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Organize Your Layers in Photoshop CS5

As you advance your skills using Photoshop Creative Suite 5 layers, you’ll want to keep your layers named, neat, and in order. These are some tips to help you organize multiple layers.

Activate multiple layers simultaneously

Select multiple layers simultaneously by selecting one layer and then Shift-clicking to select additional layers. The selected layers are highlighted. Selected layers move and transform together, making repositioning and resizing easier than activating each layer independently.

When you select two or more layers and choose the Move tool, you can take advantage of alignment features on the Options bar. Select three or more layers for distribution options.

Align layers with the Move tool align options.
Align layers with the Move tool align options.

Auto-Align Layers tool

Do you ever have multiple shots of a group, one with the guy’s eyes shut and the girl looking the other way? Or maybe you like the smile in one better than in another. With the auto-alignment feature, you can pull the best parts of multiple images into one “best” image.

To use this tool, simply have the Move tool active, select multiple layers, and then click the Auto-Align Layers button to the right of the alignment tools. The Auto-Align Layer dialog box appears. Make your selection and click OK.

The Auto-Align Layers feature can help create a better composite.
The Auto-Align Layers feature can help create a better composite.

Layer groups

After you start using layers, you’ll likely use lots of them and your Layers panel will become huge. If you often scroll to navigate from one layer to another, take advantage of layer groups, which act as folders for layers you choose. You can add, remove, and shuffle around the layers within a layer group. Use layer groups to organize layers and make the job of duplicating multiple layers easier.

Select the layers that you want to group together and then choose New Group from Layers.
Select the layers that you want to group together and then choose New Group from Layers.

To create a layer group, follow these steps:

  1. After creating several layers, Shift-click to select the layers you want to group together in a set.

  2. Choose New Group from Layers from the Layers panel menu, name the group, and then click OK.

    That’s it. You’ve created a layer group from your selected layers.

After you create a layer group, you can still reorganize layers within the group or even drag additional layers in or out. You can open and close a layer group with the arrow to the left of the group name.

Duplicate a layer group

After you create a layer group, you may want to copy it. For example, you may want to copy an image, such as a button created from several layers topped off with a text layer.

The most efficient way to make a copy of that button is to create a layer group and copy the entire group. To copy an image made up of several layers that aren’t in a layer group would require you to individually duplicate each layer — how time-consuming!

To duplicate a layer group, follow these steps:

  1. Select a group from the Layers panel.

  2. From the panel menu, choose Duplicate Group.

    The Duplicate Group dialog box appears.

  3. For the destination, choose the present document or any open document or create a new document.

    Be sure to give the duplicated set a distinctive name!

  4. Click OK.

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