way to go really useful list

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    its a basic, not bad

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    Userful but very old!
    This all are old shortcuts………!
    Offcourse a little bit additions to CS3, more like layer shifting/selecting (other than 7.0)

    Here are some of the tricks for photoshop (this may know for few)

    To change the background color
    1. Selct “Paint Bucket” Tool (Press G)
    2. Choose your color (Foreground)
    3. Shift click on the background

    Note: This option will not work in fullscreen mode.

  61. 61

    Hold down Shift + Alt and then press “+” to cycle through blending modes on the selected layer.

    Very helpful.

  62. 62

    niiiice…but print version would be even better :)

  63. 63

    This makes everything so much easier. You should write a book.

  64. 64

    Excellent article! Love this site.

    The extractor tip is useful for me. I usually do an Alt+i, D to duplicate the image, then Alt+L, F to flatten the image, and then crop from there. Your tip is much more intuitive and logical. Thanks so much!

  65. 65

    @Andrew Wilkinson
    Glad to help. Spread the word! :)

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    Daniel van Ginkel

    August 14, 2008 9:40 am

    I think it’s good but not excelent cause you didn’t include any mac shortcuts. It could have been excellent if you did. Great work on it though.

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    this is a great compilation of keyboard shortcuts and it’s written in a very unique way. good job.

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  69. 69

    merge all visible layers:
    PC: shift+ctrl+E
    MAC: shift+apple+E

  70. 70

    old stuff but still good

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    Great article, but where are the OS X shortcuts?

  73. 73

    Hamish M, I think it’s more simple to use Ctrl + left click. It does the same thing:)

  74. 74

    Would advise everyone to visit this source…great shortcuts

  75. 75

    no.1 I can do while sleeping :D
    good collection that, thank you…

  76. 76

    3. could be

    Ctrl Alt Shift N => new Layer without dial box
    Ctrl Shift E => Merge All into current Layer

    so you merge all without loosing all the layers…

  77. 77

    CTRL+S it’s our best friend =))

    This list is excelent :D

  78. 78

    Yeah, no Mac equivs is lazy. I’ve got #3 in an action via Shift +F1.

  79. 79

    Looks like I was late to the party. Great tutorials…now I’ve got to use them often enough that they stick!

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    I don’t know if there’s a shortcut key, but the way I do it is to make the Photoshop window smaller, so you can see the browser, and whatever color you wanted to select, then, after selecting the Eye Dropper tool, click and hold the mouse button down, then drag it out into the browser window.

    You’ll see the color change in the palette. When you have the color you want, just let go of the mouse button.

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  82. 82

    I am saying now “Its killer tips” many thanks

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    i need more infomation. not this kind of shit. this is not helping me……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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    nothing fresh has not heard, but don’t care thank you for labour

  87. 87

    I never get into the position where “time’s kickin’ my ass”. If you get that pressed, well, something’s wrong somewhere.

  88. 88

    와우 정말 멋진데요~!

  89. 89

    Many Thanks for this. Probably one of my favorite article.

  90. 90

    lol you have a MacBook Pro on the pic but all of those commands are for Windows xD

  91. 91

    excellent tips, Many many thanx for this

  92. 92

    Nice. Since I’m on PS all day almost every day, I use most of these and they have saved my life. I see some I didn’t know that I will be using, especially Layers.

    Also, if you’re doing mad crazy pen paths (I do color corrections for luxury retail products that have lots of zippers, linings and general funky details that require tons of selections) , my top time-savers are using the space bar to move rapidly around the image, option to change my bezier handle direction simultaneously while drawing path, and cmd to move a point of path around if I miss my mark. Those and a really huge monitor and Wacom also help!

  93. 93

    Co co-co-co-co-co-co-combo breaker!!! lmao thanks for such usseful info!!!

  94. 94

    To be honest… it’s mostly stuff I learned in school! what I need is the next level… anyone can find out any of these tricks (if you can call them that) by going to the help button in photoshop! what would be great is to learn more about combining effects and new ways of doing things to create stunning visuals… new ideals…

  95. 95

    Brilliant post as usual.

    Check the daily posts on photoshop cs4 keyboard shortcuts @

  96. 96

    I didn’t really read the article; because I stopped after the first sentence. Why are you cussing in the FIRST sentence? Make an article on how that disgusts viewers.

    But all of the other articles on this site are pretty good. :)

  97. 97

    Gracious !

  98. 98

    One of most funny articles i’ve ever read. Especially i feel funny when i read combo move names.

  99. 99

    I found it very interesting and enjoyed it while trying! Thank you very much.

  100. 100

    8. Quick Brush Jab Path Stroke – this is very useful:)
    I don’t know, then I can push Enter and path will be stroke.
    Before that I click right and choose stroke path.

    # Liam You to make flatten Visible Layer only need Shift+Ctr+E

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    Kristoffer Kvale

    July 30, 2013 12:04 pm

    This is something out of the ordinary, it is good and helpful. Good job on this Tom!

  102. 102

    maybe you should work in a big add agency (300 ppl or so)
    where you work like a pig from morning to evening doing multiple designs in one day.
    believe me these keyboard shortcuts are time savers.

    Great list BTW, thank you :)


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