Photoshop Shortcuts for the Brush Tool

shorcuts for the brush tool

The Photoshop bush tool is an extremely useful Photoshop feature that can be used to add detail, texture or lighting. If you have read our tutorials on how to import, create and use Photoshop brushes you already know how brushes work, but Photoshop brushes need a precise touch and navigating through the tool’s menus takes time. What if you could half the time it takes to use the brush tool? This tutorial on Photoshop  shortcuts for the brush tool will teach you how to skip a few steps when working with brushes and speed up your workflow as a result.

The shortcut ‘B’

This means everything for the brush tool – it is the keyboard shortcut to activate it. You have probably heard of it, but likely, if you are reading this tutorial, you are still not using it enough. This is the tool that you have to go back to often in your editing process. If you count all the times you have to travel with the mouse cursor to click the tool, eventually it adds up and in the end slows down your overall workflow speed. Start using this shortcut.

letter B

Adjust the size of the brush

It takes significant time to go into the brush options to change the size of the brush. To shortcut this step use keys ‘[‘ and ‘]’ to respectively decrease or increase the brush size. If you hold down ‘shift’ while using the keys it will change the brush hardness. This just saved you heaps of time.


Rotate Photoshop brush

So far Adobe has not created a hotkey to allow you to rotate the brush without going into the brush options, but at least in Photoshop CC, if you use the shortcut Cmd+Click on Mac ­(right mouse click for Windows), while the brush tool is selected, you will access the brush options where you can quickly change the brush angle, size, hardness and see the brush gallery. Alternatively, you can also rotate the brush angle by rotating the actual canvas itself using the ‘Rotate View’ tool. Simply select the tool from the Photoshop tool menu or use the keyboard shortcut ‘R’, and drag the mouse up, down, left or right to change the angle.

rotate bursh

Sample color from the image

There are many situations when you will need to sample a color from the image for your brush tool. When the brush tool is selected hold ‘Opt’ key (Alt for Windows) and mouse-click the place in the image you want to sample the color from. Now the brush will be in that color – it is that simple and you do not have to go through the ‘Color Picker’ ever again.


Scroll through brushes

When you are working with a set of brushes that you need to switch between quickly, e.g., you’re adding smoke to the image, it becomes time consuming to go through the brush options to change your brush. You can use keys ‘,’ and ‘.’ to scroll through the brush gallery. Further, if you use the same keys while holding the ‘shift’ key you will jump to the first or the last brush in the brush gallery.


Change brush opacity quickly

It is likely that you will have to change the opacity of your brush more than once when working with brushes to create a realistic effect. An easy way to vary the brush opacity is to use the number pad on you keyboard. Start from ‘1’ to set the opacity to 10% and go all the way to ‘0’ to set opacity 100%. If you try typing the numbers before you use the brush tool on the canvas you will type-in that exact opacity value for your brush. If you use the same key while holding ‘shift,’ instead of changing opacity you will change the flow of the brush. Note that if you have the ‘airbrush’ tool selected, the shortcuts will be switched and holding ‘shift’ will change the opacity.

brush opacity

Why is it important to use Brushes Shortcuts?

Consider this scenario: you need to edit files. Not just one but tons of images for a work due next week. Are you sure you want to lose time by going slider by slider each time you need to do an adjustment?.

Professionals invest their time to develop their workflow techniques to make the editing process as natural and fast as it can become, even sometimes acquiring new hardware like a 3d mouse or a graphic tablet like the Wacom Intuos Pro for speeding their performance. The answer behind these tools isn’t just to have a precise control of what’s going on in front your eyes but to benefit yourself from the possibility of assigning shortcuts to the tools you are using.

Not remembering the shortcuts? Not a problem! Fortunately for you, there are two easy ways to solve this:

  • Practice: Yeah, practice makes us better. Set some spare hours of your time each day to go over and over different settings and images to understand how these shortcuts will do wonders for your editing time and, when feeling confident enough, track your time – using shortcuts and without them. The results will be convincing enough, trust me.
  • If you are too lazy to dedicate time to this, then you can use those fancy looking keyboard overlays for laptops to remember all the important shortcuts you need to apply to your tools. On the other hand, there is the downside that they work only for Mac laptops, sorry Windows folks!

Did you find this tutorial useful? Expand your knowledge by learning our 10 most useful Photoshop shortcuts that will increase your workflow speed.

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