As an artist, you already know how important keyboard shortcuts are. They give you easy access to functionalities that are usually stashed under layers of menus and submenus.
They literally shave off hours out of your total work time and helps with the creative flow by making the drawing process way more engaging.
So most artists use a keyboard alongside their graphics tablet as part of their work setup.
The graphics tablet helps with things like pointing, clicking, drawing, and making selections – while the keyboard helps with making quick changes using shortcut combinations.
But there are a few problems with this setup. Can you guess what?
The problem – Why keyboard is not ideal for shortcuts?
Solution – Here is why you need Shortcut remote!
When drawing you often don’t need all the shortcut combinations at once, in most cases you use a handful of keyboard shortcuts over and over again… The Shortcut remote can be very useful in these situations.
It was not that long ago when only a handful of shortcut remotes were available for artists and most of them were crappy.
But in the last few years, we have seen more and more shortcut controllers that are mostly made by drawing tablet brands specifically for digital artists.
These remotes are highly customizable and come with an easy-to-use user-friendly design.
Here are some of our top recommendations for shortcut remote.
The TourBox Neo is one of the most unique shortcut controllers on the market which has made a name for itself in the creative community.
While other shortcut controllers look like fancy accessories with their sleek rectangular designs, the TourBox neo looks like a real workhorse and leans more towards being practical and ergonomic.
It has a larger footprint (300 grams/0.6 lbs) and comes with multiple knobs, dials, and rollers.
After the initial break-in period, once you get your hands accustomed to the interface, it feels very intuitive, physical, and almost twice as useful as any other shortcut remote on the market.
The deep customizability options of TourBox are one of its key features.
Other than setting the button to any shortcut of your choice in any art and creative program, it also allows things like multiple key combinations and double clicks.
It takes customizability up a notch by allowing things like – sending commands when you lift the button, long press to send continuous commands, and changing the sensitivity (speed) of dials/wheels.
It also has a resizable on-screen D-pad shortcut menu that can be positioned anywhere you like on the screen.
Due to these advanced options, the TourBox manages to cram in more shortcut combinations than shortcut remotes with more buttons.
Buy TourBox Neo on Amazon →
The Xencelabs Quick Keys is one of the most unique shortcut remotes as it comes with an AMOLED screen located right at the center.
Compared to other shortcut remotes – where once you set up the keys – you have to remember which buttons have been assigned for which action. This setup won’t work for this shortcut remote as it follows a completely different philosophy. Umm… let us explain!
While working on your projects you go through different stages. First, you plan things, then you do the rough sketching, after that you create the final form, then you fill in the colors, then add shadows and texture, and so on and so forth.
These different stages of your project require different sets of tools. The Xencelabs Quick Keys allow you to set custom shortcuts for each stage of your workflow and switch between them using the set buttons.
Since you can have multiple sets within one software (up to 40 shortcuts within one application), therefore you need a screen to display which buttons are which and in which set you are currently working in.
If you have a similar kind of workflow, the Xencelabs Quick Keys is hands down one of the best options for you.
There is also a dial on the top that can be set to 4 different modes. The modes can be switched by pressing the button in the middle of the dial.
There is also a LED light around the dial, that indicates which dial mode you are currently working in.
You do get wireless connectivity as well as USB-C wired connectivity. Its battery lasts a long time and comes with auto power off in case you forget to switch this device off.
Considering the advanced features, the customization options, the inclusion of the screen (which – by the way, makes your setup look way cooler), controllable dial sensitivity, and practicality – the Xencelabs Quick Keys provides itself to be a worthy option for artists looking for some serious hardware.
Related: Xenelabs medium tablet bundle review (new tab)
This is one of the most understated and creative implementations of the shortcut remote.
What Huion has essentially done with their mini Keydial KD 100 shortcut remote is – they implemented programmable keys into a Numpad-like design.
This actually makes a lot of sense, you get four buttons in one row which is a perfect place for your four fingers to rest.
Since the buttons are laid out in perfect rows and columns, the buttons are located at expected places and you do not have to hunt for them.
If you are someone who uses 3D applications such as Autodesk Max, Maya, or Blender, you know some of the important shortcuts are located on the Numpad side. Since it is shaped like a Numpad, you can reprogram the keys to work like a Numpad.
Even though the Huion mini KeyDial KD 100 is made entirely out of plastic, the built quality and the fit-and-finish are actually really good.
The buttons are clicky and produce good feedback to never miss a click.
The dial located on the top left has three modes. You can have the dial do different operations for different applications.
For example in photoshop I use the dial for zoom, rotate, and adjust brush size, while in the browser, I use it for volume control, scrolling (up/down), and flipping between tabs.
The movement of the dial is light and smooth and it makes a satisfying click sound while rotating.
(click to play – 🔊 Sound on)
In the tablet settings, you will find the option to change the sensitivity of the dial as per your liking.
The Huion logo located on the top right lights up and has brightness control built into the settings panel.
When it comes to pricing, the Huion mini KeyDial KD 100 does not disappoint either.
You can do almost everything a Wacom Expresskey remote does at a little above half the price, making it a good alternative to Wacom Expresskey Remote.
Wacom Expresskey remote is one of the go-to choices when it comes to shortcut remotes. It has been in the market for quite a while and has become really popular amongst artists.
The remote has a premium aluminium construction and feels incredibly hight quality in hand. Even the backplate is made of metal – protecting the internal components well.
It comes with a total of 17 fully programmable buttons which you can set to any shortcut of your choice within any creative program.
There is also a very handy touch ring towards the top portion allowing you to perform actions such as zoom, scroll, pan, rotate, and change the size of brush and eraser.
We have already told you about the build quality. But what is even more impressive is – in spite of having these many shortcut buttons, the Wacom Expresskey remote has the smallest form factor, making it great for handheld usage.
On the backside, there is a large silicone strip covering almost the entire back. This allows you to place this shortcut remote directly on top of your screen without fearing getting scratches on your screen.
If you have 24 and 32-inch Wacom Cintiq Pro drawing tablets, the Wacom Expresskey Remote has a magnetic at the back which sticks to the bezels of the aforementioned drawing tables (this does not work with tablets of other models/brands).
The Expresskey remote comes with wireless connectivity. In wireless mode, the battery lasts a long time and you do not need to charge it frequently.
For charging, you can use the included micro-USB cable, and the remote does work while being charged.
Overall, it is a well-thought-out product, the placement of buttons, how they are shaped, the customizations, the on-screen radial dial menu, everything makes sense.
If you want a trusted product from a trusted brand that tens of thousands of artists are already using, the Wacom Expresskey Remote is a perfect choice.
Buy Wacom Expresskey Remote on Amazon →
If you have observed carefully, you must have noticed that most of the shortcut accessories on the market cost as much as an graphics tablet. Which makes them out of reach for newer artist who wants a shortcut remote but are on a tight budget.
Well, with the arrival of Xp Pen AC19 shortcut remote, that is not the case anymore.
The Xp Pen AC19 costs a fraction of other shortcut remotes on the market, in spite of coming with almost 90% of their features.
It has got a total of 9 programmable shortcut buttons, as well as a physical rotating dial located right above the buttons.
The dial allows you to zoom, rotate, pan, scroll, and change the size of the brush or eraser. The button at the middle of the dial switch between five different modes(rotate, zoom etc.).
The Xp pen shortcut remote connects to your computer wirelessly using a USB wireless receiver. There is a cutout at the base of the remote to store the USB receiver when not in use.
Although the remote does not feel super high quality (which is okay at this price point), but it is well laid out and does its job well.
The remote uses a AAA non-rechargeable battery. Although the battery lasts a very long time – a rechargeable battery would have been more convenient.
While other shortcut controllers are primarily made to be kept on top of desks and can be handheld if they are small enough.
The Clip Studio Tabmate is made to be handheld. It comes with a rounded cylindrical design that is contoured at all the right places to perfectly and comfortably fit in your hands.
It has a total of 13 fully programmable shortcut buttons that can be set to any shortcut of your choice. There is also a wheel that can be used for changing brush sizes, zoom, rotating, and so on.
What really makes the Clip Studio Tabmate stand out is the positioning of the buttons.
Most of the buttons are located on the upper half at the front, 2 at the top edges, and one button at the rear.
All these buttons are super easy to access while holding the remote in your hand.
The Tabmate has a fully wireless operation and works on either a Bluetooth connection or by using the included UBS receiver.
It supports Windows/ Mac as well as Android devices.
What is really cool about the setup is, that you do not have to install any driver in order for Clip Studio Tabmate to work. The Clip Studio Paint drawing program has an inbuilt settings panel for the Tabmate remote.
But that also means the Clip Studio Tabmate does not work with any other application except for Clip Studio Paint.
Overall if CSP is your primary drawing application then Clip Studio Tabmate is the right choice for you.
Buy Clip Studio Tabmate on Amazon →
The Shuttle Pro V.2 is primarily made for video editing but it is a perfect tool for many other applications. It has a total of 15 customizable buttons with not one but two dials.
The buttons and dials can be programmed to any shortcut of your choice through the driver settings.
The driver is easy to navigate and the whole setup process takes just a couple of minutes. The inner ring rotates 360° whereas the outer ring is spring-loaded.
It connects to the computer using a USB cable with no option for wireless connectivity. It has a fairly big footprint and takes up some extra space on the desk. The Shuttle Pro V2 has an ergonomic design and fairly big palm rest – in fact, the whole lower half of the device is just the palm rest.
The nine buttons at the top can be popped off and you can place custom notes inside them, which makes it easy to recognize what function the buttons are assigned to.
Buy Shuttle Pro V2 on Amazon →
What are some alternatives to using the Shortcut remote
Well, using the keyboard for your shortcut need is the first obvious choice.