When you start Photoshop, the Tools panel appears at the left of the screen. Some tools in the Tools panel have options that appear in the context-sensitive options bar.

You can expand some tools to show hidden tools beneath them. A small triangle at the lower right of the tool icon signals the presence of hidden tools.

You can view information about any tool by positioning the pointer over it. The name of the tool appears in a tool tip below the pointer.

For a pictorial overview of the different tools in Photoshop, see Tool galleries.

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Select and display tools

Select a tool

  • Do one of the following:
    • Click a tool in the Tools panel. If there is a small triangle at a tool’s lower right corner, hold down the mouse button to view the hidden tools. Then click the tool you want to select.
    • Press the tool’s keyboard shortcut. The keyboard shortcut is displayed in its tool tip. For example, you can select the Move tool by pressing V.

    Note:

    Pressing and holding a keyboard shortcut key lets you temporarily switch to a tool. When you let go of the shortcut key, Photoshop returns to the tool you were using before the temporary switch.

Photoshop Tools panel
Accessing tools

A. Tools panel B. Active tool C. Hidden tools D. Tool name E. Tool shortcut F. Hidden tool triangle 

Cycle through hidden tools

By default, you cycle through a set of hidden tools by holding down Shift and repeatedly pressing a tool shortcut key.

If you prefer to cycle through tools without holding down Shift, you can disable this preference.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Photoshop > Preferences > General (Mac OS).
  2. Deselect Use Shift Key For Tool Switch.

Change tool pointers

Each default pointer has a different hotspot, where an effect or action in the image begins. With most tools, you can switch to precise cursors, which appear as cross hairs centered around the hotspot.

In most cases, the pointer for a tool is the same as the icon for that tool; you see that pointer when you select the tool. The default pointer for the marquee tools is the cross-hair pointer ; for the text tool, the default pointer is the I‑beam ; and for the painting tools, the default pointer is the Brush Size icon.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Cursors (Windows) or choose Photoshop > Preferences > Cursors (Mac OS).
  2. Choose tool pointer settings under Painting Cursors or Other Cursors:

    Standard

    Displays pointers as tool icons.

    Precise

    Displays pointers as cross hairs.

    Normal Brush Tip

    The pointer outline corresponds to approximately 50% of the area that the tool will affect. This option shows the pixels that would be most visibly affected.

    Full Size Brush Tip

    The pointer outline corresponds to nearly 100% of the area that the tool will affect, or nearly all the pixels that would be affected.

    Show Crosshair In Brush Tip

    Displays cross hairs in the center of the brush shape.

    Show Only Crosshair While Painting

    Improves performance with large brushes.

  3. Click OK.

The Painting Cursors options control the pointers for the following tools:

Eraser, Pencil, Paintbrush, Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, Pattern Stamp, Quick Selection, Smudge, Blur, Sharpen, Dodge, Burn, and Sponge

The Other Cursors options control the pointers for the following tools:

Marquee, Lasso, Polygonal Lasso, Magic Wand, Crop, Slice, Patch, Eyedropper, Pen, Gradient, Line, Paint Bucket, Magnetic Lasso, Magnetic Pen, Freeform Pen, Measure, and Color Sampler

Note:

To toggle between standard and precise cursors in some tool pointers, press Caps Lock.

Visually resize or change hardness of painting cursors

You can resize or change the hardness of a painting cursor by dragging in the image. As you drag, the painting cursor previews your changes. (Previews require OpenGL.)

  • To resize a cursor, press Alt+right-click (Windows) or Control+Option (Mac OS), and drag left or right. To change hardness, drag up or down.

Use the options bar

The options bar appears below the menu bar at the top of the workspace. The options bar is context sensitive—it changes as you select different tools. Some settings in the options bar (such as painting modes and opacity) are common to several tools, and some are specific to one tool.

You can move the options bar in the workspace by using the gripper bar, and you can dock it at the top or bottom of the screen. Tool tips appear when you position the pointer over a tool. To show or hide the options bar, choose Window > Options.

Photoshop Options bar
Lasso options bar

A. Gripper bar B. Tool tip 

To return tools to their default settings, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the tool icon in the options bar, and then choose Reset Tool or Reset All Tools from the context menu.

For more information on setting options for a specific tool, search for the tool’s name in Photoshop Help.

Tool presets

Tool presets let you save and reuse tool settings. You can load, edit, and create libraries of tool presets using the Tool Preset picker in the options bar, the Tool Presets panel, and the Preset Manager.

To choose a tool preset, click the Tool Preset picker in the options bar, and select a preset from the pop‑up panel. You can also choose Window > Tool Presets and select a preset in the Tools Presets panel.

Photoshop Tool presets
Viewing the Tool Preset picker

A. Click the Tool Preset picker in the options bar to show the Tool Preset pop‑up panel. B. Select a preset to change the tool’s options to the preset, which applies each time you select the tool until you choose Reset Tool from the panel menu. C. Deselect to show all tool presets; select to show presets for only the tool selected in the toolbox. 

Create a tool preset

  1. Choose a tool, and set the options you want to save as a tool preset in the options bar.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Click the Tool Preset button next to the tool at the left of the options bar.
    • Choose Window > Tool Presets to display the Tool Presets panel.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Click the Create New Tool Preset button .
    • Choose New Tool Preset from the panel menu.
  4. Enter a name for the tool preset, and click OK.

Change the list of tool presets

  • Click the triangle to open the Tool Presets pop‑up panel menu and choose one of the following:

    Show All Tool Presets

    Shows all loaded presets.

    Sort By Tool

    Sorts the presets by tool.

    Show Current Tool Presets

    Shows only the loaded presets for the active tool. You can also select the Current Tool Only option in the Tool Presets pop‑up panel.

    Text Only, Small List, or Large List

    Determines how presets are displayed in the pop‑up panel.

    Note:

    To create, load, and manage libraries of tool presets, see Work with the Preset Manager.

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