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Navigating Around Your Photoshop Document


There is no doubt Photoshop is a powerful image editor, but the workspaces and all the different tools can be overwhelming. Even navigating around your document on the screen is a challenge when you first start using the software.

This guide looks at four important features that will help you get to grips with the canvas. The best way to learn how to use these image navigation tools is to try them for yourself, so open Photoshop and get stuck in.

The Move Tool

If you want to change the position of a layer on the canvas, select the move tool move icon in Photoshop at the top of the toolbar or use the shortcut “V” on your keyboard. You should now be able to move your text, shape, selection, folder, or any other type of layer.

To make a minor adjustment and nudge a layer a few pixels across your canvas, you can hit the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the item up and down.

For larger adjustments, you can hold the left mouse button while you move the layer with the mouse.

Pay attention to how Photoshop highlights the alignment to other elements in the document. This is incredibly useful if you want the edges of the layers to line up or to centre different objects on the page.

Just remember, you need to pick the layer you want to move in the layers panel. You can select multiple layers and adjustment all at the same time. This is a great way to reposition a couple of columns or maintain the connection between a text layer and a background image.

One final tip: you can hold the control (Windows) or command (MacOS) key to use the move tool. Once you have made your adjustment and release the button, Photoshop will go back to the tool you were using previously.

Using the move tool is quite intuitive so a little practise is all you will need to learn this important aspect of Photoshop.


Lots of students zoom into an image by moving closer and closer to the screen. Obviously, this is not the best solution so please don’t try it in the classroom.

To zoom in, simply hold down the control or command key and press plus plus key as many times as you need.

To zoom out, hold down the control or command key and press the minus key minus key.

There is actually a zoom tool Photoshop zoom tool icon available from the bottom of the toolbar or activated with the shortcut Z. Check the “scrubby zoom” box in the options bar, hold you left mouse button and then move your mouse left and right. This will zoom in and out of the canvas. Although this is quite useful, you might want to stick with control and the + and – keys.

The Hand Tool

Zooming into an image is a great way to modify the edges of an image or change a few pixels, but you will need to move around the canvas to reach parts of the image that are now out of view. You can use the scroll bars that appear at the bottom right-hand sides of the document window. The roller on your mouse will enable you to move up and down the document.

Or just use the hand tool which allows you to pan over different parts of the canvas by using your mouse.

To activate the hand tool, click the Photoshop hand tool icon icon in the toolbar or press the H key. The cursor should be a hand.

Zoom in, try out this tool and enjoy flicking around your document like a pro. You can always double-click the hand icon to resize the document to fit your screen.

Navigator Panel

You might even find the navigator panel useful to zoom in and out of the document. Go to Window > Navigator on the main menu bar at the top of the screen. The panel should now appear in your workspace.

Photoshop navigator panel
Photoshop navigator panel

The red path identifies your location in the document and you can adjust the slider at the bottom of the panel to zoom in and out. In this example, we have zoomed in by 285.77% – a very precise value. Hover over the red rectangle, your cursor will change to a hand icon, and you can now find you way around the canvas.


If you have found this quick guide to navigating around your Photoshop file useful, please share it with any of your friends and classmates who might be struggling with the software. We also have an introduction to Photoshop’s interface that they might find useful.

Now you are more familiar with these navigation commands, you should try our guides to using the type tool or combining text and images together in a media product.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!