A Fantastic Photoshop Shortcut: Opacity Keys

A Fantastic Photoshop Shortcut: Opacity Keys

Photoshop is a complex program that takes years to master. And even after you've spent countless hours learning the ins and outs, surprising new shortcuts are a pleasure to discover.

A few years back, I attended a seminar from a successful musician portrait photographer. As that presentation proceeded, the presenter switched from his approach to photographing portraits out in the field to sharing his post-production process. I didn't expect to come out of that lesson with a nugget of information that would save me seconds per image, which would amount to minutes per day, which in the end, adds up to countless hours of editing time.

The presenter dropped a tip that I jotted down in my notebook, and I have used ever since: Don't waste time with your brush's opacity slider in Photoshop. Anytime you need to change your brush opacity (which could be a hundred times a day depending on your needs and workload), just punch the desired opacity percentage in. For example, simply pressing the "4" key will set your brush opacity to 40 percent.

If you'd like to get more specific, you can type out "44" for 44 percent opacity. Since your non-mouse hand is typically resting on your keyboard during editing, this takes a fraction of a second each time. If you need an opacity number lower than 10, say 5 percent, type the "0" then "5" key in quick succession.

You can also quickly set layer opacity in the same manner. Simply click on the layer and type in the number. Aside from the time you simply save with this shortcut, it makes testing out opacity settings a breeze. If I'm ever unsure exactly how I want my brush to be set, I can toggle opacity quickly with the number keys while hitting "Command + Z" here and there to undo anything that didn't work out.

One more tip for using brushes efficiently: you can also change the size of your brush using the bracket "[ "and "]" keys instead of changing the size via the slider in the upper left of the interface.

Now that you've hopefully learned a time-saving trick or two, share your favorite Photoshop shortcut with the community in the comments below.

Lead image by Matan Segev via Pexels.

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12 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

You can also change the flow the same way by holding down the shift key while you type a number.

Robert Wagner's picture

just blew my mind! Now I just have to train myself to use this little feature. thanks for sharing.

Scott Mason's picture

You got it Robert!

Michael Breitung's picture

Here are my favorite Shortcuts... (in video form) -> https://youtu.be/OSOj5WzHCxs

I used this trick in web design. that's very useful especially in graphic design.

I've been doing this since forever. If for whatever reason my opacity doesn't change when I do that, I hit the W key and then the number and it works again. Have no idea why the W does that except I've been doing it this way forever and it works. Thanks for spreading the word!

Scott Mason's picture

Interesting, I am not sure what's triggering that, since the W key default for PS since I can remember is Magic Wand. Go figure!

Robert Nurse's picture

I waste a boat load of time changing my opacity and flow back and forth from layer to layer. This was a good find!

Julien Menetrat's picture

Much more efficient brush shortcut: CMD + ALT, then move the mouse left or right to increase or decrease size, up and down for softness.

Chris Lawrence's picture

Finally someone who knows this shortcut, it is the most efficient!! i always get into a frenzy someone talks about using the bracket keys for brush size... I have been using this ever since it was introduced

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

I've got this programmed into one of my wacom stylus buttons. Then all I do is slide it left - right / up - down to change size / hardness of the brush. It works like a breeze. I can't remember how the brush option menu looks like anymore. ;)

Bill Larkin's picture

Been doing this for years... Interesting note, switched from mac to windows 10, and it works perfectly, except the numbers on the 10-key side of the keyboard don't work (only the top ones) super frustrating and the num lock key doesn't fix/change.