Graphic Thoughts: My Top 10 Photoshop Moves, Pt. 2
Posted Jan 1, 2009

Hey graphics gang, thanks for tuning back in for this month’s Graphic Thoughts. In the last installment, I showed you five tips that I hope you found useful in Part 1 of our two-part series, “My Top 10 Photoshop Moves.” Now it’s time to complete the circle with my next set of five moves that I implement most often when I’m working in Adobe Photoshop. 

TIP 1: Create a 3D Look
Adobe Photoshop
Do you ever want to give a photo or layer a 3D look, like it has some sort of perspective? Try Tip 1:

Select a layer, then use Ctrl+T (Cmd+T on the Mac) to get into “free transform” mode, then simply hold down your Ctrl key (Cmd on the Mac) while selecting any node.

By doing this and moving the node (try dragging the upper-left corner toward the center of your photo), you’re actually engaging the “warp” tool found under Edit > Transform > Warp. This is just a lot faster.

TIP 2: Merge Visible Layers Nondestructively
Adobe Photoshop

Here’s Tip 2, a nice undocumented feature (as I’ve been told) in Photoshop to merge all visible layers into a single layer (without affecting the existing layers):

Create a new blank layer by clicking the new layer icon on the bottom of your Layer palette. Then hold down Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E (Cmd+Shift+Option+E on the Mac).

All visible layers will now be merged into what was a previously blank layer. I’ll often use this if I want to quickly merge multiple layers together. It’s also super-handy if you want a graphic with a transparent background. Just turn off the background layer and run this technique, then slide it into a new document with all layers merged and no background. Sweet, eh?

TIP 3: Duplicate a Layer More Quickly
Adobe Photoshop

Are there times when you don’t want to use Ctrl+J for duplicating a layer? Try this even faster move, Tip 3:

Select a layer then hold down your Alt key (Option on the Mac) and drag your mouse. 

A copy of the layer is created instantly. Do it again and again (quickly releasing your mouse after each drag) and you’ll see how fast you can make 20 copies. It takes me about 3 seconds!

TIP 4: Resize Your Brush Faster
Adobe Photoshop
Is it taking you too long to size your brushes up and down by always selecting in the brushes window? If so, try Tip 4:

Use your brackets keys [  ] to quickly resize your brush.

By holding down your bracket keys, you can ramp up to a massively large brush in about 1 second!

TIP 5: Sample New Fonts Without the ‘Inverted’ Look
Adobe Photoshop
Does it drive you crazy when you select text because you want to see what it will look like using a different font, but it’s shown only in the “inverted” look of selected text? You can get rid of the inverted selection box using Tip 5:

Type out your text, and then select it by either dragging your mouse across your text or double-clicking the T icon on your layers palette. Next, click in the font name box at the top of your screen (the little window that displays the font’s actual name). Press Ctrl+H (Cmd+H on the Mac) and the highlighted box on your font will disappear. 

Now you can use your up and down arrow keys to quickly view different versions of your text in different fonts without the annoying highlighted area on your text.

So there you have it—my top 10 favorite “moves” and techniques I use when I’m working in Photoshop. Honestly, I could have made it my top 20 or 50, but 10 is good for now. I’m sure there are more to come—especially with the recent release of Photoshop CS4. Enjoy, and I hope you’re off to an awesome 2009!

Lance Gray (lance at is the chief creative pixelmonkey at PixelPops Design, LLC. For questions, thoughts, or ideas simply email him.