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Photoshop CS4 offers an abundance of helpful shortcuts and hidden tricks that allow designers and photographers to get more done in less time. In Photoshop CS4 Power Shortcuts, Michael Ninness reveals hundreds of tips to boost productivity, including the top 20 power shortcuts every Photoshop user must know. He covers strategies for better document and panel management, and offers techniques for becoming quicker and more nimble when using layers, adjustment layers, and layer masks. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download the keyboard shortcut guide from the Exercise Files tab.
Selecting and adjusting layers is something you are going to want to become really efficient at inside of Photoshop, especially in a document like this where you've got a lot of different images, each one on their own layer. Working with those, you want to make it very quick to get to the layer that you want. Now out of the box, the default is that Photoshop only works on the layer that's currently active in the Layers panel. So in this case, Layer 4 is the active layer. So it doesn't matter where you click in this document. It's only going to move that particular layer. Notice that I'm dragging over here on the left, but it's still moving that layer of content. You don't have to click right on the image itself.
Now some people like that convenience. It doesn't accidentally select a different layer for you. You can click safely anywhere in this layer to move the particular layer of content that you are working on. Other people find that really confusing because they are used to products like InDesign or Illustrator where you click on the specific thing that you want to move. Well, Photoshop can do that as well if you change its default or take advantage of a shortcut. So here I'm in the Move tool, of course the tool you use to adjust and work with layers. There is an option here called Auto Select that's turned off by default.
If I turn that on, you notice that it's set to Layer. Now whatever layer I actually click on where there are pixels on that layer directly underneath the cursor, it actually selects that layer for me. So if you look over the Layers panel now you'll see Layer 1 is selected. If I click here, Layer 2 is selected, if I click here Layer 3 and so forth, Layer 4. This now lets me very quickly jump to the layer that I want to adjust on, without actually having to use the Layers panel to do the selection first. If I want to nudge this a little bit over here, I just click right and drag that layer, I click-and-drag this layer, click-and-drag this layer, and so forth.
It makes it a lot easier when you are working with multiple layers in your document. That said, there are some times where it gets in your way. So some people like to keep this off and then temporarily access that functionality by holding down a modifier key. On the Mac it's the Command key and on Windows it's the Ctrl key. So again you have to be in the Move tool for this. If I hold down the Command key with the Move tool, or Ctrl on Windows, I can now temporarily get the Auto Select behavior as long as I keep that modifier key down. So you see I'm just clicking on the actual pixels of that particular layer. The Layers panel is jumping to that particular layer to show me that layer is selected and I can move that particular layer directly.
So again if you are working with multiple layers, this is a shortcut that you definitely want to incorporate into your workflow. You have the choice of leaving that on, so you can just get to it whenever you want it just by clicking-and-dragging directly, or you can access it temporarily by holding down the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on Windows to get to just the layer that you want to act on immediately.
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