Merging Layers

The more layers you add to an image, and the more effects that you add to those layers, the larger your image file will become. If you have a large-capacity hard drive and can back up to removable media, size isn't a problem.

It does, however, make a big difference if you want to use your files for anything else, such as publishing in print or on the web. The only formats in which you can save a multilayered image are TIFF, PDF, Dicom, and Photoshop's two native formats, which are great for Photoshop, but not always good for other uses. For the web, you need to save images as GIF, PNG, or JPEG. For print, if you're using a non-Adobe page layout program such as QuarkXpress, you will need to save as TIFF. Layered TIFF files can be very large, and that's why you need to either merge layers or flatten the image when you're done working with it.

The differences between merging and flattening are as follows:

► Merging multiple layers without flattening the entire image conserves memory space but still allows you to work on the layers that you haven't yet finished. Merging Down merges a layer with the one directly below it. You also can merge just the visible layers by choosing Layer>Merge Visible.

► Flattening, on the other hand, compresses all visible layers down to one layer. Any layers that you have made invisible at the time of flattening are lost. To flatten an image, simply choose Layer>Flatten Image, but make sure that you are done. At this point, all the layers are reduced to one. Transparency is lost and the single layer you've created becomes a Background layer.

You can use either the Layer menu or the Layers palette menu to merge or flatten layers, or the keyboard combination Cmd-E (Mac) or Ctrl+E (Windows) to Merge Down. Figure 11.15 shows the Layer menu with the Flatten Image command highlighted.

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