By Scott Trudeau


August 2, 2007

I have a friend who is an art director for a design company and Photoshop is a BIG part of his daily work flow. This guy has been using Photoshop for a long time, pre-layers palette long! On a recent fishing trip we started to talk shop. The conversation center on Photoshop and eventually we found ourselves comparing our favorite Photoshop shortcuts. I mentioned the left and right bracket keys [ ] and he raised an eyebrow, smiled, and told me he didn’t know that one.
A week later I received a phone call. My fishing buddy exclaimed that his new favorite Photoshop shortcuts were now the left and right bracket keys; in fact, he didn’t know how he had gotten by without this little gem.
What do the bracket keys do? They change the size of just about every tool on the tools palette. The right bracket key makes the tool larger and the left bracket key makes the tool smaller. The bracket keys change, on the fly, the diameter of the tool by 10 pixels per click. Hold the bracket keys down and watch as the diameter quickly expands or contracts.
I know the keys work on the following tools:
• Paint brush
• Eraser
• Clone Stamp tool
• Blur, Sharpen, and Smudge Tools
• Healing Brush Tool
Although the bracket keys will not change the diameter of the Custom Shape tool they will sift through the shape library. Activate the Custom Shape tool (grouped with the Rectangle Tool) and click the bracket keys. Take a gander at the options bar (near the top of the Photoshop interface) as you click… the bracket keys shuffle through the shape library. Cool!
What are your favorite shortcuts?


  • By Scott Waldman - 2:01 PM on August 3, 2007  

    Way cool shortcut. I am preparing a back to school brochure and had to edit about nine photographs with the clone stamp tool due to unwanted objects in the background. I wish I knew this shortcut when doing this. Honestly, it would have saved me lots of time from my workflow not to mention all the clicks and drags I had to do in the Brush Preset Picker and brush modifier. Nice tip. Thanks.

  • By Phthalo Blue - 3:36 PM on August 3, 2007  

    My favorite shortcuts probably aren’t very obscure or little-known, but I use ‘Option-Cmd-I’ a lot for Image Size, ‘Option-Cmd-0’ for zoom to 100%, and ‘Shift-Option-Cmd-S’ for “Save for Web”.
    Another one I like, although not technically a keyboard shortcut, is to place text, click the OK box, click the text name to make it active, then use the up/down arrows to quickly scroll through the fonts and see what they look like.
    Nothing earth-shattering here but I do dig my shortcuts.

  • By Butch Curry - 7:28 PM on August 3, 2007  

    I use the Line tool quite a bit, and was surprised to find a few months back that the bracket keys will increase and decrease its weight. And holding down the Shift key increases/deceases it by 10 pixels instead of 1, just like the brush diameters.

  • By Mattias - 4:45 AM on August 4, 2007  

    Must add: Many international keyboards don’t have the room for the bracket keys, they are left out to give room to things like å ä ö.
    So you first need to discover this, then go change all the shortcuts in the edit menu. But when that is done, it’s pure bliss.

  • By Xavez - 6:11 AM on August 10, 2007  

    This is indeed one of the lesser-known Photoshop shortcuts that can come in handy from time to time!

  • By Linds - 3:40 AM on February 25, 2008  

    Oh sigh… we dont have bracket keys on danish keyboards… they are on alt+8&9…
    I haven’t been able to figure out what the H… the shortcut on our keyboards are then…
    And I really wanted to use that one 😀

  • By SoleyR - 12:59 AM on February 24, 2010  

    Mattias – thanks for the info. Now it finaly works

  • By Vern - 7:51 AM on March 12, 2013  

    Had this problem with the bracket keys not working also. If you are using a keyboard without bracket keys or (as in my case) you have bracket keys but they don’t work. Here’s what you do. This was done in CS2 but I’m sure it works in later versions also:
    Turns out you can edit any of the keyboard settings and shortcuts.

    Go to: “Edit/Keyboard Shortcuts” or Alt-Shift-Ctrl-K

    1) Check that the first drop down called “Set” says: “Photoshop Defaults”
    2) Second drop down called “Shortcuts For:” Select: “Tools”
    3)Scroll down until you see the two shortcuts your looking for, in this case; “Decrease Brush SIze” and “Increase Brush Size”.
    Now this is hardest part 😉
    If your keyboard has bracket keys but they don’t work do the following. Click on the bracket symbol, and press Backspace. This will delete the bracket. Next, click on the same bracket key you just deleted on your keyboard. (In my case when I hit the bracket key on my keyboard it displayed an unfamiliar symbol. I’m using a logitech wireless keyboard so who knows)
    Do the same to any other symbols that aren’t working then exit the preferences and enjoy. Turns out you can edit any shortcut you want this way.
    If your using an international keyboard that doesn’t have brackets, then simply select any key you want to assign that function to and your good to go. :))