3 Photoshop Layer Management Tips for Beginners

Saikat Basu 03-03-2017

Layer 1… Layer 2… Layer 3… ad infinitum.


Think of layers as transparent plastic sheets organized on top of each other and the picture is clear. But poor organization can turn them into stacks of newspapers — and a recipe for disaster when it comes to any photo editing work. Layers are at the core of Adobe Photoshop.

Maybe as a beginner, you have put off using Photoshop layer management tricks for later. But organization is as much a habit as it is a priority. Just think of yourself on the receiving end: someone just sent you a PSD file with two dozen layers, and all without names or semblance of order. Good luck working with that!

Rule number one is to name all Photoshop layers as soon as you create them. But there are a few more rules to work with, and they can all make your life easier.

1. Color Code Layers

Give each layer a name. Also, give them a unique color to spot them in the stack of layers. For instance, you can color code similar layers with the same color. Or you can use a color code that matches the color in that specific layer.

Right-click on the Eye icon of the layer you wish to color code > The right-click menu appears next to the layer > Select the color for the layer > Click OK.


Color Code Layers

To remove the color code, right click again and select No Color.

2. Organize Layers in Folders

Group similar functional layers in their own Folders. Too many layers stacked on top of each other and you can lose your way as you apply edits or masks.

Layers are like transparent plastic sheets on top of one another. A folder is just like a binder that you use to keep these similar sheets (e.g. all layers that go into editing the sky in a photograph) together so you can work on them as a group.

Select the layers you want first and then click on the same New Group icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Group Layers

You can also create an empty group and then drag the layers into the folder one at a time or several at a time. Label the grouped folder with a name. To see all the individual layers, click on the little arrow to expand the whole group.

Groups help you to use any editing workflow on multiple layers together. You can toggle the visibility of the grouped layers as you would for individual layer. A big benefit is that you can apply masks to the entire group.

Photoshop also allows you to nest groups within one another and create a tiered folder structure that makes managing complex document easier. To ungroup a bunch of layers, right-click on the group and select Ungroup.

3. Hide Multiple Photoshop Layers in One Click

Your image file may have hundreds of layers but you want to see just one layer without the others interfering with it. You don’t need to go to each layer or Layer Group and turn off the visibility. Use a shortcut to quickly turn off all but the one layer.

Press the down the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and click on the eye icon next to the layer you want to see. All the other layers will be automatically hidden.

Make a single layer visible

Press down the Alt key and click again on the eye to make them all visible again.

Want to become a good photographer? Start with layers even as a photography and Photoshop beginner 10 Must-Know Photoshop Skills for Beginner Photographers Here are the most useful photo-editing features in Adobe Photoshop, even if you have no previous photo editing experience. Read More .

Have you figured out the basic idea behind layers? Which are the other time-saving Photoshop layer shortcuts you know about?

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, Creativity.

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