Five Things to Do with your ALT Key in Photoshop and Elements

ALT0500 300x223 Five Things to Do with your ALT Key in Photoshop and Elements Many years ago I had an instructor who taught me to use Photoshop with my left hand on the keyboard and my right hand on the mouse or pen. I resisted it for a long time, but by keeping one hand on the keyboard you can take advantage of all kinds of shortcuts that are built into the program to make your work easier and faster. Now I use those shortcuts without even thinking; I have to pay close attention when writing tutorials to what I'm actually doing. I've gathered here for you five of my favorite things to do with the ALT (Mac: OPT) key:
  • Duplicate layers. With the Move tool active, hold the ALT key then click on an object you'd like to duplicate and you'll see the cursor change to a double arrow. Drag, and you'll now have another layer just like the first!
  • Change foreground color. With the Brush tool active, hold the ALT key and the eyedropper appears. Hold down the left mouse button and a circle appears around the cursor showing you the new color you are over on the top, and your current foreground color on the bottom. (PSE users, you don't get this, sorry. But you can see the color change in the foreground color box at the bottom of the tool bar.) You can drag the mouse around holding the button down until you find the right color to sample. When you let off the mouse button, the foreground color changes to your selection.
  • Unlock a background layer. Instead of double-clicking on the layer in the layers panel then having to click OK in the dialog box, hold your ALT key down while double-clicking and this skips the dialog and just unlocks the layer.
  • Cycle through tools. Where there are multiple tools stacked in the toolbar, hold the ALT key and click on the tool in the tool bar to change to the next tool instead of having to hold until the menu flies out and choosing from the menu.
  • Make a black layer mask. When you click the layer mask icon in the Layers panel it creates a layer mask filled with white which reveals your whole layer (lets you see it). But if you want to mask most of the layer you then have to fill in a lot of space with black. Easier to hold down your ALT key while clicking on the layer mask icon, and the resulting mask will fill in with black, concealing the image. Then paint in white to reveal only what you want to see.
Leftys: if you're used to using the ALT key on the right hand side of your keyboard, it may not always work as you expect. In Windows 7, sometimes the right ALT key has a different function than the left ALT key. What are your go-to keyboard shortcuts?    Send article as PDF   
  • Christine Smith Digital Design

    wooohooo, these are great. I use my L hand on the keyboard and R on the mouse but I only knew one of these! THANKS

  • Linda

    Wow, thanks for the info! Great little tips!

  • Jhari

    Thanks for sharing. Will re-share as well on my blog. I hope that I’m a Mac user though. Hopefully soon… :)

  • Ronna

    Woohoo! Any little shortcut helps! Thank you!