Learning to use any new image editor is usually a long-term project, and GIMP is no exception. One of the best ways to improve your familiarity with a new app is to get to know its keyboard shortcuts since this process will also help you get comfortable with the new tools and commands that are literally at your fingertips.
Many people get stressed out by trying to remember all the new keyboard shortcuts at once, but this approach can be a bit stressful and counterproductive. It’s a much better idea to choose a couple of keyboard shortcuts for tasks that you perform regularly and use them until their second nature, then repeat the process with a few different commands.
Before you know it, you’ll be using GIMP like an experienced pro!
Keep in mind that this isn’t the complete list of keyboard shortcuts for GIMP – it is a selected list of the shortcuts used for many common editing tasks. If you have an essential shortcut that you think deserves to be on the list, let me know in the comments at the end of the post.
- Tool Keyboard Shortcuts
- Workflow Keyboard Shortcuts
- Panel Keyboard Shortcuts
- Document Display Keyboard Shortcuts
- The Full List of GIMP Keyboard Shortcuts
- How to Make GIMP Keyboard Shortcuts
- A Final Word
Tool Keyboard Shortcuts
Even if you’ve never used keyboard shortcuts before in any program, these GIMP tool keyboard shortcuts are the easiest to learn, since most of them are only a single key.
Most of these tools need no explanation, so let’s get straight to the list.
Rectangle Select Tool
Ellipse Select Tool
Free Select Tool
Scissors Select Tool
Fuzzy Select Tool
Select by Color Tool
Shift + O
Shift + C
Shift + B
Workflow Keyboard Shortcuts
These shortcuts can dramatically speed up your entire editing workflow by allowing you to perform routine commands without having to change your current cursor position and/or hunt through menus to find the right option.
Many of these keyboard shortcuts are a bit different depending on the operating system that you use, although usually, the only variation is whether you press Ctrl on PC or Command on Mac and Alt on PC or Option on Mac.
Ctrl + Z / Command + Z
Ctrl + Y / Command + Y
Ctrl + C / Command + C
Ctrl + V / Command + V
Paste in Place
This command allows you to paste the contents of your clipboard into a new file in the exact same location as it was positioned when it was originally copied to the clipboard.
Ctrl + Alt + V / Command + Option + V
Increase Brush Size
Decrease Brush Size
Default Foreground / Background Colors
Swap Foreground / Background Colors
Ctrl + Shift + N / Command + Shift + N
Ctrl + Shift + D / Command + Shift+ D
Ctrl + A / Command + A
Ctrl + Shift + A / Command + Shift + A
Ctrl + I / Command + I
The Float Selection command allows you to reposition the pixels within your selection area without having to create a new layer to do so. Floated selections must be anchored using the Anchor Selection command (listed below).
Ctrl + Shift + L / Command + Shift + L
This command allows you to anchor a floating selection and resume normal editing.
Ctrl + H / Command + H
Show / Hide Selection
If you can’t see your selection area’s border, you might have accidentally hidden your selection!
Ctrl + T / Command + T
Panel Keyboard Shortcuts
These shortcuts allow you to display the most important panels in GIMP in case they get closed by accident. Trying to use GIMP without these panels can feel slightly surreal, but even if you forget all the keyboard shortcuts, remember this: you can always open the Windows menu and select Dockable Dialogs for a full list of all the panels that you can open in GIMP.
Ctrl + B / Command + B
Ctrl + L / Command + L
Document Display Keyboard Shortcuts
These keyboard shortcuts will help you to navigate around your document quickly and fluidly. Getting really comfortable with these shortcuts is the best way to feel connected to your digital image, which can help make the editing process a lot more intuitive. That may sound silly, but trust me – it works!
Shift + Mousewheel Up
Shift + Mousewheel Down
Center Image in Window
Shift + J
Fit Image in Window
Ctrl + Shift + J / Command + Shift + J
There is one set of default keyboard commands in GIMP that actually don’t work. This is a truly ridiculous bug, in my opinion, and I really don’t understand why it hasn’t been fixed by now, but here it is:
You can use the 1–5 number keys to zoom in to various preset levels that are greater than 100%, and you should be able to hold down the Shift key and use the 1–5 number keys to zoom out to a few preset levels such as 50% and 25% – but the ‘zoom out’ preset shortcuts don’t work.
If you press Shift + 2, your computer actually interprets that as the @ symbol, so GIMP doesn’t register the correct keyboard shortcut and doesn’t run the command.
Needless to say, this is something of a hilarious oversight that could be corrected quite easily but hasn’t been. A quick Google search shows that people identified this issue back in 2013, but it still hasn’t been fixed, so maybe the devs just figure that nobody actually uses these commands.
The Full List of GIMP Keyboard Shortcuts
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this list doesn’t include every single keyboard shortcut in GIMP, only the ones that I find most useful for my own image editing workflow. Of course, every GIMP user will have their own needs, so if there’s a tool or feature that you constantly use that I left out of the list, here’s where you can find the full list:
On a PC, open the Edit menu and click Keyboard Shortcuts.
On a Mac, open the GIMP application menu and click Keyboard Shortcuts.
GIMP will display the complete list of all available keyboard shortcuts and commands. You can also use this window to create your own customized keyboard shortcuts, so read on if you want to unlock true GIMP productivity!
How to Make GIMP Keyboard Shortcuts
There are thousands of different commands in GIMP, and they don’t all have a default keyboard shortcut. Most people have a hard enough time remembering the ones they actually want to use, and many of GIMP’s commands aren’t in common usage, but some projects demand the regular use of these uncommon tools.
Fortunately, you can still gain all the speed and efficiency advantages of keyboard shortcuts by making your own custom GIMP keyboard shortcuts!
- On a PC, open the Edit menu and click Keyboard Shortcuts.
- On a Mac, open the GIMP application menu and click Keyboard Shortcuts.
The available commands are grouped into 18 different sections, and it’s not always easy to determine where you’ll find the command you’re looking for, but you can use the Search field at the top of the window to help you narrow things down more quickly.
Once you’ve found the command you want to use, click anywhere on the entry for that command. The existing shortcut (or the text saying Disabled if no shortcut was previously assigned) will be replaced by New accelerator…
Press the new keyboard shortcut that you want to use for the command, and then release it. The Shortcut column should update to show your newly assigned keyboard shortcut.
If you make a mistake, or you simply want to disable the shortcut for a command, click the entry again and then press the Backspace key instead of entering a new shortcut.
If the keyboard shortcut you assign is already assigned to a different command, GIMP will double-check with you before overwriting the shortcut.
A keyboard shortcut cannot be assigned to two different commands, but there are plenty of options available if you add the Ctrl / Command, Alt / Option, or Shift keys (or some combination of the three). Try to choose a keyboard shortcut that is easy to press, ideally with only one hand, so that you don’t have to take your other hand off the mouse.
A Final Word
Phew, that was quite a long list – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to remember, take a deep breath and relax! You don’t need to memorize them all at once, and you can always come back to this page to get a quick refresher course any time you need to.
The best way to start learning GIMP keyboard shortcuts is to choose a couple of commands that you use the most, and practice those shortcuts until they’re almost a reflex action. Then add on a few more, and then a few more, and before you know it, you’ll have the whole list memorized.
Once you get used to using keyboard shortcuts, you’ll wonder how you ever got anything done using only the mouse!
Enjoy your new shortcuts!About Thomas Boldt