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How To Use The Hand Tool In Photoshop (Complete Guide)

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The Hand Tool in Photoshop is one of those tools designed to save you time. This tool is an essential navigational tool that every user should include in their workflow.

The Hand Tool In Photoshop can be used to navigate your document while zoomed in and part of the image is out of view. You can access it by pressing H or temporarily enable the tool by holding the Spacebar while clicking and dragging your document to move it.

Throughout this tutorial, you’ll get a deeper look at what you can use the Hand Tool for in your workflow, along with some helpful tips to make the most of it. Let’s get started!

What Is The Hand Tool In Photoshop?

It can be challenging to edit an image if you can’t fully see its details. Sometimes, it may even lead you to make changes by trial and error. But luckily, the Hand Tool can turn things around for you.

The Hand tool allows you to move around an image when you zoom in on it. This enables you to focus on an area by centering it in the workspace and bringing the desired area closer to your view. This gives you more precision when editing images and prevents you from making mistakes, making your job easier and faster.

You can also use the Hand Tool when you have already edited a photo and want to get a better view of its details. 

How To Access The Hand Tool

There are a couple of ways to access the Hand Tool. You can select the Hand Tool from the Toolbar. A hand icon represents it.  

You can also enable the Hand Tool by pressing H on your keyboard.

Alternatively, hold the spacebar on your keyboard to activate the Hand Tool temporarily, and then click and drag your document in the direction you want to bring the target area into focus.

The Hand Tool Settings Explained

When you enable the Hand Tool, some settings appear in the Options bar.

Firstly, mark the Scroll All Windows checkbox when you have more than one document opened in the workspace, and you want to scroll them simultaneously.  

The 100% button allows you to zoom in on your image to 100%.

Zoom at 100%

You can also zoom in on your image by pressing Control + + (Win) or Command + + (Mac). The zoom level is proportionate to the number of times you use the shortcut in a row. For example, when using the shortcut once, you get a 25% zoom. If you repeat the shortcut, you get 50% zoom.

The Fit Screen button makes your image fit the workspace area. This is equivalent to the default document view mode. If you change the view mode and want to return to this default state, you can use the shortcut Control + 0 (Win) or Command + 0 (Mac).

Document Set To Fit Screen

Finally, the Fill Screen button fills your entire workspace screen with your document.

Document Set To Fill Screen

How To Use The Hand Tool In Photoshop

Now that you know the basics of the Hand Tool, you will see how this tool works in practice. The Hand Tool is used in conjunction with other tools. The tool facilitates your job with a primary tool. 

So suppose you want to trace the cup in the image below using the Pen Tool.

To do this, you can enable the Pen Tool (P) and trace the object by clicking a sequence of points around the object, forming a path, just like the one I made below.  

But, achieving good precision with the document positioned that way will be challenging unless you have excellent eyesight.

Enable the Hand Tool by pressing H on your keyboard to make your life easier.

Your cursor will turn into a hand icon.  

Now, go to the Options bar and click the 100% button.

This will make the edges of the objects more visible. Click and hold the canvas using the tool and drag the canvas around to where you need to edit.

 Now, you can enable the Pen Tool (P) again to trace the object more precisely. 

If you want to continue tracing the object, but the area you wish to trace is not close enough to your view, switch back to the Hand Tool by holding the spacebar on your keyboard. Next, click and drag the image in the direction you want to bring the desired area into focus while still holding the spacebar down.

For example, I dragged my image up to see the lower part of the cup I wanted to trace.

You can continue switching between your primary tool and the Hand tool until you have finished your work. Although a very simple one, the Hand Tool is a tool you will constantly find yourself using with any project. Just remember to hold the spacebar to quickly activate it!

For more document navigation tips in Photoshop, see this complete guide.

Happy Editing!

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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