Written by Steve Patterson. When working in Photoshop, it often helps to be able to zoom in close to certain areas of an image, or to pull back and get more of a bird’s eye view of what’s happening.
In this tutorial, we’re going to learn several ways to quickly zoom in and out of a document, as well as how to move an image around on the screen when you’re zoomed in. We’ll be looking at Photoshop’s Zoom Tool, the Hand Tool, some menu options, and some handy, time saving keyboard shortcuts!
The Current Zoom Level
Before we begin looking at different ways to zoom in and out of our images, let’s first check out the current zoom level of our document. Here’s the photo I have open on my screen:
There’s a couple of places where we can see our current zoom level. One is by looking up at the very top of the document window where you’ll find the zoom level listed as a percentage of the actual size of the image. In my case, I’m currently viewing my photo at 50% of it’s actual size:
We can see the exact same information about our current zoom level in the bottom left corner of the document window. Again, it’s telling me that I’m viewing my image at a zoom level of 50%:
Changing The Zoom Level From The Document Window
The difference between the two is that the zoom level listed at the top of the document window is for information purposes only. In other words, there’s nothing we can do with it other than read it and say "Yup, that’s my current zoom level alright." That’s not the case with the information in the bottom left corner of the document window. Here, we can actually change the zoom level simply by clicking inside the box, highlighting the current zoom level and typing in a new one! I’m going to click and drag over my current 50% zoom level to highlight it, then I’ll type in "100" and press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the new value. This tells Photoshop to display my image at a full 100% of its actual size. There’s no need to type the percent sign (%) after the number. Photoshop will add it automatically for us:
As soon as I accept the new value by pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac), the zoom level of the image changes. My photo is now being displayed inside the document window at a zoom level of 100%, which we can see both at the top of the document window and in the bottom left corner:
Unfortunately, the only real benefit to changing the zoom level this way is that you’re free to view the image at whatever zoom level you like. If, for some reason, you want to view a photo at a zoom level of 47.3%, no problem! Simply highlight the current zoom level in the bottom left corner of the document window, type in "47.3" and press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac). Of course, you’ll probably never have a reason to view an image at 47.3%, which means that having the option to do so is of no real use. The big disadvantage here, which greatly outweighs the benefit, is that you need to specify a zoom level each time you want to change it, and that gets tiresome very quickly, so let’s look at some better ways to zoom in and out of images.
The View Menu
Photoshop’s View menu offers us a handful of ways to zoom in and out. The View menu is found up in the Menu Bar at the top of the screen and is where we find the standard Zoom In and Zoom Out commands. We also find the Fit on Screen command, which tells Photoshop to zoom to whatever level it needs to fit the entire image on the screen at once, and the Actual Pixels command which zooms the image to a full 100% view size. Photoshop also offers us a Print Size command which is supposed to give us a preview of how large the image will appear when printed. In reality, it does no such thing and your best bet is to simply ignore it:
Zooming In And Out Incrementally
Each time you select the Zoom In command from the View menu, Photoshop will zoom further into the image using specific size increments. For example, if you’re currently viewing an image at a zoom level of 25%, selecting Zoom In will zoom the image in to 33.33%. Selecting it again will zoom in to 50%, then 66.67%, and finally a full 100%. Of course, you can continue zooming in well beyond 100%. In fact, Photoshop allows us to zoom all the way in to 3200%, although you’ll rarely if ever need to zoom that far in to an image. The same is true for the Zoom Out command. Each time you select Zoom Out, you’ll zoom further out from the image in incremental steps.
The nice thing about the Zoom In and Zoom Out commands is that they both have handy keyboard shortcuts which save us from having to keep going up to the View menu. To zoom in from the keyboard, simply press Ctrl++ (Win) / Command++ (Mac). That’s the Ctrl / Command key and the plus sign (+). To zoom out from the keyboard, press Ctrl+- (Win) / Command+- (Mac). That’s the Ctrl / Command key and the minus sign (-).
The Fit on Screen command, which instantly fits the entire image on the screen using whatever zoom level is necessary depending on the size of your image, also has a handy keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+0 (Win) / Command+0 (Mac). Finally, to quickly zoom the image in to 100% using the Actual Pixels command, simply press Ctrl+Alt+0 (Win) / Command+Option+0 (Mac):
Resizing The Document Window As You Zoom
Depending on your personal preference, you may want Photoshop to resize the document window as you zoom in and out of your images, or you may prefer to leave the document window at a fixed size. You can set the behavior of the document window inside Photoshop’s Preferences. Press Ctrl+K (Win) / Command+K (Mac) to quickly bring up the Preferences dialog box. In the General Preferences section, you’ll see an option called Zoom Resizes Windows. Select this option to have Photoshop change the size of the document window as you zoom, or deselect it to keep the size of the document window fixed in place:
If you change your mind later, you can always go back to the Preferences dialog box and select or deselect the option as needed. Or, to temporarily change the behavior of the document window, simply add the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to the shortcut for zooming in and out. For example, if you have the Zoom Resizes Windows option selected in Photoshop’s Preferences and you want to temporarily disable it, use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt++ (Win) / Command+Option++ (Mac) to zoom in, or Ctrl+Alt+- (Win) / Command+Option+- (Mac) to zoom out. The same shortcuts will temporarily enable the Zoom Resizes Windows option if it’s deselected in the Preferences.