Here are my top 6 ways to work faster in Photoshop. You already know about hot keys and nondestructive editing so those don’t need to be covered. But there are many other tricks you might not be aware of, such as copy and pasting layers, keystroke combinations (different than hotkeys), Libraries, and more.
Copy and Paste Layers
First of all, let’s talk about that most people don’t know yet that’s also one of the best things that Adobe has finally done for Photoshop. If you need to copy layers to another document, it’s such a hassle. You got to do that whole drag your window out and then drag and drop your layers into your new document.
But In the Photoshop CC 2018 update, Adobe finally released the copy and paste feature for layers. Now you can simply select the layer you want, press Ctrl/Cmd+C to copy, and then switch to your other document and paste it. It’s funny how long it took Adobe to come up with this but aren’t we all just glad it’s finally here.
By the way, you’re going to run into some issues where this won’t work. And the reason why is because you have an active selection. So it’s happening to you, press Ctrl/Cmd+D to remove your selection and now you should be able to copy and paste layers.
Save Your Assets in the Library
Adobe has this tool called Libraries which lets you store and access your frequently used assets. You can access this panel in Photoshop by going to Window > Libraries. I like to create Photoshop templates like my YouTube thumbnails and store them in here. You can also store graphics, Layer Styles, colors and more. By the way, these Libraries are also available and synced to other Adobe software like Premiere and After effects.
Learn the Curves
The best way to work faster in Photoshop is to work more efficiently. As you know, there are many ways to achieve the same edit in Photoshop. The most powerful tool for any tonal adjustment is the curves. This adjustment can replace many other adjustments and it’s also a universal skill that you can use in other software. If you want to learn how to use curves, check out my My Secret Tone Curves Trick tutorial. I have tons of tutorials and you’re going to find out that it’s not as hard as most people think it is.
Keystroke Combinations (Windows Only)
The next tip is keystroke combinations. You already know about hot keys but what you might not know are keystroke combinations. First of all, this tip only applies to you if you’re using Windows. You can still do it on Macs but it requires so many keystrokes that it just doesn’t make sense.
So Photoshop has a lot of hotkeys but not for everything. For example, one of the things that I do the most in Photoshop is convert a layer into a Smart Object. But there’s no hotkey for that. Technically I can go into Photoshop’s preferences and try to find a hotkey that’s not used and set it to that. But in less time, you can just memorize the hotkeys to access it from the menus. If you hold the Alt key, you’ll see an underline under a letter of the menus.
This tells you the hotkey you need to press to open that menu. So to convert a layer into a Smart Object, I can press Alt+L to open the Layers menu, S to go to the Smart Objects submenu, and then S again for Smart Object. So now that I found the keystroke combination for that, next time I can just press Alt+L, S, S to quickly convert a layer into a Smart Object. You can find these keystroke combinations for almost everything you need and don’t forget that this trick also works in other software.
Macro Keyboards, Mouse and other Accessories
Something I find funny is that some people will buy the most expensive camera equipments and camera bags, but when it comes to computer accessories, they use the cheapest stuff possible. Typically it’s just the keyboard and mouse came with their computer.
The first thing you should buy is a good gaming-grade mouse. Now don’t let the term gaming make you think that it’s not good enough for professional work – they’re just marketed towards gamers and they’re actually some of the best quality products you can buy. If you have troubles doing things like painting in a mask, upgrading your mouse will improve your precision
Next are macro keys. These are additional keys that you can record to do anything you like and you can find macro keys on both keyboards and mouse. Once you have it setup to the way you like it and get in the habit of using it, you’ll be working faster than ever. For me personally, macro keys have been the biggest improvement towards my workflow. So for your next keyboard, try to find one with macro keys.
Finally, there are other accessories that you can buy. You can get a dedicated macro keypad, MIDI control board, or a Loupedeck if you primarily use Lightroom. My favorite is PaletteGear which is this modular setup that you can customize to your workflow. And the reason why I like is because:
- It works with more than one software. Something like a Loupedeck is perfect for Lightroom Classic but that’s it. With PaletteGear, it automatically switches profiles depending on whether you’re using Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere, etc.
- It maximizes your workspace. You can customize the modules to fit your workspace and when I’m traveling, I like to bring just a few and combined with my small Dell XPS laptop, it’s a nice portable setup that’ll fit on an airplane tray.
- It’s expandable. So you can start off with a medium-sized kit and in the future when you need more, you can always add more.
Some of the accessories I mentioned are not cheap and not something I’d recommend everyone go out and buy. Obviously for professionals who make a living off using Adobe products, it’s a no brainer to buy these tools because they’ll pay for themselves in the form of reduced work time. But if you’re not on that level, I’d say start off with at least good quality mouse. Nowadays, they’re so affordable and there’s no reason to not use them.
Use Photoshop actions
Finally, make use of Photoshop actions. Whether you create your own or download other people’s Photoshop actions, they can save you a lot of time. For example, I do real estate photography on the side and overtime I created my own set of Photoshop actions to do 90% of the work for me. Without these actions, it would take me way longer to edit and frankly I don’t think I could stand it.
Two of the most popular websites to buy Photoshop actions are Creative Market and GraphicRiver. There’s so many actions there and you’re going to find cool actions that you never knew you could do in just a few clicks. Also, as a personal plug, if you want to buy some of my Photoshop actions, check out my website at SparkleStock. I have actions to retouch skin, replace skies, create double exposures and more. Everything I make is priced very reasonably and if you do buy anything, thank you so much for your support – I really appreciate it. Now if you’re looking for something that’s free, I’ve made tons of free Photoshop actions that you can find by visiting Photoshop Tutorials’ download section. Another great website for free actions is Spoon Graphics – just search for the keyword actions and you’ll find some really incredible actions. Finally, there’s also a lot of actions at Brusheezy.