Speed up your Design Workflow

Ever thought about what you could do to work faster in photoshop or other design tools? Do you know what negative effects it has if you don’t do it?

Being able to work fast and speeding up your workflow is a main factor to success when it comes to creating designs and as well being satisfied by your own work. As faster you can work, as sooner your will get to a good product and you can spent more time on all the little details, that will add even more awesomeness to your masterpiece.

On the other side, not being able to work fast might result in a loss of income and customers. Your chances for a raise of your wages is smaller when your productivity is lower than the ones of your colleagues. If you want to improve those factors in your career, starting to increase your skills in speeding up your own workflow and get greater productivity will improve the chances and deals you will get in your life.

Plan Time to learn Something New every Day

The basis of every skill you have is that you “know” how to do it. As more knowledge you have about the tools you are using, as more ways you have to actually accomplish the result you want. Therefore you will be able to find faster workflows thanks to all the tools/ways you know, and get to the final product faster.
If you are working and think “this is a lot of repetitive work”, “this is complicated” or “isn’t there a way to do this faster?”, this are good points to start. Others will have run into it too and with a high chance, already posted that question on some internet community. Just open Google and search for a solution.
I personally invest every day a pit of time to learn something new, even if it is only a short 5 to 10 minutes video, it is a piece of more knowledge.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Using Keyboard shortcuts is one of the most basic thing you can do to speed up your workflow. Even if you only save some seconds, you will save hundreds and thousands of seconds for all those little actions you are doing. Not using shortcuts but using your mouse also leads to searching of tools and items in menus. All this time you can save if you just know the keaboard shortcuts. This is true for most desktop applications, from your Operating System, Microsoft Word, internet browsers over to Photoshop and 3D Software. Most applications display shortcuts on the right side of the menu item:

Shortcuts in menus

Many applications also provide a way to change your keyboard shortcuts. With this you can set shortcuts to tools and menu items you access a lot and can optimize your workflow. For example in Photoshop (Menu >> Edit >> Keyboard Shortcuts) I change the shortcuts for increasing/decreasing Brush Size and Next/Previous brush to keys which are close on my keyboard.
Switching between tools like the Move Tool(V), to the brush tool(B) to the Eraser Tool(E) are basic tool selection you can greatly enhance you productivity. Imagine: You hide a part of your image using a layer mask, making a mistake. moving your mouse to select the Eraser Tool, movind back to the exact same location to use it, then repeating to get back to the Brush tool. All that can be done hitting “E” and then “B”, or you just change background to foreground color(black/white) by hitting “X”.

Redo Last Action

Most design software will have a keyboard shortcut to do the last action. This can save a lot of time if you have to repeat something 4 times or more. For example:

  • Photoshop:
    • Apply Last used Filter: Ctrl + F
    • Redo Last Transform: Ctrl + Shift + T
    • Copy Layer and Redo Transform(Power Duplicate): Ctrl + Alt + Shift + T
  • Affinity Photo/Designer Power Duplicate:
    • Change to the Move Tool(V)
    • Copy the Layer using Ctrl+J
    • Scale, Rotate, Transform your layer
    • Hit Ctrl+J again to create new layers with the same images
  • Blender – Allmighty Ctrl+R: Repeats the last action, applies to a whole lot of actions.

Automation: Actions, Macros and Scripting

Automation can save you a lot of time. Most design software will allow you to create some sort of automation, like:

  • Photoshop:
    • Actions: Record and replay of actions done on the UI. Can be recorded and used for Batch processing.
    • Scripting: Autmation based on programming design workflows.
  • Affinity Photo: Allows to record and replay macros.
  • Gimp: Scripting in Python.
  • Blender: Scripting in Python. (For simple Macros: Open Info and Text Area, execute your actions and copy them from the info log to the Text Area, add “import bpy” as the first row)

For regular users record and replay features are the easiest feature to use and all that they need. Those are especially useful for longer workflow that are used more than once, automating processing of a lot of images or preparing a document, like creating the Adjustment Layers you use by default. For example:

  • Prepare an Image for creating a seamless texture by cutting it into four pieces/layers, and move the pieces to the opposite corner.
  • Resize als images in a folder to a width of 1024px.
  • Create an custom sepia effect that consists of multiple adjustment layers

Know How to Select

One of the basic actions you will do in every design software is selection. As more ways you know on how to select/separate things in your image as more time you will be able to save.

Recombine existing Designs

Instead of doing a new design from scratch, some designs can be recombined and “multiplied” into a lof of different designs. For example for my Tattoo Toolkit I used a single hand drawn image, that I cut into pieces and recombined to 350 different designs.
Combining design elements from various projects you have worked on is another example of recombining existing designs. Using what already exists as it was already created will always speed up your workflow. If you plan ahead, you can as well already create your designs to be reused or put them in a library where you can pick from.

Recombine existing designs

Get a Tablet

If you do a lot of manual work with brushes and erasers, if it is masking, painting or other activities, getting yourself a tablet will highly increase your workflow.

Create Templates

If you do similar designs for customers over and over, creating templates can highly increase your efficency.


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