While keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop may seem like a skill only used by experienced editors, anyone can (and should) learn them. The sooner you learn keyboard shortcuts, the sooner you will begin editing in Photoshop like a pro. These useful layer and layer mask shortcuts will save you time and keep your layers panel organized.

Not only do I have keyboard shortcuts for you, but you can also create custom layer mask shortcuts that suit you. Once you learn these shortcuts, you won’t go back to searching through menus to find the action you need.

– Layer Mask Shortcuts In Photoshop

Besides improving productivity, layer mask shortcuts make it easier for you to keep track of the changes you make. Here are 11 layer mask shortcuts to help improve your workflow. 

1. Creating A Custom Layer Mask Shortcut

There are many built-in layer mask shortcuts you can use in Photoshop. However, you can also make your own layer mask shortcuts too.

To create a layer mask shortcut, go up to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts or press Alt+Shift+Control+K (On Windows)/Option+Shift+Command+K (On Mac).

When the dialog box opens, make sure the shortcut type is set to ‘Application Menus’.

Then, scroll through the list of application menus to find the ‘Layer’ option.

Once you have found the layer option, click the arrow to reveal the options of the menu and scroll down until you find ‘Layer Mask’.

You will notice there is a list of tasks you can create a shortcut for in the layer mask menu. In my case, I’ll do a shortcut for the ‘Link/Unlink’ layer mask task.

If you enter a shortcut combination already in use, Photoshop will not create your new shortcut. Once you have typed in your chosen shortcut, for instance, ‘Control’+ ‘.’ click ‘Add shortcut’.

Once the shortcut has been added, click ‘Accept’ to confirm the changes and ‘OK’ to exit the dialog box. Your new shortcut will now be saved.

2. Viewing Layer Mask – Alt + Click (On Windows)/Option + Click (On Mac)

The command ‘View layer mask’, allows you to see a layer mask on your canvas, rather than the object the mask is linked to. To view a layer mask, click the layer mask while holding Alt (on Windows)/Option (on Mac). To switch back to the standard visual mode press Alt/Option+Click again.

3. Inverting A Layer Mask – Control + I (On Windows)/Command + I (On Mac)

This command gives you a new perspective of a layer mask, making it easier to spot any flaws in a layer mask selection and correct them.

To invert the layer mask press Control+I (On Windows)/Command+I (On Mac). This will let you toggle between the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ elements of the layer mask.

Once inverted, you can then press Control+I (On Windows)/Command+I (On Mac) again to change the layer mask back to the original state.

4. Enabling An Object selection – Control + Click (On Windows)/Command + Click (On Mac)        

This command is especially useful when you want to apply an effect to an object without affecting the other parts of the image.

Hold in Control (On Windows)/Command (On Mac) and click on the layer mask thumbnail. A ‘marching ants’ pattern will appear around the object.

To deselect the object once you are done, press Control+D (On Windows)/Command+D (On Mac).

5. Copying Layer Mask Alt + Click + Drag (On Windows)/Option + Click + Drag (On Mac)

You can copy a layer mask to use on another layer when you need the same mask, rather than creating a new layer mask for each layer.

To copy a layer mask, click on the layer mask while holding alt (On Windows)/option (On Mac). Then, still holding the alt/option key, drag the mask to the desired layer. 

6. Filling A Layer Mask With Foreground Color – Alt + Backspace (On Windows)/Option + Delete (On Mac)

You can find the foreground and background color selection boxes in the toolbar. By default, the foreground color is white, while the background color is black. 

When you fill a layer mask with the default foreground color by pressing Alt+Backspace (On Windows)/Option+Delete (On Mac), it turns completely white, making all content linked to the layer mask visible.

You can then use the brush tool with black as the foreground color to hide portions of an image.

7. Filling A Layer Mask With Background Color – Control + Backspace (On Windows)/Command + Delete (On Mac)

If you fill your layer mask with the default background color, which is black, all content of the layer linked to the layer mask will be hidden. 

Painting your whole layer mask black by pressing Control+Backspace (On Windows)/Command+Delete (On Mac) is useful when you want to use the white brush to bring back portions of an image only.

8. Enabling Quick Masking – ‘\’ (On Windows and Mac)

When you enable the layer mask overlay, the selected object turns red, known as a quick mask.

The opacity of the layer mask overlay is set to 50% by default. You may find it easier to refine your selection by using this command. To activate it, hit the backward slash bar \ on your keyboard.

9. Targeting A Layer – Control + 2 (On Windows)/Command + 2 (On Mac)

Press Control+2 (Windows)/Command+2 (Mac) to edit an image linked to a layer mask rather than the mask.

10. Targeting A Layer mask – Control + \ (On Windows)/Command + \ (On Mac)

By using this shortcut, you can make changes to the layer mask, rather than the image the mask is linked to. Pressing Control+\ (On Windows)/Command+\ (On Mac) allows you to quickly target the layer mask of the selected layer.

11. Delete A Layer Mask – Delete (On Windows and Mac)

If you want to delete a layer mask without dragging it to the trash bin icon in the layers panel, select the layer mask(s) and press Delete on your keyboard. To select multiple layer masks at a time, hold in Control/Command while selecting each layer mask.

– Layer Shortcuts In Photoshop 

Layer keyboard shortcuts speed up simple tasks such as creating a new layer. They also help in non-routine tasks, such as changing blending modes.

12. Creating A New Layer – Control + Shift + N (On Windows)/Command + Shift + N (On Mac)

This shortcut allows you to create an empty layer by pressing Control+Shift+N (On Windows)/Command+Shift+N (On Mac). After activating the shortcut a window will open, allowing you to name the layer which will appear in your layers panel.

13. Selecting Multiple Layers – Shift + Click (On Windows and Mac)

Click the top layer (and/or group) and then the bottom layer while holding ‘Shift’ on your keyboard to use this shortcut. This command is useful for selecting multiple layers at once to apply an effect to all of them.

14. Selecting Alternate Layers – Control + Click (On Windows)/Command + Click (On Mac)

While selecting layers, you may not want to select them in sequence but rather select one layer on the top of the panel and the other at the bottom.

To select alternate layers, hold Control (On Windows)/Command (On Mac) while selecting the layers. 

15. Duplicating A layer – Control + J (On Windows)/Command + J (On Mac)

You can duplicate layers to compare the original version of a layer with the edited one or to blend layers. Duplicate a layer by pressing Control + J (On Windows)/Command + J (On Mac). The copied layer will be named after the original layer with “copy” added to the name.

16. Changing Layers Opacity – Press 1-9 (On Windows and Mac)

Rather than using the opacity slider in the layers panel, you can set the opacity of a layer using the numbers. This will only work when a non-brush tool is selected.

To do this, press a number between 1-9 on your keyboard. The layer opacity is set to the percentage of the number you select, for example, it sets it to 10% when you press 1. If you want to go back to 100%, hit 0.

To set an opacity with more specific percentages, press one number after the other. For example, pressing 6 and 7 will set the opacity to 67%.

17. Toggling Blending Modes – Shift and (+/-) (On Mac & Windows)

Blending modes can create a new look for your layers and enhance the effects you apply to them. To toggle through blending modes, select the desired layer, and then press the plus (+) or the minus sign (-) while holding ‘Shift’. 

Click ‘Shift’ and the plus sign (+) to move to the next blend mode. If you want to go back to the previous blend mode, click shift and the minus sign (-).

18. Visualizing A Specific Layer Only – Alt + Eye Icon (On Windows)/Option+Eye Icon (On Windows)

If you want to look at a specific layer without seeing the other layers, click on the eye icon next to the layer while pressing Alt (On Windows)/Option (On Mac). You can then use the same shortcut to go back to the standard layer visualization mode.

19. Moving A Layer Up – Control + [ (On Windows)/Command + [ (On Mac)

Putting a layer on top of another layer is sometimes necessary, such as when a layer has an effect that you can apply to all layers. To move a layer above another layer, press Control/Command + [.

20. Moving A Layer Down – Control + ] (On Windows)/Command + ] (On Mac)

Press control/command + ] on your keyboard to move a layer down in the layers panel.

21. Grouping Layers – Control + G (On Windows)/Command + G (On Mac)

Grouping layers helps keep your workspace organized in the layers panel. To group layers, select the layers you want in the group and press Control + G (On Windows) or Command + G (On Mac). 

You can see the content of each group of layers by clicking the small arrow next to the folder icon on the group layer.

22. Ungrouping layers – Control + Shift + G (On Windows)/Command + Shift + G (On Mac)

To ungroup layers, select the target group layer (the one with a folder icon next to it) and click Control + Shift + G (On Windows)/Command + Shift + G (On Mac).

23. Merging Layers – Command + E (On Mac)/Control + E (On Windows)

When working with similar layers, such as parts of the background, merging layers can be helpful. To merge two or more layers, select the layers and click Command + E (On Mac)/Control + E (On Windows). 

24. Selecting All Layers In The Layers Panel – Control + Alt + A (On Windows)/Command + Option + A (On Mac)

By pressing Control + Alt + A (On Windows)/Command + Option + A (On Mac) you can select all the layers in the layers panel, including layer groups. When using this shortcut the background layer will not be selected.

25. Creating Clipping Mask – Alt + Control + G (On Windows)/Option + Command + G (On Mac)

Clipping masks allow you to apply an effect to a layer without affecting others. Press Alt+Control+G (On Windows)/Option+Command+G (On Mac) to create a clipping mask. You can also remove a clipping mask with the same shortcut.

The pointing down arrow to the left of a layer thumbnail indicates that the layer is a clipping mask layer. This will only affect the layer directly below it.

26. Delete Layer – Delete Key (On Windows and Mac)

Delete any layers by pressing ‘delete’ on your keyboard. This shortcut also works for groups of layers.

Make sure the correct layer is selected before pressing delete on your keyboard. You can also delete multiple layers at once by selecting the relevant layers before pressing delete.

27. Finding layers – Alt+Shift+Control+F (On Windows)/Option+Shift+Command+F (On Mac)

This shortcut activates the search bar in the layers panel, you can then type in a specific layer name to locate it in the layers panel. This is useful if you don’t know where a layer is when there are multiple layers in the layer panel.

Now that you know these 27 keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop for layers and layer masks, let’s get into some more essential shortcuts. To learn the essential keyboard shortcuts for every aspect of Photoshop, check out my guide to the 93 most important keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop!

Happy Editing!