Layer-related shortcuts you might want to know

Based on some recent comments (e.g. “Please add a way to navigate through layers via the keyboard”), I get the impression that many people don’t know some/all of the following:


  • Opt/Alt + left/right bracket keys change layer selection, selecting the layer above/below the current one.
  • Those shortcuts plus Shift extend the layer selection.  For example, to select the layer above the current one while keeping the current one selected, hit Shift-Opt-]/Shift-Alt-].
  • Shift-Opt-,/Shift-Alt-, (comma) selects the the current layer and all those below it.  Shift-Opt-./Shift-Alt-.  (period) selects the current layer and all those above it.
  • Opt-,/Alt-, selects the bottom layer.  Opt-./Alt-. selects the top one.
  • Cmd-G/Ctrl-G groups layers into a layer group (aka layer set, aka “little folder thing”).  Shift-Cmd-G/Shift-Ctrl-G ungroups layers.
  • Cmd-Opt-A/Ctrl-Alt-A selects all layers.
  • Shift-Cmd-N/Shift-Ctrl-N makes a new layer. Add Opt/Alt to do so while skipping the layer options dialog box.


And while we’re at it, you can also change blending modes via the keyboard:


  • Shift-plus (=) selects the next blending mode.  Shift-minus (-) selects the previous one.  Note that the target of these changes depends on what tool is active.  If you’ve got a painting tool (Brush, Clone Stamp, etc.) selected, the changes apply to the tool’s blending mode.  If you’ve got other tools selected, they’ll apply to the blending mode of the selected layer.  (My rule of thumb is to tap V to make the Move tool active before applying blending changes to a layer via the keyboard.)
  • Shift-Opt-letter/Shift-Alt-letter will set the selected tool/layer to a specific blending mode.  For example, M is Multiple, N is Normal, and H is Hard Light.  A fairly complete list is here (scroll down).


If you find this kind of thing useful, check out Trevor Morris’s list of PS shortcuts, or Michael Ninness’s old but useful Photoshop Power Shortcuts book.  (I updated it for PS7.)

[Update: See the comments below for more good suggestions.]

20 thoughts on “Layer-related shortcuts you might want to know

  1. A shortcut for toggling (hiding / showing) the current layer would be great.
    [Isn’t it weird that there isn’t one now? I keep thinking that one must exist, but apparently not. –J.]
    Can I vote for Ctrl-. on the PC? Useful for adjustment layer before / after comparison.
    [That would be a little tricky, as on the Mac Cmd-. is used to cancel operations, and therefore there’d seemingly have to be an inconsistency between platforms–never desirable if avoidable. –J.]

  2. Also:
    Cmd/Ctrl + left/right bracket keys = Bring Forward / Send Backward
    Cmd/Ctrl-Shift + left/right bracket keys = Bring To Front / Send To Back
    [Yeah–I wasn’t sure whether to mention those as I figured they must be well known. They’re worth listing, though; thanks. –J.]

  3. the shortCuts [Cmd-Opt-,/Ctrl-Alt-, (comma) selects the the current layer and all those below it. Cmd-Opt-./Ctrl-Alt-. (period) selects the current layer and all those above it] dont work.
    It seems it is :
    Shift-Opt : for selection below
    or Shift-Opt + for selection next
    [You’re right! I must have gone brain-dead there for a minute. Sorry for the slop & thanks for the catch; now fixed. (Perhaps I should try to spin this as an attempt to see who was paying attention. ;-)) –J.]

  4. I also personally set cmd-opt-G for duplicate group since there is no default shortcut.
    (and cmd-opt-S for a slightly less awkward save for web)

  5. Hi John,
    an extremely useful shortcut that you didn’t mention is Cmd-Opt-Shift-E/Ctrl-Alt-Shift-E, which selects all layers, duplicates them and merges the result. Very useful for some filters (e.g. Nik Silver) that only work on the topmost layer.

  6. I wonder how these should work in non-English keyboard layouts? E.g. With a Mac with a Swedish-Finnish keyboard to get a left bracket you type Opt-8, so to change layer selection, selecting the layer above you would have to somehow type Opt-Opt-8. (Just for the fun of it, I tried pressing both Opt-keys and the 8 at the sam time… didn’t work 😉 )

  7. This is a great list!
    I only found one thing I can’t figure out.
    When I am trying to change the blending mode of a curves layer using the command Shift +/- it toggles between points. Is there a work around for this? Maybe a different command? Anyone know? Thanks!
    [Ugh—this is a bug. (In CS4 the shortcuts for switching among points on a curve changed to plus/minus. PS should be treating Shift-plus/minus as different, but that appears not to be happening.) Good catch; I hadn’t heard it mentioned previously (which speaks to the obscurity of the shortcuts for cycling through layer blending modes).
    Update: Here’s an easy workaround mentioned by Yuko Kagita in Photoshop QE: just add Opt/Alt to the Shift shortcuts and they should work in all situations (whether or not a curves layer is selected). Thanks, Yuko. –J.]

  8. Here’s a couple more layers shortcuts:
    opt + , for select the bottom-most layer
    opt + . for select the top-most layer
    (add shift to add the range of layers from the currently selected layer to the bottom or top layer)
    cmd + j duplicates the current layer
    There isn’t a straight keyboard shortcut for this, but cmd + clicking the new layer button on the layers panel creates the new layer *under* the current layer.
    For items like this, you could record the command using the listener plug-in and turn it into a script. You could then assign a keyboard shortcut to the script. Just don’t assign scripts a keyboard shortcut with the options/alt key. That puts the script into ‘debug’ mode.

  9. Another hidden one that was requested in the “Managing complex PSDs” post. Dealing with expanding and collapsing groups within a document:
    Cmd + click the group disclosure triangle to expand collapse all top level groups in the document
    Opt + click the group disclosure triangle to expand collapse all groups nested within the current group.
    Cmd + Opt + click the group disclosure triangle to do both.
    ctrl + click (or right click) the group disclosure triangle for a context menu “Close/Open this Group” or “Close/Open all Other Groups”

  10. More on layers commands for managing complex PSDS:
    We added a way to “Select Similar Layers” in CS2. It’s pretty coarse along the lines of: Group, raster, Adjustment, Fill, Smart Object, 3D, and Type. (Select->Similar Layers)
    Another little known command added at the same time: Layer>Arrange>Reverse which reverses the stacking z-order of the selected layers. I still get feature requests this and I’m always happy to tell folks it’s already there.

  11. Thanks for this very useful keyboard-stuff, John — some of which even works for me! For alas, being on Norwegian keyboards, nothing with square brackets work up here: those keys are mapped differently, to our local characters.
    I do wish Adobe would take a broader view of the world’s keyboards than just American ones! Although I realize it’s an intrinsically difficult matter, to come up with handy, useful shortcuts which work across the globe.

  12. “cmd + j duplicates the current layer”
    One of my most used shortcuts, but also will paste a selection to a new layer, which is even more useful as it avoidsthe more fiddly copy section/new layer/paste.

  13. Leigh wrote: “A shortcut for toggling (hiding / showing) the current layer would be great.”
    Just use the Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts command to assign a shortcut to the Layer > Hide Layers (Layer > Show Layers) command.
    Alternatively, you can download the keyboard shortcuts John mentioned/linked above, which includes a shortcut for the Hide/Show Layers command (Ctrl/Cmd+Alt/Opt+H).

  14. I didn’t know a few of those, though I don’t see myself using the ones I didn’t know outside of the ones that select the topmost/bottom layers. That seems handy, thanks for posting this!
    Also, yes, probably the greatest shortcut you could add to the panel is one to show/hide layers. I’d have NO idea what combinations (let alone logical ones) are even free though.
    [Ah, but that’s where the keyboard shortcuts editor is cool: try specifying a shortcut, and PS will warn you if it’s in use (and then optionally let you go to and resolve the conflict). The shortcuts dialog will also let you print out all your shortcuts as HTML. Who loves ya? 😉 –J.]

  15. Oh, you love us, I already knew that. I can’t express how much I love this blog and what you’ve done for us in return, for that matter.
    I do know about the editor (though not the HTML print, and ever since it occurred to me to set a shortcut for Layer/Group Properties (Control-Cmd-L), my productivity has definitely increased quite a bit when it comes to managing layers.
    Posting after myself… maybe I check this blog too much?

  16. Use of Delete Key is a dangerous way to delete layers. There is no confirmation and there might not be a visual cue. It is often necessary to use 2 delete keystrokes on paths. A third -inadvertent- keystroke will (silently) delete the active layer.
    (Note to J Nack: I am a longtime Pshop user -was on 1.0 beta team & other versions. Was also selected for Alpha feedback testing at Adobe. I have compiled a list of feature suggestions/requests & would like to have an appropriate email to submit these -thanks-NF)

  17. Not mentioned yet – One of the most important things about all these shortcuts, is that THEY ARE RECORDABLE IN ACTIONS. This adds enormous power to actions, making Actions more contextual. For example being able to record an Action step that chooses the top or bottom layer is irreplaceable. Layer navigation in this way is also important.
    Its knowledge like this that separates people who really understand the full power of Actions and those that don’t, or who have never taken the time to explore it fully.

  18. Hi John. One quick shortcut question: when I CTRL+shift+S to “Save as”, I lose the file and folder names when viewing in Thumbnail display mode (the default) in the Save as window. The file and folder names appear in all other modes and “Adobe mode” works fine too, but I am very used to my thumbnails! Is there an option I”m not exercising to sort this?
    Thanks very much!

  19. Could the alt + [ and alt + ] be added to the Keyboard shortcuts customization dialog?
    at the moment we swedes (and probably others) can not use these shortcuts, we don’t have separate [ and ] keys on our keyboards so the alt + [ and alt + ] don’t work

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