Quick Zoom Techniques in Photoshop

Photoshop Zoom Tool

When working with images in Photoshop, I rely heavily on the Zoom tool. I’m constantly zooming in on tiny little spots, viewing sections of the image, checking things at 100%, or backing all the way out to fit the screen. Using the zoom button can be quite tedious and even impossible if I’m in the middle of using another tool. But have no fear there are better ways to zoom.

CTRL+”+”, CTRL+”-”, CTRL+0, CTRL+ALT+0

And for you Mac users, replace CTRL with COMMAND. These shortcuts are pretty handy sometimes because you can quickly zoom in, zoom out, fit to screen, or zoom to 100% without clicking on the Zoom button in the tools palette. As useful as these keyboard shortcuts are, there’s an even better solution.


That’s right, just hold the ALT key (OPT for Macs) and scroll that mouse wheel (do Macs have scroll wheels yet?). Scroll up to zoom in and scroll down to zoom out. Photoshop also zooms to the point that your cursor is at so you can avoid excessive panning after the zoom. The same trick works in Adobe Reader, but with the CTRL button instead of ALT.

15 thoughts on “Quick Zoom Techniques in Photoshop

  1. Neil Creek

    Nice tips Brian, I wasn’t aware of them. What surprises me is that there are so many keyboard zoom solutions, because I use a completely different one!

    CTRL + SPACE turns your cursor to the zoom in magnifying glass as long as you hold it. CTRL + ALT + SPACE gives you zoom out.

    The reasons I like this choice are:
    - You can press all keys with one hand, so you can keep your hand on the mouse.
    - You can click once to zoom in or out a step, or you can drag a region to zoom to while holding the keys.
    - The steps you zoom are the standard photoshop zoom steps, so you get ‘cleaner’ pixels than you would with an “analogue” zoom such as with the scroll wheel.

    Of course, everyone will use Photoshop in the way that feels most efficient for them. It’s a credit to Adobe that they give users such freedom to do the work in ways that they prefer.

  2. Brian Auer Post author

    Good point Neil, there are plenty of other options for zooming — I refrained from mentioning all of them to try to keep the article short. I know what you mean by “clean pixels” — the scroll method produces “dirty pixels” when zoomed out too far, but it’s not terribly noticeable when you’re working on the details past 100%.

    It IS nice to have a lot of options for tools like the zoom. I typically use several methods in one sitting depending on what I’m doing.

  3. Bryan Villarin

    In case you’re using GIMP:

    Ctrl+Scroll: Zoom In/Out
    Scroll (while zoomed in): Pan the image up/down
    Shift+Scroll (while zoomed in): Pan the image left/right
    Middle-click + Drag (while zoomed in): Drag the image

    The quicker we move around a program, the quicker we process these photos, right? :)

  4. Brian Auer Post author

    Dude Bryan, sounds like you’re digging right in to the GIMP. Thanks for mentioning the GIMP equivalents, I’m sure there are a few others out there who will find that useful. When are you going to write me a full-blown GIMP tutorial? :P

  5. Brian Auer Post author

    Hey man, whenever you’re ready to show off some neat tricks. Ask yourself what’s the one thing you’d really like to know how to do in the GIMP. Research the crap out of it, test it out, perfect it, and write about it. I know there are plenty of people out there who would want to learn about it.

  6. Niels Henriksen

    Thanks again Brian with sharing tips with us.

    Zooming is probably one of the most used functions when we are photo-editing and consumes as lot of time as we go from one view to the other to see how the image is progressing.

    To save myself time I use the Logitech NuLOOQ mouse type tool.

    This gadget sits on the side and with one hand I can zoom in or out (rotate ring) Move screen up, down or sideways. (push in direction of ring) and I have programmed the 4 touch points to reset B&W clolour and another to switch between B&W foreground.

    When you rotate your finger over the top of the NuLOOQ is in very fine increments increase or decrease brush size.

    While a bit pricey I think around $80.00 is does allow me to work on an image and with one hand and make editing changes without having to take my eyes of the screen.

    Niels Henriksen

  7. Brian Auer Post author

    Good point, we use similar devices (called a 3D mouse) at work for our 3D modeling software like SolidWorks, Pro-Engineer, and Catia. Some of the more popular devices can be found at http://www.3dconnexion.com/

    Photoshop is actually one of the supported pieces of software, I just never thought to use one of these with Photoshop. I’ll have to give it a whirl.

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    That’s awesome — I’ve never been curious enough to double click the palette buttons. Now I’m curious what double clicking some of the other buttons will do.

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  10. Steve W

    Just a home user here who appreciates the tip. In answer to your tongue-in-cheek question, “Do Macs have scroll wheels yet?” I can tell you, as someone who used Macs at home and work from 1993 till just last June that, officially, no, but OS X is very scroll-wheel friendly if you happen to be using a third party mouse that has one. I’m still using the same Logitech mouse I used on the two last Macs I had, and even without the software driver, both Macs treated it as if it were Apple-mfg.

    “Officially, no” — Apple has their pressure-sensitive 3-button mouse (no visible buttons, more like the old keyboards where you’d hit keys by pressing down in “just the right place”) — which is part of Steve Jobs’ off-kilter “aesthetic sense” that gave us slot-load CD and DVD drives on iMacs, the G4 Cube and such, and if there is still common sense in the world, not even Jobs will ever try to “fake” a scroll-wheel.

    Just some things maybe you didn’t know.

    Steve W

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