Finding Your Way around the Layers Palette in Photoshop

The Layers palette is the Grand Central Station for managing layers. To display the palette, choose Window-->Show Layers or just press F7.

Here's what you need to know to navigate the Layers palette:

  • The Background is the bottom layer in the image. Every image has a Background (unless the Background has been turned into a layer).

  • The order of the layers in the Layers palette represents their order in the image. The top layer in the palette is the top layer in your image, and so on.

  • You can edit only one layer at a time — the active layer. The active layer is the one that's highlighted in the Layers palette and that has a little paintbrush icon to the left of its layer name. To make another layer active, just click its name.

  • You can use the keyboard shortcut Alt+] (right bracket) (Option+] on a Mac) to move up one layer; Alt+[ (left bracket) (Option+[ on a Mac) to activate the next layer down. Press Shift+Alt+] (Shift+Option+] on a Mac) to move to the top layer; press Shift+Alt+[ (Shift+Option+[ on a Mac) to move to the Background or bottom layer.

  • An eyeball icon next to a layer name means that the layer is visible. To hide the layer, click the eyeball. To display the layer, click the eyeball column to bring the eyeball back.

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  • To hide all layers but one, Alt+click (Option+click on a Mac) on the eyeball in front of the name of the layer you want to see. Alt+click (Option+click on a mac) again to redisplay all the layers.

  • If you hide the Background layer, you see a checkerboard pattern surrounding your images. The checkerboard represents the transparent areas of the visible layers.

  • You can use the blend mode pop-up menu and the Opacity setting at the top of the palette to mix the colors between layers and adjust the translucency of the layers.

  • To create a new, blank layer, click on the new layer icon at the bottom of the palette. To create a duplicate of an existing layer, drag the layer to the new layer icon.

    You can alternatively create a layer by choosing the New Layer or Duplicate Layer command from the Layers palette menu (click on the right-pointing arraorw at the top of the palette), or by choosing Later-->,New-->Layer or Layer-->Duplicate Layer. If you use this method to create a layer, Photoshop prompts you to give the layer a name..

  • When you create a new layer, Photoshop gives the layer a name like Layer 1, Layer 2, and so on. If you want to name the layer, you can now simply double-click on the layer name in the Layers palette and enter a name directly in the Layer Palette. No more having to remember to hold the Alt (Option) key down and enter the name in the dialog box. This shortcut works throughout Photoshop. If you want to rename a layer the long way, you also can select the layer and choose Layer Properties from the Layers palette pop-up menu, or choose Layer-->Layer Properties.

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  • To delete a layer, drag it to the Trash icon. Keep in mind that you're throwing away the layer along with the image on it. Layers can also be deleted via Layer-->Delete Layer or by choosing Delete Layer from the Layers palette pop-up menu.

  • Just in case you ever want to re-create that selection outline around the elements on a layer, though, Photoshop gives you an easy way to do it. Just Ctrl+click (Command+click on a Mac) on the layer name in the Layers palette.

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