Photoshop Image Navigation Tips

Photoshop Image Navigation Tips, Tricks And Shortcuts

Written by Steve Patterson.

In the previous tutorial, we covered the basics of navigating around our images in Photoshop, from zooming in and out with the Zoom Tool and scrolling with the Hand Tool to a look at some important options under the View menu for quickly fitting an image entirely on screen or jumping instantly to the 100% view size. In this tutorial, we'll take things up a notch by learning some time-saving tips and shortcuts that will have you navigating your images like the pros!

As with the previous tutorial, I'll be using Photoshop CS6, but this tutorial is also fully compatible with Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud).

Here's the image I have open on my screen (male portrait photo from Shutterstock):

Image #80071024 licensed from Shutterstock by Photoshop Essentials.com
An image open in Photoshop CS6.

For the sake of completion and as a refresher, the essential keyboard shortcuts we learned about in the Image Navigation Essentials tutorial are included again here, but along with them, you'll also find brand new, lesser-known navigation tips and tricks. Let's get started!

Zoom In And Out From The Keyboard

To zoom in towards the center of an image, on a Windows PC, press Ctrl + plus sign (+). On a Mac, press Command + plus sign (+). Press the shortcut repeatedly to zoom in incrementally.
To zoom out from the center of an image, on a Windows PC, press Ctrl + minus sign (-). On a Mac, press Command + minus sign (-). Press the shortcut repeatedly to zoom out incrementally.

Fit on Screen

To quickly jump to whichever zoom level is needed to fit the entire image on screen, press Ctrl+0 (Win) / Command+0 (Mac).

An image set to the Fit on Screen view mode in Photoshop.
Press Ctrl+0 (Win) / Command+0 (Mac) to fit the image and center it on screen.

100% View

To instantly jump to the 100% zoom level for the most accurate view of the pixels in your image, press Ctrl+1 (Win) / Command+1 (Mac).

An image set to the 100% view mode in Photoshop.
Press Ctrl+1 (Win) / Command+1 (Mac) to jump to the 100% view size.

Select The Zoom Tool From The Keyboard

To select the Zoom Tool, rather than clicking on its icon in the Tools panel, press the letter Z on your keyboard.

The Zoom Tool in Photoshop.
Press "Z" to select the Zoom Tool.

Switching Between "Zoom In" And "Zoom Out" Modes

By default, the Zoom Tool is set to "Zoom In" mode which zooms in on the area you've clicked on. To zoom out, press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to temporarily switch to "Zoom Out" mode and click on the image. Release the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to revert back to "Zoom In" mode.

The Zoom Tool in Photoshop.
Press and hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) to zoom out. Release the key to zoom in.

Temporarily Switching To The Zoom Tool

To temporarily switch to the Zoom Tool when a different tool (the Move Tool, for example) is active, press and hold Ctrl+spacebar (Win) / Command+spacebar (Mac), then click on the image to zoom in. When you release the keys, you'll return to the previously selected tool.

To temporarily switch to the Zoom Tool in its "Zoom Out" mode, press and hold Alt+spacebar (Win) / Option+spacebar (Mac), then click on the image to zoom out. Release the keys to return to the previously selected tool.

You can also temporarily access the Zoom Tool by pressing and holding the Z key on your keyboard. Note that this is different from simply pressing the Z key quickly to select the Zoom Tool, which causes the tool to remain active until you select a different tool from the Tools panel. If you press and hold the Z key, you'll access the Zoom Tool temporarily. As long as you've held the key down for at least a second or so, when you release the Z key, you'll return to the previously selected tool.

While you have the Z key held down, you can switch to "Zoom Out" mode by also pressing and holding the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key. Release the Alt / Option (while still pressing and holding the Z key) to return to "Zoom In" mode, or release the Z key as well to return to the previously selected tool.

Continuous Zoom

Any time the Zoom Tool is active, whether you've selected it from the Tools panel or you're using one of the keyboard shortcuts we've learned about to access it temporarily, if you click on the part of the image you want to zoom in on and keep your mouse button held down after you click, Photoshop will zoom continuously inward towards that spot until you release your mouse button.

You can do the same thing using any of the methods we've looked at for switching the Zoom Tool to "Zoom Out" mode. Click on the area you want to zoom out from, keep your mouse button held down, and Photoshop will zoom out from that spot in one continuous motion until you release your mouse button.

Faster, More Precise Zooming

To zoom much faster into the image and gain finer control over your zoom level, with the Zoom Tool active, click on the area you want to zoom in on, and as soon as you've clicked, with your mouse button still held down, drag your mouse to the right. If you drag quickly, you'll zoom in quickly. If you drag more slowly, you'll zoom in more slowly but you'll gain very precise control over your zoom level.

Likewise, if you click and drag your mouse quickly to the left, you'll zoom out very quickly from the spot you clicked on. Dragging more slowly to the left will give you precise control over the zoom level as you zoom out.

Clicking and dragging left or right to quickly zoom in and out.
Click and drag left or right to quickly zoom in and out, or drag more slowly for precise control.

Another way to more quickly zoom in and out of your image and gain more fine-tuned control over your zoom level is to hover your mouse cursor over the area you want to zoom in or out from, then press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard and scroll your mouse wheel up or down. Scroll upwards on the mouse wheel to zoom in, or scroll down to zoom out. Scrolling quickly will zoom you in or out quickly, while scrolling more slowly will give you more control over the zoom level. The nice thing about this technique is that you don't need to have the Zoom Tool selected. It works no matter which tool is currently active.

Zooming in and out of the image with the scroll wheel on the mouse.
Press and hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and scroll your mouse wheel to zoom in and out.

Selecting An Area With The Zoom Tool

A moment ago, we learned that we can click and drag left or right on an image with the Zoom Tool to quickly zoom in and out on the area we clicked on. This feature is known as Scrubby Zoom. By default, the option is enabled, but we can turn it off by unchecking it in the Options Bar (when the Zoom Tool is selected):

Unchecking the Scrubby Zoom option for the Zoom Tool.
Unchecking the Scrubby Zoom option.

With Scrubby Zoom disabled, the Zoom Tool behaves much like Photoshop's Rectangular Marquee Tool. Simply click and drag out a selection box around the area you want to zoom in on. Here, I'm dragging a selection around the model's lips:

Clicking and dragging a rectangular selection with the Zoom Tool.
Clicking and dragging out a rectangular selection with the Zoom Tool.

When you release your mouse button, Photoshop instantly zooms in to the area you selected and centers it on the screen. You can switch back to the Scrubby Zoom behavior at any time by checking the option once again in the Options Bar:

The area I selected with the Zoom Tool is now front and center in the document window.
The area I selected is now front and center in the document window.

Entering Specific Zoom Levels

In the previous Image Navigation Essentials tutorial, we learned that not only can we view the current zoom level in the lower left corner of the document window, but we can also double-click on the value to select it and then enter in a different value:

Entering a new zoom level into the box in the lower left corner of the document window.
Entering a new zoom level into the box in the lower left corner.

The problem we run into, though, is that as soon as we press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the new value, the input box loses focus. In other words, if we want to try a different zoom level, we need to double-click once again on the current value to select it before we can type in the new one. However, if you press and hold the Shift key as you press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the value, the input box will remain in focus and the value will remain highlighted, allowing you to type in a different value without needing to first select the current one:

Hold Shift while pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to keep the value in focus.
Hold Shift while pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to keep the zoom value in focus.

The Scrubby Slider

Another great trick to use with the input box in the lower left corner is to change the value using Photoshop's scrubby slider. Hover your mouse cursor over the input box, then press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard. Your mouse cursor will change into a little hand with an arrow pointing left and right. This is the scrubby slider icon. Click on the input box, then with your mouse button held down, drag left or right to increase or decrease the value in 1% increments:

Hold Shift while pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to keep the value in focus.
Press and hold Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to enable the scrubby slider, then drag left or right.

Selecting The Hand Tool From The Keyboard

To pan and scroll the image, we use Photoshop's Hand Tool, but there's no need to select it from the Tools panel. Just press the letter H on your keyboard.

The Hand Tool in Photoshop.
Press the letter H to switch to the Hand Tool.

Temporarily Switching To The Hand Tool

The problem with pressing H to select the Hand Tool, though, is that the tool remains selected until we grab a different tool from the Tools panel. However, we can temporarily switch to the Hand Tool at any time by pressing and holding the spacebar on the keyboard. With the spacebar held down, click and drag the image to scroll it around inside the document window, then release your spacebar to switch back to the previously selected tool.

Press and hold the spacebar to temporarily switch to the Hand Tool.
Press and hold the spacebar to temporarily switch to the Hand Tool.

Scrolling With The Scroll Wheel

Another way to scroll the image, and one that doesn't need the Hand Tool to be selected (it works when any tool is active) is to simply use the scroll wheel on your mouse. Scroll up on the wheel to scroll the image upward in the document window, or scroll down to scroll it downward.

If you press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard, you can scroll your mouse wheel up to pan the image towards the left, or scroll the wheel down to pan the image towards the right.

Panning and scrolling the image with the mouse wheel.
Scroll up and down on your mouse wheel to move the image up and down, or add the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key to pan left and right.

The Bird's Eye View

Finally, to quickly jump from one area of your image to another, press and hold the H key on your keyboard (even if the Hand Tool is currently active), then click on the image and hold your mouse button down. Photoshop will temporarily pull back to a bird's eye view of the image, and you'll see a rectangular outline that you can move around. Drag the rectangle over the area you want to view next:

The Bird's Eye View technique for panning from one area of an image to another.
While in the bird's eye view of the image, drag the rectangular box to the area you want to jump to.

When you release your mouse button, Photoshop will instantly jump to that area and center it on the screen:

The area that was within the rectangle now fills the document window.
The area that was within the rectangle now fills the document window.