I have a question about the "add to..." and "subtract from..." button options when using selection tools in Photoshop.

I understand a few things:

  1. PS will make a new selection by default
  2. Holding Shift or Alt/Opt will add to or remove from selection temporarily (as long as the modifier is held down)
  3. One can click on the options in the tool panel to add to/remove from the selection to avoid holding the modifiers down.

My question:

Is there a keyboard shortcut that is the equivalent of clicking the add/remove options in the tool panel? In other words, instead of using the shortcut of press/hold shift/alt to modify your selection mode, is there a key press that activates those modes, without having to hold the modifier?

  • The full list of the default Adobe Photoshop shortcuts is published on this Adobe help page. Download the PDF from the link on that page.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 24, 2023 at 17:53
  • I dont think its possible. But you may try if script listener sees the mode change if it does then you can do it via a script and then force that as a shortcut.
    – joojaa
    Jun 25, 2023 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


I think this may be a bit of an X/Y problem ... not necessarily about any tool functionality - or lack thereof - but more about the workflow.

The biggest issue is that if you need the add/subtract to be sticky.... you are probably selecting things inefficiently. The add/subtract is meant to be a momentary thing for the selection tools. I do not believe there's any way to make the add/subtract "stick" without holding down the modifier keys.

Example of a more effective workflow:
If you need something more "sticky," an easy thing would be to toggle Quick Mask Mode by tapping the q key. You then have "sticky" add/subtract essentially... as well as the ability to use any number of tools to further refine a selection.

.. or use a layer mask...

... or use the Pen Tool...

.. or use Channels ...

.. etc....


Customize the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop to create your shortcut for the "add to selection" and "subtract from selection" options. Here's how you can do it:

Go to "Edit" in the menu bar and choose "Keyboard Shortcuts" (or use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+K on Windows or Command+Option+Shift+K on Mac). In the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog box, select the "Tools" option in the "Shortcuts For" dropdown menu. Expand the "Select & Mask" category. Look for the "Add To Selection" and "Subtract From Selection" options. Assign your preferred keyboard shortcuts to these options by clicking on the corresponding empty box and entering your desired key combination. By customizing the keyboard shortcuts, you can create your own shortcuts that directly activate the "add to selection" and "subtract from selection" modes with a single key press.

  • Chat GPT?? .....:)
    – Scott
    Jun 24, 2023 at 18:52
  • This does not appear to be an answer to the question. The OP is not asking how to change the shortcuts. Read the question again.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 24, 2023 at 19:24
  • This does actually work, but only in select & mask itself. Default key is E.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 25, 2023 at 8:20
  • 1
    @rgbrobot I posted about ChatGPT because, to me, clearly this answer was generated by ChatGPT's AI - as opposed to a knowledgable user aware of how the application actually functions. Many would-be reputation hunters are relying on ChatGPT to answer questions they could never answer themselves.
    – Scott
    Jun 25, 2023 at 22:31
  • 1
    @rgbrobot - it only works in select & mask. It's another case of ChatGPT getting the wrong end of the stick & rather than telling you it can't be done, finds something a close approximation of the truth & tells you that instead.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 26, 2023 at 7:28

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