28 Powerful Hidden Tips, Tricks, & Features!


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Photoshop is one of the most feature-rich and loaded applications on the software market today. You can use the application for 20 years and still not know many of the things you can do with Photoshop. This tutorial is going to rip the mask off of 28 hidden features within Photoshop that I love. Some of these features I use on a daily basis and some I only use a few times a month, but these are all hidden tips that most people don’t know about. Let’s learn some awesome tips and tricks together!

Download any of the images used in this tutorial here (girl in red dress & basketball kid are not available for download):








1. Design Space Preview (2016)

Design Space Preview (2016)

Design Space Preview (2016)

Under Photoshop>Preferences (Edit>Preferences on Windows OS) you can select “Technology Previews” from the menu on the left side and tick on “Enable Design Space (Preview)”. Hit “OK” and then go Window>Design Space (Preview) to enable this unique design view. What you will see is a new, simplified design view that allegedly will have something to do with the future of Photoshop. Explore it and have fun with it! It’s a totally different way of working with Photoshop.

2. Time-Saving Layers Panel Options




Look to the Layers panel and in the very top right corner of the panel you will have an icon which contains a fly out menu. Click that little icon and choose “Panel Options”. We’re going to ignore all options in this panel except the three check marks at the bottom of the panel.

“Use Default Masks on Fill Layers” is an option that will automatically place an empty mask whenever you add an Adjustment Layer. “Expand New Effects” is something that I like to leave checked off. With this option checked on, when you add any Layer Style to a layer, the Layer Style(s) will appear in a drop down beneath the layer. I kind of find it annoying. The last check box is simply about naming in your Layers Panel. When you duplicate a layer do you want the word “Copy” to be added, or not? Play with the options and see what you like. It’s the little things that can matter the most!

3. Pen Tool & The Rubber band


Grab the Pen tool and begin drawing a path. Often when you’re drawing a path you’re going to want to see where the path is being placed. By default, you cannot see where the path is being drawn, but if you need to see that path as you draw, look to the control bar and click on the little cog wheel icon and tick on the “Rubber Band” option.

4. Selecting Skin Tones with Color Range



When you have skin tone in an image, you can try to select it by going Select>Color Range and click on the drop down menu and choose “Skin Tones”. You can use the Fuzziness slider to adjust the amount you actually select. Sometimes this feature works very well, sometimes it’s absolute trash. It all depends on the image and the lighting.

5. Changing the “Angle” with Clone Stamp



When you’re using the Clone Stamp tool you may find yourself in a situation where you need to clone along an edge, but you come to a rounded edge like this guy’s shoulder. The solution is found under Window>Clone Source and find the “Rotation” input and set a positive or negative number until you find an angle that allows you to clone with the edge of the object. Check out the video if you want to see my example in action!

6. Commit Type Change Hotkey


Grab the Type tool and drag out a box to fill with text. Go Type>Paste Lorem Ipsum to add some text. Here is where this hotkey comes to play. Instead of clicking the “check” icon to commit our changes, use the hotkey Cmd + Return (Ctrl + Enter on Windows OS) to commit the changes to your text area.

7. Spacebar to Move Live Anchor Point when Using the Pen Tool


A great little tip when using the Pen tool is that as you click to drop new points, you can hold down your spacebar key and move the newly placed point before finally committing the location. Simply click to add the anchor point and immediately press and hold the spacebar and drag the anchor point wherever you like.

8. The Impressive “Copy Merged” Feature




If you have multiple layers like I have in my screenshot, you can drag out a selection over multiple pieces of artwork on multiple layers and then go Edit>Copy Merged to copy all that information. Create a new document and paste the copied merged artwork into the document to see exactly what was copied. I love this feature!

9. Open a Flattened PSD to Save Time


If you’re working on huge PSD files, you can save a heap of time by opening a flattened PSD if you just need to get a look at a PSD or save a flattened version from the file. You can do this by going File>Open and choose your file, but hold the Alt/Opt + Shift keys and hit the “Open” button. You’ll see a pop-up asking you if you want to read the composite data. Choose “OK” and you’ll have your flattened PSD!

10. Preserve Layer Transparency



The ability to preserve and “lock” the transparent pixels on a layer is a major asset when working in Photoshop. In this PSD that I’m using, I’ve split the ocean from the land/sky and I want to paint a solid color over JUST the ocean. We can grab the Brush tool and paint over this layer and it will only lay paint down where there are already pixels in place. You can also use this technique to quickly change the color of raster objects on a layer. Lock the transparency and use the hotkey Opt+Delete/Alt+Backspace.

11. The Power of “Blend If”



The Blend If sliders in the Blending Options dialog box bring a whole different level of blending power to your images in Photoshop. Double click any layer to open the Blending Options dialog (the same place you’d find “Stroke” or “Drop Shadow”) and make sure you choose “Blending Options” over on the top left. Check out the two sliders near the bottom of this dialog box slider. Slide the dark slider on top to wash away darker pixels on your layer, or slide the light slider on the top to wash away the lighter pixels of your layer. Hold down your Alt/Opt key and click either slider to split the slider and further blend your layer. Check out the video to see how I use this feature and the second slider as well!

12. Convert Layer Styles to Pixels



I have some text here which has a stroke, a drop shadow, and a slight gradient overlay. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but it works for our example here. If you want to break the layer styles away from the layer you can go Layer>Layer Style>Create Layers. This will convert each of your layer styles to a pixel layer and mask them accordingly to achieve an effect as close to what you had with “real” layer styles.

13. Moving a Drop Shadow Exactly Where You Want


When you place a drop shadow on any object in Photoshop, you can pretty much bypass the dialog box for the drop shadow by leaving the drop shadow box open and just clicking on the drop shadow itself and dragging it wherever you want it to be. Adjust the size of the drop shadow in the dialog box to tweak how much blur your shadow will have.

14. Bird’s Eye View


When you’re zoomed way into your Photoshop document, you can perform a quick, temporary zoom out to get an idea of where you are and where you want to zoom into next by holding down the letter “H” and clicking and dragging. This is the quick and dirty way to quickly dirty way to navigate any document at any zoom level.

15. Convert Photoshop Design to CSS (Copy CSS)


With shape layers, text layers, and entire layer groups, you can simply right click on them and choose “Copy CSS”. This with copy the CSS for the positioning, the layer level (z-index), fill, stroke, gradient settings, size, and more! Check it out and see how much you can use this for in your web design projects. NOTE: You’ll most likely need to tweak the CSS to work with your specific web project, but it can give you a good head start writing the code you need depending on your project.

16. Paste Into and Outside Of



If you create a selection in your Photoshop document before you paste whatever you copied into Photoshop, you can go Edit>Paste Special and choose “Paste Into” to paste your graphic and automatically constrain it within a mask. You can also choose Edit>Paste Special>Paste Outside to paste the graphic and mask it to everywhere EXCEPT wherever you have selected.

17. Spring-Loaded Hand Tool to Instantly Move Your View


Whenever you’ve zoomed way into an image that you’re working on, simply hold the spacebar down and the tool that you’re using automatically switches to the Hand tool and allows you to drag and move around the document. Let go of the spacebar and return to the tool you had been using. This might be the single most-used hotkey by me on a daily basis.

18. Revert Photoshop Document as it was



When you go into a Photoshop document and you begin making lots of changes, but then you decide that it’s just not going as you had planned, you can quickly revert your Photoshop document as it was when you opened it by pressing the F12 button. This will take you right back to the way your file was when it was last opened by you.

19. Adjust Global Light




Working with Layer styles allows you to attach a live effect of sorts to nearly any kind of layer or object in Photoshop. Some of these effects (drop shadow, bevel and emboss, inner shadow, and more) rely on a “direction” which indicates where the fake light source would be. For instance, this is how you control a drop shadow being straight beneath an object and not slid off to one of the sides. I have a few circles that I’ve applied some layer styles to and I set the direction in each of these effects to 120 degrees, but I ticked on Global Light. Now let’s say that you decide that the shadows and highlights are all on the wrong side and you actually need your global light to be set to 40 degrees. Simply go Layer>Layer Style>Global Light and set the Global Light to 40 degrees and watch as every effect in your document that uses Global Light will update instantly!

20. Spring Loaded Tools


Every tool in Photoshop has a hotkey (well, just about every tool) and you can temporarily switch to any of those tools while using your current tool by pressing and holding the hotkey for that tool while using the tool. Let go of the hotkey and the tool will switch right back to whatever you were just using. In my example I was using the Brush tool to just paint blobs of pink on this photo, but then I pressed and held the letter “J” to bring up the Spot Healing Brush tool and used that and then let go of “J” and it flipped right back to my Brush tool.

21. Precise Painting Mode


Speaking of using the Brush tool, you can hit your Caps Lock key anytime you’re using the Brush tool to jump into “Precise Painting Mode” which converts your cursor to a crosshair for a different, and some would say finer, look at whatever you’re painting.

22. Color Replacement Tool



This is an often over-looked tool which is pretty powerful. It does have the sharp downside of being pretty destructive, but it’s cool to know about and potentially use when the moment it right. This tool is located beneath the Brush tool. Look to the toolbar and choose a mode. Typically if I’m changing color, I’ll work with either the Hue or Color modes. Hue replaces ONLY the color with that new hue of color, whereas the Color mode adjusts both hue and saturation. I like to choose the icon furthest to the left (Continuous Sampling Mode), set the Limits to Contiguous, and work with a tolerance of about 35%. There is a dot in the middle of this brush, whatever color the dot is hovering over is color that the brush will look to change. Paint with care and you can change color pretty quickly!

23. Sample Color Outside of Photoshop


Did you know that you can use the Eyedropper to sample colors outside of Photoshop? If you resize your Photoshop window so you can see your desktop or any other open window behind it simply grab the Eyedropper tool (or the eyedropper in the color picker) and click somewhere in your Photoshop document and drag out over the open window behind the Photoshop window to sample colors from that window.

24. HUD Brush Size Changing



Grab the Brush tool and you can quickly change the size and hardness of a brush by pressing Ctrl + Opt on the Mac or Alt +Right Clicking on PC and dragging side-to-side to increase/decrease the brush size. Drag up or down to harden/soften a brush as well. TIP: You can change the color of the brush preview by going to the Preferences (Cmd/Ctrl+ K) and selecting “Cursors” in the menu on the left and click on the color thumbnail for Brush Preview and change it to whatever you like.

25. HUD Color Picker



Photoshop has a heads up display color picker that can be brought up when you’re using the Brush tool. Make sure you have OpenGL settings turned on in your Preferences (Cmd/Ctrl + K) and on the Mac hit Ctrl + Opt + Cmd and click or Shift + Alt + Right click on the PC and you will see a color picker appear. You can release the hotkeys and still pick your color. Begin in the center and choose your desired brightness and saturation levels and then press and hold the spacebar and move to the hue strip outside of the inner color picker. Release the spacebar and choose your hue. NOTE: Pressing spacebar allows you to lock the position of the color picked in the center color picker area. Note #2: Go to your Preferences (Cmd/Ctrl + K) and find the drop down menu “HUD Color Picker” and choose the style of color picker that you like!

26. Reset ANY Dialog Box with a Simple Hotkey


With virtually any dialog box as you being making changes, you can hold down the Alt/Opt key and the “Cancel” button will flip to a “Reset” button which will undo all the changes you have made with that particular dialog box.

27. Hiding Layers For Fast Before/After Preview


When you’re working with a Photoshop document that has lots of layers, you’ll often need to isolate a single layer to check out what is on that layer, or maybe you just want to do a complete before/after by showing only the “Background” layer. Hold your Alt/Opt key and click on the layer eyeball to hide all the other layers and click that eyeball again to make all of the layers visible again.

28. Hotkey for each Blend Mode


Most of us may know that you can quickly switch between Blend Modes using the Shift + “+” hotkey, but did you know that every Blend Mode has its own hotkey? Hold down your Shift + Alt/Opt buttons and use any of the letters in the graphic I’ve created. The really important hotkeys that I use most regularly are for Multiply (M), Screen (S), Overlay (O), and Soft Light (F), and of course Normal (N).

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