There’s a large market of design software out there and it seems to just keep growing. Designers often specialize to master a few programs, but career-wise it’s good to at least learn the basics of all major design software.
These basics include fundamental techniques, what can be created, and tricks of the trade.
I’ve put together a handful of keyboard shortcuts and design cheatsheets for everything from Photoshop to WordPress(yes WP has shortcuts). All of these are free to use and bookmark for future reference as needed.
And if I’ve missed any great resources please add them in the comments below.
There’s no denying that Photoshop is the most-used design software. It offers tools for photo editing, compositing, UI design, digital painting, and a whole lot more.
I recently found this incredible cheatsheet dedicated to keyboard shortcuts for Photoshop CC. It’s the perfect resource for designers just getting into Adobe creative software who want to pick up a power user workflow.
Dummies.com also has a cheatsheet for CS6 with similar commands but a slightly different design. Either one of these will prove useful for new designers trying to master Photoshop’s seemingly endless supply of tools.
Next is Adobe’s vector design suite Illustrator. This has its own Illustrator CC cheatsheet in the same pack with Photoshop and others. Using this cheatsheet you can learn all the basics from tools to menus and quick access panels.
Another really cool cheat sheet can be found on Visual.ly which breaks down keyboard shortcuts into categories and Mac/Windows alternatives.
Both are incredibly helpful and should be a continual resource for building digital graphics in any version of Illustrator.
The meteoric rise of Sketch is simply unprecedented in the current design landscape. There has never been major competition for Adobe until Sketch was released by Bohemian Coding around 2011-2012.
It offers both pixel and vector-based design tools along with grids, multiple artboards, and many similar features that UI designers find in Photoshop. It’s a much easier tool to learn and it gets even easier with this Sketch keyboard shortcut guide.
Sketch is Mac-only so the shortcuts are made only for Mac systems.
If you’ve a designer on OS X and have never tried Sketch it’s available for a free trial.
Print is still a big market and InDesign is practically indispensable in that market.
Designers from magazine layout editors to identity and promo designers rely on InDesign for laying out pages, business cards, even detailed resumes or e-books. It’s well worth learning if you have the time and patience to stick it out.
The Adobe CC cheatsheet collection includes an InDesign guide with all the fundamentals.
Note this tool functions a bit differently than Photoshop or Illustrator, so it’ll take some adjusting if you’re completely new to the print world. But personally I think it’s well worth the effort for any designer that hopes to create(or work with) print-based projects.
A lesser-known tool by designers is CorelDraw. This is primarily useful to illustrators and digital artists who create things like mascots, backgrounds, textures, environments, and even concept designs.
CorelDraw is a powerful program that can also be useful for vector design work. It’s generally made for digital artists but offers a rather simple learning curve if you’re interested to try it out.
The best place to start is at 99Design’s cheatsheet made for CorelDraw users. It covers all the keyboard shortcuts you would need for a typical workflow.
WordPress is not a piece of desktop software but it does operate like “software” on a web server. It’s a PHP/MySQL blogging platform that’s open source and used by over 25% of the Internet’s websites.
Some WordPress users may be surprised to learn that WordPress actually does have keyboard shortcuts. They change whether you’re focused in the text editor or moving through dashboard navigation. But if you’re constantly building or writing in WordPress then you’ll really want to memorize these shortcuts and keep them close by for reference.
This WordPress Mega Cheatsheet is perhaps the best resource in the history of WordPress resources(maybe exaggerating, but not by much).
It includes all the keyboard shortcuts from bulk actions in the list view to formatting styles in the editor view. Plus it lists all the PHP function tags organized by categories like conditionals, posts, thumbnails, etc. It includes template filenames, template tags, and even extra core WP functions you may want to know.
In all honesty this really is the mega-of-mega cheatsheets. If you’re a big WordPress user this is well worth a bookmark.
iOS & Android Design Cheatsheet
Mobile software has taken the design world by storm in the way of native apps and responsive layouts. UI designers now need to consider device specifications before jumping right into a project.
This cheatsheet by Kinvey is the best resource for all the info you could ever need. It covers both Android and iOS breaking down the major components of each interface. Native apps are designed differently for these two operating systems and it’s very helpful to clarify the elements.
This cheat sheet also covers the screen dimensions of all devices, individual app icon sizes, retina support, and touch gestures. This is basically a one-stop shop for everything you’d need to know when building anything for mobile. Absolutely the best reference for any mobile app designer and even web designers looking for reliable screen dimensions.
Windows & Mac OS
Lastly I want to include keyboard shortcuts for the two most popular OS’ used by designers: Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
Since Linux doesn’t run Sketch or Adobe software, 99% of designers rely on one(or both) of these platforms. This is the software that we all use every day and don’t even think about; it’s just part of the workflow.
But you’ll be amazed at what’s possible once you learn how to master Windows run commands or power through Mac’s Terminal window. This infographic from Visualistan will teach you common commands for Mac/Windows and other default programs that run on their platforms.
With these guides at your disposal you’ll be working like a power user in no time.
Looking for more relevant resources for designers and developers? Take a gander at these posts:
- Learn Photoshop: All of the Basics for Beginners
- Adobe Illustrator Basics: Tools and Resources for Beginners