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Use Photoshop?

Forced to use Photoshop?

This post is for you.

I’m going to talk about two things which are easy to ignore, but in fact hold the key(board) to making us much more efficient: The Workspace, and Custom Keyboard Shortcuts.

Now if you’re a veteran of the pixel-pushing trenches, you have no doubt have customized your workspace to some degree. The thing to remember though is a lot of people simply use the application as a means to an end. Many don’t even know customization is an option.

But friends, if we open our minds and our palettes, many a reward be reaped.


Photoshop’s default workspace is called ESSENTIALS.

And you know what? It’s ok.

The elves at Adobe are right. This workspace gives you everything you need to start using the main components of the program:

  • Layers
  • Color
  • History

But the issue isn’t so much the tools available to use, it’s where they’re placed.

  • All the tools are on the left side of the screen.
  • All the primary palettes you’ll use with those tools, are on the right side.

Off the bat, you’ve set yourself up with a workflow with a lot of traveling:

General Essentials use pattern.  20% Chance of death by afternoon.

You’ll spend half your time crossing that screen, and if you have a 27” cinema display, there’s a 20-30% chance you’ll be exhausted by mid-morning and dead by afternoon.


The solution is fairly simple:

The “UI” movement pattern. Chance of death reduced by 30-50%.

  • ONE PLACE. The tools palette and the layers palette go together great.
  • MORE SPACE. Give the layers palette more space by removing all that stuff stacked on top of it. You’ll be glad you did. If there’s anything Photoshop is great at, it’s creating billions of layers.
  • CUSTOMIZE EVEN MORE. Mix and match the rest with things you use a bunch. I do a lot of UI design so Layer Comps are used to show application states and make it easy for developers to visualize a use case quickly.
  • A BIG BOX OF HISTORY. Not only can it be immensely useful to step back in time, but creating new documents based off a current document state, and snapshots for easy versioning and experimenting too.

You can download both the workspace and the shortcuts right here!

Thanks for reading!


To install the workspace:

Edit > Presets > Import/Export Presets

To install key shortcuts:

Unzip the file > Double click to install

Thanks for reading! Enjoy!

Download The Workspace (w/shortcuts)
Chris Powell

Chris is a designer who can’t stop. A writer who loves stories. A user who loves to make things work. A Webby Award winner. He’s a mix. Strategy and analytics. Concept and execution. U/X and U/I. Advertising and branding. He helps brands build sustainable, and profitable, ecosystems that are a powerful mix of brand, media and product.