Photoshop Layers

Layers are a powerful feature of Photoshop that allow you to work on one part of an image without disturbing the rest of it. While the concept of layers may seem intimidating at first, once you get the hang of using layers you'll wonder how you ever survived without them! The examples on the next page show how the layers in the Photoshop document to the right

Layered Photoshop document stack together.

The transparent parts of any layer, shown by the checkered grid, allow the layers beneath that layer to show through.

You can show and hide each layer in an image by clicking on its corresponding eye icon in the Layers palette, as shown at the bottom of the following page.

The layers in a layered Photoshop document

To organize your layers, you can arrange them into layer groups by going to Layer > New > Group Each layer group displays in the same way as any ungrouped layers on the Layers palette. A layer group is signified by a folder icon. You can collapse or expand layer groups by clicking on the triangle to the left of the folder icon, and nest layer groups within each other by dragging one folder icon into another.

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Hiding a layer

Layer Shortcuts and Tasks

Rename layers by double-clicking on the layer name.

Change the transparency of a layer by changing its opacity with the Opacity slider, or typing a value into the Opacity box (which is visible when you have the Selection, Move, or Crop tools selected).

Duplicate a selected layer by pressing Ctrl-J (Command-] on a Mac). You can also duplicate a layer by dragging it while pressing the Alt (Option) key. Select multiple layers by holding down Ctrl (Command on a Mac) and clicking the layer names. This forms a temporary link between the selected layers that allows you to move them as one unit, delete them all, and so on.

You can also link layers together. Select layers by clicking on them while holding down Shift or Ctrl (Command on a Mac). Once you have selected all the layers you wish to link, click the Link Layers button at the bottom-left of the Layers palette (signified by the chain). Linking layers allows the link relationship to remain even after you select a different layer (unlike the process of simply selecting multiple layers).

To unlink all the layers, select one of the linked layers and go to Layer > Unlink Layers. To unlink a single layer, select the layer you wish to remove from the link and click its corresponding link icon; the other layers will stay linked. To temporarily unlink a layer, hold down Shift and click on its link icon (a red "X" will appear over the link icon). Reactivate the link by holding down Shift and clicking the link icon again.

Rearrange layers by dragging the layer above or below other layers. Use the "move down" shortcut Ctrl-[ (Command-[ on a Mac) and the "move up" shortcut Ctrl-] (Command-]) to move selected layers up and down. Shift-Ctrl-[ and Shift-Ctrl-] (Shift-Command-[ and Shift-Command-] on a Mac) will bring layers to the very top or the very bottom of the stack.

Select a layer by using the keyboard shortcuts Alt-[ and Alt-] (Option-[ and Option-] on a Mac). These keystrokes let you move up and down through the layers in the Layers palette.

Create a new layer by pressing Shift-Ctrl-N (Shift-Command-N on a Mac). This will bring up the New Layer dialog box. Want to create new layers quickly without having to deal with the dialogue box? Simply press Shift-Ctrl-Alt-N (Shift-Command-Option-N).

Merge a layer into the one beneath it by pressing Ctrl-E (Command-E). If you have selected layers, this shortcut will merge those selected layers together.

TIP Quick Keyboard Shortcuts

Naturally, most of the tools in the toolbox have a keyboard shortcut. You can learn each tool's shortcut by hovering your cursor over a tool for a few seconds: a tooltip box will appear, displaying the name of the tool and its shortcut. If additional tools are available in the flyout menu, you can cycle through them by pressing Shift-[keyboard shortcut]. Keyboard shortcuts can save you valuable time—pressing "V to bring up the Move Tool is certainly a lot quicker than moving the cursor over to the toolbox to select it. It may not seem all that significant right now, but the time you take to access tools will add up over the course of a project! For your convenience, whenever I mention a tool, I'll list its shortcut in parentheses, e.g., the Move Tool (V).

Tooltip for a keyboard shortcut

Tooltip for a keyboard shortcut

Photoshop CS Mastery

Photoshop CS Mastery

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