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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

10. Cloak of Invisibility Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

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 Link

This post is one of the finalists of our guest author contest1. 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.

Footnotes Link

  1. 1
SmashingConf New York

Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf New York, on June 14–15, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.

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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


    August 13, 2008 7:53 am

    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


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