How To: Quick Select a Layer or Mask

Just wanted to share a quick trick that I use every day within Photoshop.  I was always switching back and forth between the RGB layer and the Mask layer while cleaning up product images.  I was looking for a shortcut to do so but there isn't one built into Photoshop.  So I sent a quick message to my friend Solstice Retouch to see if he had a solution for me.  He reminded me that you can map selecting an RGB channel or a Mask channel to an action as long as record tool options is checked before creating the action.  I just have to share this information because it is such a time saver.  I expanded on the idea a bit by adding in a selection of the most common tool used in each channel to save me an extra keystroke.  So anyways lets take a quick look at how to do this in photoshop.

Step 1:  Create a new document so you have something to record your action with.

Step 2: On your actions Toolbar, press the down arrow on the right hand side and make sure Allow Tool Recording is checked.

Layer Selection in Photoshop
Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 3: Create a mask on the currently selected layer to prepare for recording the action. And make sure the MASK is selected.

Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 4: Create a new action set by clicking on the folder in your action toolbar and name it whatever you would like.  Then create a new action by pressing the page in the action toolbar.  Name the action Select Layer or something like that and set the shortcut key.  (I use F1 but feel free to use what you like, but remember it.  More on that later.)

Layer Selection in Photoshop
Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 5: Press Record and then select the RGB layer in your layer panel.  After you do this you should see your action update with the recorded step.

Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 6: Now press the corresponding tool hot key that you would also like selected after you select the RGB channel.  I use "S" for the Stamp tool as this is usually the tool I end up needing on the RGB channel for my workflow. You will see your action update.  And after this is done you can press the stop key to lock in the action.

Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 7: Now do the exact same for the Select Mask Action.  I choose to select the paintbrush in my action using the "B" hotkey.  Your actions should like this.

Layer Selection in Photoshop

Step 8: Now go into your Wacom Tablet options and change your rocker switch to the hotkeys you set for your actions.  They will probably be hotkeyed to Undo and Redo (Both of these actions I'd rather use the keyboard for and map something more important to the rocker switch. )  Now when you want to select the RGB channel of the current layer you press down on the switch and for the mask you press up.

Layer Selection in Photoshop

I hope this helps everyone out and if you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message.  I have also adopted this same approach for Fashion/Beauty retouching and will be sharing that in the future as well.  Also, once again a big shoutout to my friend Pratik over at Solstice Retouch for leading me in the right direction on building this action.