Layers Panel in Photoshop Elements 10 - dummies

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

Elements keeps layers controlled with a panel named, not surprisingly, the Layers panel. To display the Layers panel, choose Window→Layers in the Editor in Full Photo Edit mode.


The order of the layers on the Layers panel represents the order in the image. In the computer graphics world, this concept is referred to as the stacking order. The top layer on the panel is the top layer in your image, and so on. Depending on what you’re doing, you can work either on a single layer or on multiple layers at one time.

Here are some tips for working with the Layers panel:

  • To select a layer, click a layer name or its thumbnail. Elements highlights the active layer on the panel.

  • To select multiple contiguous layers, click your first layer and then Shift-click your last layer.

  • To select multiple noncontiguous layers, Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Macintosh) your desired layers.

  • Viewing and hiding layers. To hide a layer, click the eye icon for that layer so that the eye disappears. To redisplay the layer, click the blank space in the eye column. You can also hide all the layers except one by selecting your desired layer and Alt-clicking (Option-clicking on the Macintosh) the eye icon for that layer.

    Redisplay all layers by Alt-clicking (Option-clicking on the Macintosh) the eye icon again. Hiding all the layers except the one you want to edit can be helpful in allowing you to focus without the distraction of all the other imagery.

    Only layers that are visible are printed. This can be useful if you want to have several versions of an image (each on a separate layer) for a project within the same file.

  • To select the actual element (the nontransparent pixels) on the layer, Ctrl-click (Command-click on the Macintosh) the layer’s thumbnail (not the name) on the panel.

  • To create a new blank layer, click the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel.

  • To add a layer mask, click the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel. A layer mask enables you to selectively show and hide elements or adjustments on your layer, as well as creatively blend layers together.

  • To create an adjustment layer, click the Create Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the panel. Adjustment layers are special layers that modify contrast and color in your image. You can also add fill layers — layers containing color, gradients, or patterns — by using this command.

  • To duplicate an existing layer, drag the layer to the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the panel.

  • Rearranging layers. To move a layer to another position in the stacking order, drag the layer up or down on the Layers panel. While you drag, you see a fist icon. Release the mouse button when a highlighted line appears where you want to insert the layer.

    If your image has a background, it always remains the bottommost layer. If you need to move the background, convert it to a layer by double-clicking the name on the Layers panel. Enter a name for the layer and click OK.

  • Renaming a layer. When you create a new layer, Elements provides default layer names (Layer 1, Layer 2, and so on). If you want to rename a layer, double-click the layer name on the Layers panel and enter the name directly on the Layers panel.

  • Adjusting the interaction between colors on layers, and adjusting the transparency of layers. You can use the blend modes and the opacity options at the bottom of the panel to mix the colors between layers and adjust the transparency of the layers.


  • Linking layers. Sometimes, you want your layers to stay grouped as a unit to make your editing tasks easier. If so, link your layers by selecting the layers on the panel and then clicking the Link Layers icon at the bottom of the panel. A link icon appears to the right of the layer name. To remove the link, click the Link Layers icon again.

  • To lock layers, select your desired layer or layers and then click one of the two lock icons at the bottom of the panel. The checkerboard square icon locks all transparent areas of your layers. This lock prevents you from painting or editing any transparent areas on the layers.

    The lock icon locks your entire layer and prevents it from being changed in any way, including moving or transforming the elements on the layer. You can, however, still make selections on the layer. To unlock the layer, simply click the icon again to toggle off the lock.

  • To delete a layer, drag it to the trash icon.