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Ardis Creative Web Design Blog » Blog Archive » Speed Up Your Photoshop Workflow

Speed Up Your Photoshop Workflow

If you’re a designer, the quality of your work must be paired with a reasonable amount of time for its completion. Working under tight deadlines and the competition on the market are just a few factors that should convince you that speed is important. And then, if you can do the same work in less time, it means you can use the gained time more effectively: for planning, for self-promotion or even for some fun!


Here are a few useful tips that you can use to speed up your Photoshop workflow:

1. Use Shortcuts

The best and easiest thing you can do to work faster is to use as many shortcuts as possible.  You probably are familiar with Ctrl + S and Ctrl + Z, Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V, but you could do so much more! You can use shortcuts for all the menu commands and for all the tools, and more. Whenever a menu command doesn’t have a shortcut assigned to it, you can define one with Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts (Alt + Shift + Ctrl + K, to be true to our statements).

Above: I have set my own keyboard shortcuts for the Shadow/Highlights and the Exposure command under Image > Adjustments. Also, I have reassigned the CTRL + P command from printing (which I rarely do, since I design mostly for the web) to the Photo Filter adjustment, which I use a lot more often.

Some of the best time-saving tools are those for navigation inside your document:

  • Hold down the Spacebar key to make the hand tool temporarily active and drag into your document;
  • Use Ctrl + Spacebar + Click anywhere in your document where you want to zoom in;
  • Add Alt to the previous shortcut (Ctrl + Alt + Spacebar + Click) to zoom out.

You can use these in the middle of painting, selecting, erasing, anything except for typing (true for most shortcuts), and once you release the spacebar key you are back to your previous tool.
My most used tool shortcuts (I can tell these by how faded the paint is on these much abused keys on my keyboard!)

  • V – the move tool (remember it by the resemblance of the letter V with the arrow)
  • C – the crop tool
  • B  - the brush tool
  • P – the pen tool
  • S – the stamp tool
  • G – the gradient tool

Easy to remember, aren’t they?
Photoshop has a series of other shortcuts that aren’t related to a tool or a menu command, which means you can’t really read them in a tool tip. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Alt + click and drag to duplicate an object and position it in a different location (to simply duplicate a layer, hit Ctrl + J)
  • Ctrl + T for the transform controls. Then you can right click to have access to all the command from under Edit > Transform, including the very useful flip horizontal/vertical. To freely transform your object, Ctrl + click and drag on any corner of the transform controls (watch for the cursor to change from black to white before dragging).
  • Ctrl + Alt + Shift + E: this works when you have selected the top most (visible) layer in the Layers palette, and it places a snapshot of your image on a separate layer at the top (it’s like saving a flat version of your comp and bringing it back into the comp as a layer).

For a comprehensive list of very cool and useful shortcut tricks, read this article at Web Design Wall.

2. Reuse your settings

When working with images of the same kind (as it happens often when retouching or preparing images for web), it’s very likely that you’ll need to use the same filter or adjustment with the same or close to same parameters. Then why start from the default values when you can fine tune from the previous settings?
How? Easily: use the Alt key in combination with any shortcut for adjustments or for filters. For instance, if your most recently used filter was Gaussian Blur, you can hit Ctrl + Alt + F to bring up the Gaussian Blur dialog with the setting you last used already filled in. Or, for Hue/Saturation, for instance, just hit Ctrl + Alt + U if you need to make similar adjustments with those used last time you applied Hue/Saturation.
Don’t have a shortcut for the adjustment you want to reuse? Click on the adjustment in the menu and press Alt while it’s opening (you might need a little exercise to “catch” it – if you press Alt before you click the menu option, you will close the menu).

And of course, you can always save presets for adjustments you need to apply to multiple images.

3. Use actions

Writing actions is easier than it sounds! It’s basically just recording the steps you are taking to complete a certain task in Photoshop, in order to reuse it afterwards with a simple click (or shortcut). A very simple and effective example: you’ve laid 20 web pages for a client, and you need to send them for review. Your layouts are in PSD format (because you’ll need to be able to make changes to them), but you need them all in jpeg format, so you can make a multi-page PDF file. You can open the files one by one and save them jpegs (sounds like fun, huh?), or you can open them all in Photoshop (don’t minimize them) and do this for one of them:

In you Actions palette, click the Create new action button at the bottom of the palette. Fill in the name and, if you wish, a shortcut combination. Then click Record. You will notice a red icon at the bottom of the Actions palette (it show that everything you do from this moment on in Photoshop is being recorded). Therefore, chose one of your files and save it as a jpeg. Then close the original PSD, without saving it. Back to the Actions palette, hit the square icon to stop recording. With your action selected, hit the play button for each of the remaining files and watch them disappear one by one! 30 seconds later, your jpegs are ready.

Note: you won’t be able to reuse this action, unless you want to save the files in the same folder as the one used for this action.

You can also find on the web ready-to-use actions that you can use to speed up your work. We have offered one in our Download gallery. It’s an action that I use all the time when I cut out objects for a comp because it saves me a great deal of time.
You can also run actions directly from Bridge, on a large number of images. Select your images and then choose: Tools > Photoshop > Batch. A great tool for running complex actions. Choose the action you want to run and go make yourself a cup of coffee. When you’re back, the job is done.

4. Use presets

There are numerous Photoshop presets available for free on the web and using them can prove to be a great time saver. From brushes to styles, from patterns to duotones and everything in between, these have been made available so you don’t have to start reinventing the wheel. Like glossy buttons? It can take you some time to build one up from scratch with layer effects if you haven’t done it before. If the timer is running, you might want to choose one that has already been created, and maybe tweak it until it meets your design’s needs.

DezinerFolio offers beautiful web 2.0 styles for Photoshop. Ardis Creative has started to offer resources of this kind too in the Download section. It’s not much, but it will grow with time. You can find dozens of wonderful free brushes at Brusheezy. Do yourself a favor and organize a resource database that you can turn to in times of need! Or at least bookmark these resource places and others alike.

5. Save room for changes

You certainly don’t want to start over with your design every time your boss or your client is asking you to change something… When you’re expecting changes, make a habit from working in a non-destructive manner with your layers/objects. Use adjustment layers instead of applying Hue/Saturation or Curves or anything alike directly on your image. Use the clone tool and the heal tool in a new layer on top of the one you need corrected (make sure to select Sample All layers or Current & Below in the tool’s preferences). And, if you have CS3, use smart filters.

6. Organize your Layers palette

When you’re working with very complex images, and especially when you know that others might need to work on the same file, you need to organize your layers so everything appears in a logical manner and everything is easy to find. Start with naming your layers. Names like Layer 0, Layer 39 and Layer 158 don’t say much about what’s on that layer. Organize your layers in folders. Color-code your folders for even easier identification. Lock the layers or folders that you don’t want to accidentally modify.
Note: when working with a complex image, it helps turning the Auto-Select feature of the Move tool ON, so you can click on an image and instantly identify the layer it sits on.

Do you have your own time-saving tricks? Please share them in a comment and we’ll add the best of them to this article!

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9 Responses to “Speed Up Your Photoshop Workflow”

  1. sachin Says:

    hi, i saw your photoshop tutorial look so nice and understandable. plz send me such as ideas for help me to make great designer as you

    thanks

  2. Mark Says:

    Appreciate you post. Friends send me a link. It’s very interesting. Added in favourites! Want to read your blog more and more!

  3. dilshad khalil Says:

    hi, i just now saw ur site it is very nice , i am very interested to learn designing and i hope i will get many of the ideas from your site thank you

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