Undo, Redo, or History?

January 7, 2017

When working in Photoshop, whether we are creating a scrapbook page or editing a photograph, it is common to try different techniques as we work. Sometimes we like the results, and sometimes we don’t. There are several ways to revert to the state of the image we liked. Today let’s look at a few of them.

For this tutorial I am using Photoshop CC2017. Unless otherwise, stated, these tools work the same way in Photoshop Elements 15, and may also work in previous Photoshop and Photoshop Elements versions.

Control + Z

  • If you perform one edit that you do not like, you can easily undo it by using the Control + Z command.
  • If you would like to step back more than one edit, add the alt key:  Control + Alt + Z. You may use this command multiple times, to undo as many edits as you would like. (Not available in PSE).

Undo or Redo

  • If keyboard shortcuts are difficult for you to remember, you may go to Edit > Undo Edit   or Edit > Redo. You will need to apply this command for each step you would like to undo or redo.  In Photoshop Elements, the Undo option is at the bottom of the screen in the Tool Options Panel.


  • If you are not happy with any of your edits and just want to start over, chose File > Revert. Your document will return to its original state. This will save you the process of deleting each edit one at a time, or closing and reopening your document.

History State

  • One of my favorite tools is the History Panel.   We can use it to easily return to a specific state of our image.
    • If you do not see your History Panel open, go to Window > History
    • If you have made edits that you are not happy with, and wish to return to a specific editing point where you were happy, click on the History tab to open it. You will see a listing of all edits you have made.
    • Click on the edit point to which you would like to return.

In the image below, you can see the different steps that were taken with this photo in the History panel.  If I decided that I didn’t like any edits I made after the High Pass, instead of using Control + Z 20 times, or using the Undo Command 20 times, I could just click on the High Pass history layer, to revert the image to that point in the editing process.  The edits below High Pass will be dimmed, still there, but not applied to the image.  If I decided it was the Master Opacity Change edit I wanted, instead of the High Pass, I would just click on that history layer.

  • Note: When you close a document, all history states are cleared from the panel.
  • Note: You may change the default number of history states remembered by going to Edit > Preference > Performance


Now, in truth, I did not use all of those edits on this photograph. I didn’t use any actually. It’s a straight-out-of-the-camera shot.  But I wanted to show you Stella, my new puppy (on the left), so I decided to use this photo.  I added a lot of different adjustment layers in the Layers Panel, and then made them invisible.  The History still shows what adjustments were made to the image, whether they are visible or not.

Creating layouts and editing photographs is a creative process. Sometimes we change our minds and go in a different direction that we originally intended.  These tools will help make the process easier for us when we change our minds.  I hope you find a favorite here or something that is new to you!


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  1. Harriett

    In Photoshop you can only use Control Z once. If you want to use it mulitiple times you need to used Control Shift Z. Lightroom allows you to use Control Z endlessly. You can change shortcut preferences in Photoshop, however.

    • Karen

      Hi Harriett, Yes, as I mentioned under the Control Z section, this command will work only once. If you want to undo multiple times you must add the ALT key as well. You mention the SHIFT key. Perhaps that is with a Mac? I am on a PC, so for me, the multiple undo command is Control Alt Z. Yes, you can change shortcut preference in Photoshop. I wrote a tutorial on that in April of last year. It can be find here for anyone’s reference.

  2. Renee

    And this is why I love digital scrapbooking – so many ways to Undo. Thanks for sharing these Karen.

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