How to Use the Layers Panel in Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop CS6 allows for a great amount of versatility with layers using the Layers Panel. You can place elements on separate layers, yet show them together to create a combination image, or composite. You can also add, delete, or rearrange layers. In addition, you can adjust how opaque or transparent the element on the layer is, as well as change the way the colors between layers interact.

Photoshop houses layers in a single panel. To display the Layers panel, choose Window→Layers or, easier yet, press F7.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/AlexanderLaws Image #6130499]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/AlexanderLaws Image #6130499

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

Here’s the lowdown on how to work with the Layers panel:

  • Select a layer. Simply click its name or thumbnail. Photoshop then highlights the active layer.

  • Select multiple contiguous layers. Click your first layer and then Shift-click your last layer.

  • Select multiple noncontiguous layers. Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Mac) your desired layers.

  • Find layer. This new command enables you to isolate the content of your Layers panel based on your chosen filter. Click on the filter type pop-up menu to filter your results by the kind of layer. Choose by Kind, Name, Effect, Mode, Attribute or Color.

  • Deselect all layers. Choose Select→Deselect Layers or click in the area below the bottom layer or background.

  • Select the actual element (the nontransparent pixels) on the layer. Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Mac) the layer’s thumbnail in the panel. If you forget this shortcut, you can also select your layer in the Layers panel and then choose Select→Load Selection. Make sure that the name that appears in the Channel pop-up menu is [layer name] Transparency and click OK.

  • Create an adjustment or fill layer. Click the Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the panel or click an adjustment icon in the new Adjustments panel.

  • Duplicate an existing layer. Select a layer and click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Or drag the layer to that icon.

  • Rename a layer. To rename a layer, simply double-click the layer name in the Layers panel, enter the name directly in the Layers panel, and press Enter (Return on the Mac). You can also choose Layers→Rename Layer.

  • Determine what layer holds the element you want to edit. Select the Move tool and Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Mac) the element. Or you can right-click (right-click or Control-click on the Mac) the element. A context menu appears, telling you what layer the element resides on and enabling you to select that layer.

    You can use the keyboard shortcut Alt+] (right bracket) (Option+] on the Mac) to move up one layer; Alt+[ (left bracket) (Option+[ on the Mac) to activate the next layer down.

  • Adjust the interaction between colors on layers and adjust the transparency of layers. You can use the Blending Modes and the Opacity and Fill options at the top of the panel to mix the colors between layers and adjust the transparency.

  • Delete a layer. Drag it to the Trash icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. You can also choose Layer→Delete→Layer or choose Delete Layer from the panel options menu.

    If you accidentally create empty layers, you can get rid of them quickly. Just choose File→Scripts→Delete All Empty Layers.

  • Change the size of the layer thumbnails. Choose Panel Options from the panel menu and select a thumbnail size.

The remaining icons at the bottom of the Layers panel allow you to link layers, and create layer styles, layer masks, and layers groups.

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