Today’s Question: I know there are keyboard shortcuts for the tools in Photoshop. But these shortcuts only work for the top tool for each button on the toolbar. Is there a way to access the other tools, such as the Pencil tool rather than the Brush tool when using a keyboard shortcut?
Tim’s Quick Answer: If pressing the keyboard shortcut for a set of tools doesn’t cycle through the various tools associated with a single button you can hold the Shift key to cycle through those tools. You can specify whether the Shift key is required with a setting in Preferences.
More Detail: You can use keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop to access a wide variety of commands and features, including being able to activate a particular tool. For example, you can press the letter “B” to access the Brush tool.
Associated with the same button as the Brush tool you also can find the Pencil tool, the Color Replacement tool, and the Mixer Brush tool. It is possible to use the letter “B” to cycle through these tools, but this is not my preferred setting. When you can navigate through all of these tools using the “B” key on the keyboard, if you already have the Brush tool active but don’t realize that, and then you press “B” intending to activate the Brush tool, you’ll instead be switching to the Pencil tool.
Therefore, I prefer to enable a setting in Preferences so that you must hold the Shift key to switch between the various tools associated with a single button, and therefore associated with a given keyboard shortcut.
In the Preferences dialog you can go to the Tools tab. You can then turn on (or off) the “Use Shift Key for Tool Switch” checkbox. With this checkbox turned on you must use the Shift key in conjunction with the applicable keyboard shortcut if you want to switch among tools associated with the same keyboard shortcut. If you simply press the keyboard shortcut without the Shift key, the current tool that is on top on the button will be activated.
For example, with the checkbox turned on you must hold the Shift key while pressing the letter “B” to switch from the Brush tool to the Pencil tool. If the Brush tool is active if you only press the letter “B” without the Shift key, you’ll simply be keeping the Brush tool active.
With the checkbox turned off, pressing the letter “B” would switch between the four tools associated with the Brush tool button one by one, each time you press the letter “B”.