Take your photography to the next level and beyond...

  • NEWS

Why not join for free today?

Join for Free

Your total photography experience starts here

Your guide to the tools in Photoshop, Gimp and Paint Shop Pro X2

Your guide to the tools in Photoshop, Gimp and Paint Shop Pro X2 - No longer will you need to navigate menus as Michael Bates shows us all the hotkeys we could ever need.

 Add Comment


Most of the tutorials on the internet as a whole, are written for a specific piece of software. However it is not too difficult to adapt these tutorials for other packages providing they have the requisite tools available to you. One of the main things that slows people down is not knowing what the equivalent tool is in a package or how to access it. So here I will list all the basic hotkeys you need for each package so that you will no longer need to navigate menus as much and can start to focus on your photographs once again. I will list each software's name for the tool and its hotkeys in order of GIMP, PSPX2 then Photoshop. Not all of the packages have hotkeys for every one of these operations, but if this is the case I will explain where you can find them.

Paintbrush (P)hotkey , Paint Brush (B)Hotkey , Brush (B)Hotkey

This is the tool you will be using to add your own colours and doodles to the image where you see fit. You can set the colour, brush head style, hardness and opacity of this tool to create some interesting effects, one of the most basic things to use; left click and drag to draw.

HotkeySwitch Between Background and Foreground Colours (X), Use Background Colour (Right Click), Toggle Colours (X)

This swaps the background and foreground colours around in the colour palette so you can paint with the background colour quickly and easily. This is especially useful when editing layer masks as you can correct the mask swiftly using this shortcut. Note that in Paint Shop Pro you just need to left click to paint with the foreground colour and right click to use the background colour.

HotkeyReset Background Foreground Colours to Black and White (D),(N/A), (D)

This will return your palette to using black as the foreground colour and white as the background colour. There is no hotkey for this in Paint Shop Pro so I have highlighted the button you must press to do this in the screenshot. The icon is slightly different in Photoshop and GIMP; a black square overlapping the corner of a white square so as to suggest it is the foreground colour.

Eraser (Shift+E)Hotkey, (X)Hotkey, (E)Hotkey

This is like the brush tool and even has the same parameters as it, however this will remove any data in the area of the layer you select instead of painting over it. This means that you cannot undo this if you go more than the maximum number of Undo Steps from it, so a Layer Mask is a preferable method of removing parts of an image unless you are absolutely certain you don't want that image present.

Bucket Fill (Shift+B)Hotkey, Flood Fill (F)Hotkey, Paint Bucket (G)Hotkey

This will fill an area with whatever colour or gradient you set it to just like the same tool in MS Paint. However with these packages you can set more advanced options such as the tolerance to determine how similar a colour must be to be filled with the colour so it doesn't overstep the boundaries you had in mind.

Move tool (M)Hotkey, (M)hotkey, (V or Control and click, then drag the layer)Hotkey

This allows you to grab a layer and move it around as you like.

Colour Picker (O)Hotkey, Dropper (E or hold control and click whilst painting)Hotkey, Eyedropper (I)Hotkey

Allows you to pick a colour from within the image and set it to your foreground or background colour. Left click to set the foreground colour and right click to set the background. Especially useful if you are trying to blend an object into an existing image so as to get the right palette.

Healing Brush (H)hotkey, (Tool N/A, use Clone Brush), JHotkey

The healing brush allows you to set a source area and use this image data to fix another area in the image that is damaged. This is used A LOT in magazines and the like to remove blemishes etc. (PSP has a dedicated setting for this in the Makeover tool) but for other projects this tool can be equally useful. It copies the pattern and colour of the source area, places it over the area you left-click then blurs it so it blends in better.

Free Select/LassoHotkey, (N/A)Hotkey, (L)Hotkey

Used to draw around areas you wish to select that are an irregular shape. With all these selection tools you can add to an existing selection by holding shift whilst you draw a new selection or remove an area by holding control. In Photoshop there are other modes such as the magnetic lasso that will stick to edges, and in PSP there are options you can change to perform similar types of selection such as the Edge Detect and Point to Point modes. An indispensable tool that you will have to use at some point.

Rectangular Select (R)Hotkey, Selection Tool (S)Hotkey, Rectangular Marquee (M)Hotkey

The same as the Free Select tools but set to be a rectangular shape. Good for getting straight lines.

Elliptical Select (E)Hotkey, (Edit Mode of Selection Tool), (M, although initially you have to right-click the Rectangular Marquee icon and it is grouped here)

Again it's the same tool albeit elliptical.


Dodge and Burn (Shift+D)Hotkey,(J)hotkey , (O, right click to find opposite tool)hotkey

Dodging an area will lighten the colour, simulating reduced development in the darkroom, whilst burning does the opposite and exposes the image further and subsequently darkening it. In GIMP this is one tool and you can left click to dodge and hold control to burn, making it a lot quicker to do this sort of operation.

Clone Stamp (C)Hotkey, (C)Hotkey , (S)Hotkey

This tool acts the same as the Healing Brush except it doesn't blur and blend the cloned area into the new location. Instead, the Clone Brush and Stamps are useful for completely omitting and obscuring details rather than integrating them.

Magic WandHotkey,(NA)Hotkey, (W)Hotkey

Selects all the areas of the image that are this colour and adjacent to the pixel clicked. This means (depending on the tolerance setting you use) it can select a small area of a few pixels or a fully area of colour. Of course noise from jpeg artefacts etc. can interfere with this so you may need to increase the tolerance to select a seemingly single colour in lower quality images.

Select All (Ctrl A)

Does exactly as it says on the tin; it creates a selection enveloping the entire canvas of the project you are working on. Good for copying an image across to another project intact.Keys

Merge Down (right click layer, select Merge Down), (right-click layer>Merge>Merge Down), (Same as GIMP)

Takes the Layer you right-click and removes it from the list. However it keeps the data it contained and applies it to the layer beneath it so you don't lose any data. Good for tidying up the layers pane when you are done with some layers.

Last Filter (Ctrl+F), (NA), (Ctrl+F)

Repeats the last filter you applied to an image or project, for instance if you just blurred the image by 20 points using Gaussian Blur this will apply a second Gaussian Blur to is with the same settings. This is good for things like blurring since you can quickly add to the amount of an effect without having to navigate menus upon menu.

Save Ctrl S or Save As... Ctrl Shift S

ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR WORK BY SAVING IT. The first time you press Save the application will prompt you for a save location and name, never overwrite the original image you are working from since you might need it if something goes horrendously wrong with your project. GIMP saves its projects as XCF files and can read Photoshop files too (PSD files), and Paint Shop Pro uses PSPIMAGE files. These files remember everything about the project including layers, filters and vectors so can get quite large, but they are good because if you lose the original photo these files will still work and remember it as it will save a copy of it within the file. You use Save As (or in Photoshop the Save for Web feature) if you want to save the file in a different format, though if you are going to upload your image to the web you'll be best off reading the other tutorial on ePhotozine.com about optimising your images for the net.

Transform ToolsHotkeys, (K then change the mode in the drop-down Mode menu at top)Hotkey, Free Transform (CTRL+T)

In GIMP the transform tools are all separated and should be clicked to save you from brain-ache (though for the more die-hard hotkey enthusiast I'll list them here). They are the Rotate (Shift+R), Scale (Shift+T), Shear (Shift+S) and Perspective (Shift+P), and they do what they suggest in their names, with scale increasing/decreasing the size of an image, shearing nudging an edge to create a parallelogram out of a rectangle and the perspective tapering the image to suggest depth. The Free Transform tool in Photoshop allows you to do all this within one too as does the Picker tool, though this one requires you to change the tool's mode in the menu bar across the top (or you can learn the extra hotkeys; default is scale, hold shift to shear, control to use perspective and shift+control to use free transforming).

Edit menu in PhotoshopCopy, Paste, Cut; CTRL+C, CTRL+P, CTRL+V

Very important operations; copy and cut do a similar thing as they take the area currently selected and place it on the clipboard to be pasted in. The difference is in the name; cut will remove the area you selected from the image to be pasted into the other image, while copy leaves the original image intact and creates a copy on the clipboard for pasting. Not surprisingly copying is the less destructive process and the one I would suggest you should use unless there is a very good reason to cut. Pasting takes whatever is on your clipboard and places it in the image you are currently working with ready to be translated, transformed and edited into place.

Undo, Redo and Step Back/Forward CTRL+Z, CTRL+Y (Redo is CTRL+ALT+Z in PSP) and CTRL+Alt+Z, CTRL+SHIFT+Z

Important when you start out especially, though they remain crucial to quick working throughout your time working with any software package. Undo will do precisely that; it will make the computer pretend you didn't just make a that mistake, though if you decide you prefer it with the alteration after all and you just undid it you can Redo to bring it back. In GIMP and Paint Shop Pro you can undo and redo as far as you like, though in Photoshop these operations only go one step. To revert more than one change you need to use the step back and forward tools which act the same as un- and re-doing except you can all the way back to your original image.

Join ePHOTOzine and remove these ads.

Explore More


30 Jan 2009 5:50AM
Thanks should help me work faster and better.

Tim in Canada

Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.