Change Photoshop brush size and hardness with mouse and keyboard shortcut

Change brush size in Photoshop with keyboard shortcut

I'm not sure how long I've been using the right mouse button and the Tools options menu in Photoshop to adjust the size of the brushes, but it must be years. In Photoshop tutorials on YouTube I have always seen that people change the tool size pretty quickly with any keyboard shortcut and the mouse, but the step was always missing to google how it works.

Having just tested the Logitech Craft keyboard with the rotary wheel, I am again confronted with the issue, because the rotary wheel on the keyboard can also be used to adjust the brush size very conveniently without having to go through the tool settings. My wife works in Photoshop all day and she was also very interested in the keyboard and said that she could then save herself the key combination. "Ah!", I thought, "Let's ask the expert how it works exactly." And of course the solution came promptly.

To change the brush size or the brush hardness, you don't necessarily have to go through the brush options if you know which key combinations to use (screenshot: Sir Apfelot).
To change the brush size or the brush hardness, you don't necessarily have to go through the brush options if you know which key combinations to use (screenshot: Sir Apfelot).

Keyboard shortcut on Mac

Since the keyboard shortcuts are different on macOS and Windows, I have divided them into two sections. Here first the way on the Mac (tried with Adobe Photoshop CC 2020 under macOS Catalina):

  • Hold down the ALT + CTRL keys
  • then click with the left mouse button and keep it pressed
  • Move the mouse left / right to enlarge or reduce the brush tip
  • by moving the mouse up / down you can adjust the hardness of the brush

If you are good at finger yoga and manage to press the SHIFT key at the same time, the brush hardness can be adjusted with the movement of the mouse. You can work with the SHIFT key, but moving the mouse up and down regulates the hardness of the brush so that you don't have to do finger yoga. Thanks for the hint, Juri!

Keyboard shortcut under Windows

If you work with Photoshop under Windows, you would have to use the following buttons to change the brush size:

  • Hold ALT and right mouse button down
  • then move mouse left and right

Also under Windows you hold the SHIFT key if you want to change the hardness of the brush.

With the rotary wheel of the Logitech Craft you can not only change the tool size, but also the hardness, the flow and the opacity (photos: Sir Apfelot).
With the rotary wheel of the Logitech Craft you can not only change the tool size, but also the hardness, the flow and the opacity (photos: Sir Apfelot).

Alternative to the shortcuts: Logitech Craft

As already mentioned, I am currently testing this Logitech wireless keyboard. I can reveal so much even before my final test report: Changing the tool tips in terms of size, hardness, flow and the like is a snap with the context-sensitive rotary knob on the keyboard. The thing also works wonderfully with other Adobe programs such as Illustrator, InDesign and the like.

To do this, you can freely assign a number of multifunctional buttons so that you can call up certain actions or processing steps directly with the press of a button. I find working with this wheel very pleasant and much easier to implement than the rather complex keyboard shortcuts - especially since the mouse does not have to be moved to change the brush size and you can continue working more quickly.

Since the Logitech Craft also cuts a very good figure when typing, it is my recommendation for all those who are often in Photoshop or in general in Adobe Creative Cloud programs. You will find them here at Amazon or here at Gravis (probably cheaper than at Amazon).

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17 Responses to “Change Photoshop brush size and hardness with mouse and keyboard shortcut”

  1. ... by moving the mouse up / down, the brush hardness can be adjusted (PS CC 2020 / macOS Mojave). You can actually save yourself finger yoga with the additional SHIFT_key :-)

      1. Thank you very much for the article! I've also been looking forever since I had to swap my trackpad for a mouse on the Mac and now also have to replace macOS with Windows.
        Addition for the sake of completeness: Finger yoga (with Shift) can also be avoided on the PC with the vertical movement...

  2. Hmmm, it doesn't work for me - the entire picture is always enlarged / reduced. Very strange. I've tried it so many times in the different versions of PS and it never worked ... I always have to open the menu and fiddle with the slider. This is the first tip from you that doesn't work;) Any Ideas?

    1. Hello Sylvia! shame on me :-( Perhaps there is something "not standard" in the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop? I don't know what else it could be. :-( LG, Jens

  3. Hey,
    For me, CTRL-ALT and re-mouse button only change the size and DRECKKRAFT. I've been looking for a solution for an hour as to how I can adjust the hardness again :-(

    1. I've just tried it on my Mac (Big Sur) with Photoshop 2021. With CTRL and ALT it still works on the Mac. You wrote something about CTRL + ALT. Are you on a Mac or on a Windows computer?

  4. First of all, thank you very much for the hint. Whenever I have worked with programs other than PS for a while, I look for this function, which I fortunately found again here.
    I would like to add something: The shortcut only works if you hold the mouse pointer over an area within the area to be edited while activating the key combination. I was briefly desperate because the mouse pointer apparently behaves differently if it points to an area outside of the plane while using the key combination. I never noticed that before and now I thought the key combination had changed or my keyboard was broken.
    Since my current project has very small external dimensions, I only noticed this now.
    Tested on the combination PS2021, Mac OS Big Sur, trackpad.

  5. Now a real question:
    For me, the key combination including mouse works fine on my MAC, BUT unfortunately the small dark gray dialog box “Diameter, Hardness, Opacity” does not appear while changing.
    That's bad at best, because I can't read the exact brush hardness but have to guess. Unfortunately, the www does not provide an answer to this!

    1. Hello Roberto! I just tried it on my M1 MacBook Pro with the latest Photoshop version and it shows me a box with diameter, hardness and opacity. I don't know why it doesn't appear for you. Maybe there is an option somewhere in the settings to hide such fields?

  6. So my MacBook 2022 only has the control, option, command keys. There are no CTRL and ALT. It's a shame, unfortunately the Mac instructions don't work like that...

    1. Hi Tim! Here is the translation for your Mac:
      – Control = CTRL
      – Option = ALT
      – Command = CMD/CTRL or loop square

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