Zooming And Panning Images In Photoshop

Zooming And Panning Images In Photoshop

Learn how to zoom, pan and navigate your images like a pro in Photoshop! You'll learn all about the Zoom Tool, the Hand Tool, View modes, and more, along with some great tips and tricks to speed up your workflow! For Photoshop CC and CS6.

Written by Steve Patterson.

Whether we're editing or retouching an image, restoring an old or damaged photograph, or creating wild and imaginative effects, we need to know how to navigate around our images in Photoshop. Navigating an image means knowing how to zoom in and out, and how to pan, or scroll, from one part of the image to another. At times, we'll need to zoom in close to examine small details. Other times, we'll zoom far out for a bird's eye view of the bigger picture. And, just as important as knowing how to navigate an image is knowing how to do it quickly. To work efficiently in Photoshop, navigating an image needs to become second nature.

In this tutorial, you'll learn everything you need to know to navigate images like a pro in Photoshop. We'll start with the basics and learn how to view and change the zoom level from the document window. From there, we'll explore the different zoom options found under the View menu. Then, we'll learn the essentials of how to use the Zoom Tool in Photoshop, and follow it up with some advanced zooming techniques.

Once we've learned everything there is to know about zooming, we'll move on to panning and scrolling an image in Photoshop. We'll learn how to pan images with the Hand Tool, along with a few different ways to scroll the image inside the document window. And finally, we'll learn how to quickly jump from one part of the image to another using Photoshop's Bird's Eye View. I'll be using Photoshop CC but everything is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6.

This is lesson 1 of 7 in Chapter 4 - Navigating Images in Photoshop. Let's get started!

To follow along, you can open any image in Photoshop. Here's the image I'll be using (young woman portrait from Adobe Stock):

Image #43390570 licensed from Shutterstock by Photoshop Essentials.com
An image newly opened in Photoshop. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.

How To Zoom In And Out Of An Image With Photoshop

Viewing The Current Zoom Level

First, let's learn where to find the current zoom level in Photoshop. After all, before we go zooming in and out of an image, it helps to know what our current zoom level actually is. Photoshop displays the current zoom level in two different locations. The first is in the document tab just above the image. You'll find the zoom level to the right of the file name. Here we see that my image is currently being viewed at the 25% view size:

The document tab displaying the current zoom level of the image in Photoshop.
The current zoom level is displayed in the tab above the document.

The second place to find our current zoom level is in the bottom left corner of the document window. Again, it's showing that I'm viewing my image at 25% of its actual size:

The same zoom level information is found in the lower left corner of Photoshop.
The same information is found in the bottom left corner.

Changing The Zoom Level

Why are there two different places showing the same information? Well, the zoom level displayed in the document tab at the top is strictly for information-purposes only. In other words, we can't actually change the zoom level from the tab. But we can change the zoom level from the bottom left corner.

Let's say I want to zoom in on my image by increasing my zoom level from 25% to 50%. To change the zoom level, click on the current level to highlight it. Then, enter in your new value. I'll click to highlight the "25" and I'll change it to "50". There's no need to type in the percent symbol (%) because Photoshop includes it automatically:

Clicking on the current zoom value and entering the new value.
Clicking on the current zoom level and entering the new value.

To accept the change, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard and Photoshop instantly jumps the image to the new zoom level:

The image is now being displayed at the 50% view size.
The image is now being displayed at the 50% view size.

How To Keep The Zoom Level Box In Focus

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 first need to click once again on the current value to highlight it before we can type in the new value. At least, that's the way it normally works. But here's a great trick. Press and hold your Shift key as you press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the value. The zoom level will remain highlighted. This lets you try out different values without needing to first select the current one:

Photoshop Zoom Tip 1
Hold Shift while pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to keep the zoom value in focus.

Changing The Zoom Level With The Scrubby Slider

Another great trick to use with the zoom level box is to change its value using Photoshop's scrubby slider. Hover your mouse cursor over the input box, and then press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard. Your mouse cursor will change into a scrubby slider icon (a little hand with an arrow pointing left and right). Click on the input box, and with your mouse button held down, drag left or right to increase or decrease the value in 1% increments. Or, press Shift+Ctrl (Win) / Shift+Command (Mac) and drag to change the value in increments of 10%:

Photoshop Zoom Tip 2, using the scrubby slider.
Changing the zoom level using the scrubby slider.

The View Menu Options

Another way to change the zoom level of your image is from the View menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen. Here, you'll find several options grouped together that control the view size of the image:

Opening the View menu in the Menu Bar in Photoshop.
Opening the View menu in the Menu Bar.

The Zoom In and Zoom Out Commands

The first two options, Zoom In and Zoom Out, are the most straightforward. Choose Zoom In to zoom in, or Zoom Out to zoom out. Pretty basic stuff:

The Zoom In and Zoom Out options under the View menu.
The Zoom In and Zoom Out options under the View menu.

Zooming In And Out Incrementally

Each time you select the Zoom In command from the View menu, Photoshop will zoom further into the image at specific size increments. For example, if you're currently viewing an image at a zoom level of 25%, then selecting Zoom In will zoom the image in to 33.33%. Selecting it again will zoom in to 50%, and then 66.67%, and then 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 may want to get your eyes checked if you need to zoom in that close). 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.

Zooming In And Out From The Keyboard

Photoshop's Zoom In and Zoom Out commands are extremely useful. But unless you have lots of free time on your hands, you won't want to keep going up to the View menu each time you need to select them. Instead, if you look to the right of the Zoom In and Zoom Out options, you'll see that each one has its own handy keyboard shortcut. These two shortcuts are worth memorizing because you'll use them all the time in your Photoshop work.

To quickly zoom in on your image, on a Windows PC, press and hold the Ctrl key on your keyboard and press the plus sign (+). On a Mac, press and hold the Command key and press the plus sign (+). To zoom out, on a Windows PC, press and hold your Ctrl key and press the minus sign (-). On a Mac, press and hold the Command key and press the minus sign (-). Each time you press the shortcut, Photoshop will zoom further in or out using the specific increments I mentioned earlier (25%, 33.33%, 50%, and so on).

Zooming In Or Out From The Center Of The Image

The only problem with the Zoom In and Zoom Out commands is that they offer no control over which part of the image we're zooming in to (or out from). They just zoom in or out from the center of the image. Here, I've pressed the keyboard shortcut a few times to zoom in on my photo. As we can see, Photoshop simply zoomed in on the center of the image, which focused in on the side of the woman's face. If my goal was to change her eye color, for example, this wouldn't be very helpful. To control which part of the image we're zooming in to, we need to use something different. We'll look at what that "something different" is in a moment:

Zooming in on the center of the image using the Zoom In command in Photoshop.
The Zoom In and Zoom Out commands zoom in or out from the center of the image.

The "Fit on Screen" View Mode

Directly below the Zoom In and Zoom Out options in the View menu is a third option, Fit on Screen. It also has a keyboard shortcut you'll want to memorize. On a Windows PC, it's Ctrl+0. On a Mac, it's Command+0:

The Fit on Screen option under the View menu.
The Fit on Screen option under the View menu.

The Fit on Screen command tells Photoshop to instantly jump to whatever zoom level is needed for the image to fit entirely within the boundaries of the document window. It's perfect for quickly pulling back to a bird's eye view of your work after being zoomed in on smaller details:

The image after selecting the Fit on Screen command under the View menu.
The entire image is once again visible on screen after choosing the Fit on Screen command.

The "100%" View Mode

Another very useful option under the View menu is 100% (known as "Actual Pixels" in earlier versions of Photoshop). It has a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+1 (Win) / Command+1 (Mac):

Selecting the 100% option from under the View menu.
Selecting the 100% view option.

The 100% view mode instantly jumps your zoom level to 100%. At this level, each individual pixel in your image takes up exactly one pixel on your screen. The benefit of viewing your image at 100% is that it's the only zoom level that lets us see the full detail of our image. If your image is larger than the display resolution of your screen, as mine is here, you'll see only part of the image at a time. To view the rest of it, we'll need a way to pan and scroll the image around inside the document window. We'll learn how to do that when we look at Photoshop's Hand Tool later on:

Zooming in on the center of the image using the Zoom In command in Photoshop.
The 100% zoom level is the most accurate way to view your image.

The Zoom Tool

So far, none of the ways we've looked at for zooming in and out have given us much control over which part of the image we're seeing. For more precise control, we use Photoshop's Zoom Tool. You'll find the Zoom Tool near the bottom of the Toolbar along the left of the screen (it's the tool with the magnifying glass icon). Click on the Zoom Tool to select it. You can also select the Zoom Tool by pressing the letter Z (for "Zoom") on your keyboard:

The image after selecting the Fit on Screen command under the View menu.
Selecting the Zoom Tool.

With the Zoom Tool selected, your mouse cursor will change into a magnifying glass with a plus sign in the middle of it. The plus sign means that the Zoom Tool is currently set to "Zoom In" mode (as opposed to "Zoom Out" mode). This is the default mode for the Zoom Tool:

The Zoom Tool icon.
The plus sign in the center means we'll be zooming in.

Zooming In With The Zoom Tool

To zoom in on a specific part of your image, simply position the Zoom Tool over the area and click. Click repeatedly on the same spot to zoom in even closer. Here, I've clicked a few times on one of the woman's eyes to zoom in on it:

Zooming in by clicking repeatedly with the Zoom Tool.
Zooming in by clicking repeatedly with the Zoom Tool.

Zooming Out With The Zoom Tool

To zoom out with the Zoom Tool, press and hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key on your keyboard. This temporarily switches the Zoom Tool to "Zoom Out" mode. You'll see the plus sign in the center of the magnifying glass change to a minus sign:

The Zoom Tool icon.
Press and hold Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) to switch to "Zoom Out" mode.

With your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key held down, once again position the Zoom Tool over the area you want to zoom out from and click. Click repeatedly to zoom out further. When you release the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key, the Zoom Tool will revert back to its default "Zoom In" mode:

Pressing and holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and clicking with the Zoom Tool to zoom out.
Pressing and holding Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) and clicking with the Zoom Tool to zoom out.

Temporarily Accessing The Zoom Tool From The Keyboard

Rather than selecting the Zoom Tool from the Toolbar each time we need it, a faster way is to select it from the keyboard. We've already seen that we can select the Zoom Tool by pressing the letter Z. But even that is not the best way to work because it leaves the Zoom Tool active until we choose a different tool.

A better way is to temporarily switch to the Zoom Tool by pressing and holding Ctrl+spacebar (Win) / Command+spacebar (Mac) on your keyboard. This switches you to the Zoom Tool from whichever tool was active, allowing you to click on an area of the image to zoom in. Once you've zoomed in, release the keys to switch back to the previously-active tool so you can keep on working without skipping a beat. If you need to zoom out of the image, press and hold Ctrl+Alt+spacebar (Win) / Option+spacebar (Mac) on your keyboard to temporarily access the Zoom Tool in "Zoom Out" mode. Click on the image to zoom out, then release the keys to switch back to the previous tool.

Using Continuous Zoom

Another way to use the Zoom Tool is by taking advantage of a feature known as Continuous Zoom. First, select the Zoom Tool either from the Toolbar or using the keyboard shortcut. Click on the spot you want to zoom in to and keep your mouse button held down. Photoshop will zoom continuously inward towards that spot until you release your mouse button. Add your Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to zoom out continuously until you release your mouse button.

Using Scrubby Zoom

There's also a way to zoom much faster into your image and gain finer control over your zoom level, and that's by using Photoshop's Scrubby Zoom. In fact, Scrubby Zoom is my favorite way to work. With the Zoom Tool selected, click on the spot you want to zoom in on. As soon as you've clicked, with your mouse button still held down, drag your mouse left or right. Dragging to the right will zoom in. Drag to the left to zoom out. If you drag quickly, you'll zoom in quickly. If you drag slowly, you'll zoom in 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 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:

Using the Scrubby Zoom feature in Photoshop.
Scrubby Zoom in Photoshop lets us zoom in or out by clicking and dragging left or right.

Zooming With The Scroll Wheel

Another way to gain more fine-tuned control over your zoom level is by using the scroll wheel on your mouse. 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 up to zoom in or down to zoom out. Scroll quickly or slowly to control the speed of your zoom. The nice thing about this trick is that you don't need to have the Zoom Tool selected. It works with any of Photoshop's tools:

Zooming in Photoshop using the scroll wheel.
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 how to use Photoshop's Scrubby Zoom feature, which lets us zoom in and out of our image by clicking and dragging left or right. By default, Scrubby Zoom is enabled, but we can actually disable it for yet another way to zoom in on the image. With the Zoom Tool selected, you'll find the Scrubby Zoom option in the Options Bar along the top of the screen. To disable it, click inside its checkbox:

Disabling Scrubby Zoom in Photoshop
Unchecking the Scrubby Zoom option in the Options Bar.

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 where you want to zoom in. Here, I'm dragging a selection around the woman's mouth:

Dragging a selection outline with the Zoom Tool in Photoshop
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:

Photoshop zooms in on the selected area
Photoshop zooms in on the selected area.

How To Pan And Scroll An Image In Photoshop

The Hand Tool

Now that we know how to zoom in and out of an image, let's learn how to move the image around inside the document window. An obvious problem when we're zoomed in is that we can only see the part of the image we've zoomed into. The rest of it extends off the screen. When that happens, we need a way to move and reposition the image so we can inspect different areas.

This is known as panning. To pan an image in Photoshop, we use the Hand Tool. You'll find it directly above the Zoom Tool near the bottom of the Toolbar (not surprisingly, it's the tool with the hand icon). You can also select the Hand Tool from the keyboard by pressing the letter H:

Selecting the Hand Tool from the Tools panel in Photoshop.
Selecting the Hand Tool.

With the Hand Tool selected, your mouse cursor changes to a hand icon:

The mouse cursor icon for the Hand Tool.
The Hand Tool's icon.

To pan from one part of the image to another, click with the Hand Tool, keep your mouse button held down, and drag the image around inside the document window. You can move the image in any direction. Release your mouse button to let go:

Clicking and dragging the image with the Hand Tool to pan it inside the document window.
Clicking and dragging the image with the Hand Tool to pan it inside the document window.

Temporarily Switching To The Hand Tool From The Keyboard

Just like with the Zoom Tool, selecting the Hand Tool from the Toolbar each time you need it can be time-consuming. Using its keyboard shortcut ("H") doesn't help, since either way, the Hand Tool remains active until we select a different tool. Thankfully, Photoshop gives us a better, faster option, and that's by temporarily selecting the Hand Tool. To switch to the Hand Tool when any other tool is active, press and hold the spacebar on your keyboard. Click and drag the image to move it, and then release the spacebar to switch back to your previously-active tool.

Scrolling The Image With The Scroll Bars

There's also a couple of ways to scroll the image up, down, left or right. The most obvious way is to use the scroll bars along the right and bottom of the document window:

The scroll bars in the document window in Photoshop
The scroll bars can be used to reposition the image within the document window.

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 with any tool) is to use the scroll wheel on your mouse. Scroll up on the wheel to move the image upward in the document window, or scroll down to move it downward. Press and hold the Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key on your keyboard and scroll up to move the image to the left, or scroll down to move it towards the right:

Scrolling the image with the scroll wheen in Photoshop
Use the scroll wheel on your mouse to move the image up or down. Add Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) to scroll it left or right.

The Bird's Eye View

The final way to pan an image in Photoshop is to use what's known as the Bird's Eye View. Not only is it extremely useful, but it's also a lot of fun. To use the Bird's Eye View, press and hold the letter H on your keyboard. Even if you already have the Hand Tool selected, you still need to press and hold H. Photoshop will zoom the image out so it fits entirely on the screen. While the image is zoomed out, you'll see a rectangular box that you can move around. Drag the box over the area where you want to zoom in. In my case, I'll drag it over the woman's eyes:

Using the Birds Eye View in Photoshop to select an area to zoom in
In Bird's Eye View, drag the box over an area to zoom in on it.

When you release your mouse button, Photoshop instantly jumps to that area and centers it on the screen:

Zooming in to the image using the Bird's Eye View in Photoshop
The area that was within the rectangle now fills the document window.

Selecting "Fit on Screen" And "100%" From The Toolbar

Let's finish off this tutorial with a couple more time-saving shortcuts. Earlier, we learned about Photoshop's Fit on Screen command under the View menu that instantly fits the entire image on the screen. It has a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+0 (Win() / Command+0 (Mac). We also learned about the 100% command that jumps the image to the 100% zoom level. It has a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+1 (Win) / Command+1 (Mac).

If you ever find yourself wanting to use either of these commands but can't remember their keyboard shortcut, not to worry. Along with being available under the View menu in the Menu Bar, they can also be selected from the Toolbar. To instantly fit your image on the screen, double-click on the Hand Tool in the Toolbar. To jump to the 100% zoom level, double-click on the Zoom Tool:

Use the Zoom Tool and Hand Tool to quickly jump to Fit on Screen or the 100 percent view modes.
For "Fit on Screen", double-click the Hand Tool. For "100%", double-click the Zoom Tool.

Where to go next...

And there we have it! In this lesson, we learned how to zoom and pan a single image in Photoshop. In the next lesson in this chapter, we'll learn how to zoom and pan multiple open images at once!

Or check out any of the other lessons in this chapter:

For more chapters and for our latest tutorials, visit our Photoshop Basics section!

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