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6 Helpful Functions of the Shift Key When Working in Photoshop



I was working on a commissioned artwork in Photoshop today and I noticed something. I keep my left hand over the shift key pretty much the entire time I am working in PS. That little button does a LOT. So I thought I would take some time and show you guys what you have been missing out on if you haven’t taken advantage of shift key functionalities in PS before.

#1: Creating Straight Lines


This is my favorite shift functionality. Have you ever tried to get a nice clean, straight edge on something in PS and it takes you forever because really… who can draw a straight line without a ruler. Well, PS developers felt your pain and they created a cool shift key function that will draw a straight line for you. This will work with any tool in Photoshop that involves a brush.

All you have to do is click your first point, hold down the shift key, then click your second point and BAM. It automatically connects the two points with a straight line. Man this is awesome. I am constantly trying to get a nice clean edge on masks and this is the best shift function ever.

#2: Moving Objects


When you are using the move tool, if you hold down the shift key it will move your object in a true horizontal or a true vertical to its original location. It is really hard to move something over when you don’t have control over at least one axis. It is much quicker than trying to move something over with the arrow key on the keyboard. Hitting that arrow key and nudging things one pixel at a time gets old quickly. HA!

#3: Nudging Objects Over in Larger Increments

Holding down the shift key also works in conjunction with the arrow keys on the keyboard. Arrow keys nudge things in 1 pixel increments. Holding down the shift key will nudge it over in 10 pixel increments.

#4: Maintaining Object Proportions

When using the transform tool to resize an object, by holding down the shift key, it will make sure your resizing will not skew or stretch your object into strange proportions.


This function also applies to any shape you create. If you want to draw a circle using the Marquee tool, hold own the shift key while drawing your circle and it will keep perfect proportions.


#5: Testing Blending Modes


I use blending modes in the Layer’s Palette a LOT. Most of the time I’m not sure which blending mode will work. I like to test them all out. If you choose your layer and hit the plus or minus key while holding the shift, it will go up or down the list of blending modes. I love it when I can have it all.

#6: Changing Brush Hardness Settings


Since I use brushes for just about everything I love this next little function. You can change how hard of an edge your brush has by holding down the shift key while clicking the right “]” and left “[” bracket keys. Both of the dots in the example below were made with a 55 px brush. The only difference is the hardness setting.

There are other ways to use the shift key in Photoshop but these are the functions I use the most. What are your favorite uses of the Shift key when post-processing?

About the author: Caroline Rutland is a photographer based in Spring Hill, Tennessee, who specializes in contemporary glamour portraiture, performance photography, and fine art portraits. You can find her work on her website and her blog. This article originally appeared here.

Image credits: Header photograph by Peter Werkman