How to Work with the Layer Comps Panel in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

What the Layer Comps panel does is enable you to create and save multiple versions within a single master file in Photoshop CS6. Through the Layer Comps panel, Photoshop records all the vital statistics of your layers, including their visibility, position, and blending options.

The following steps walk you through the Layer Comps panel:

  1. Choose Window→Layer Comps to display the panel.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto/imv Image #2053920 and Nikada Image #1829875]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto/imv Image #2053920 and Nikada Image #1829875
  2. Create all your desired layer content.

    If you perform all your editing on just a background layer, you can’t save the document as a layer comp.

  3. When you have a version of the document that you want to save as a comp, click the New Layer Comp button at the bottom of the panel or select New Layer Comp from the panel menu.

    The New Layer Comp dialog box appears.

    To create a comp and bypass the options dialog box, hold down the Alt (Option on the Mac) key when you click the New Layer Comp button.

  4. Name your layer comp and select the attributes you want recorded — Visibility, Position, and Appearance (Layer Style) of the layers. Click OK.

    You can also add an optional comment about the configuration you’re capturing.

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    If you add a comment, you see a triangle just to the left of the layer comp name. Click the triangle to see your comment in the panel.

  5. Continue creating your various configurations of the document, capturing a layer comp after each.

  6. To display a particular layer comp, click in the left column in the Layer Comps panel.

    A document icon appears, which indicates that particular layer comp is selected.

  7. To efficiently cycle through all your layer comps, click the Apply Next Selected Layer Comp or Apply Previous Selected Layer Comp icon (the arrows) at the bottom of the Layer Comps panel.

    You can also, less efficiently, apply layer comps by selecting the particular layer comp and selecting Apply Layer Comp from the panel menu. The document icon moves to that layer, and Photoshop displays that layer comp.

Here are a few more Layer Comp tidbits:

  • To rename a layer comp: Simply double-click its name in the panel.

  • To delete a layer comp: Select it and click the trash can icon in the Layer Comps panel. You can also drag the layer comp to the trash can icon or select Delete Layer Comp from the panel menu.

  • To duplicate a layer comp: Select it and drag it onto the New Layer Comp icon in the panel or select Duplicate Layer Comp from the panel menu.

  • To update a particular layer comp with the currently active configuration of the document: Select the layer comp, and then select Update Layer Comp from the panel menu or click the Update Layer Comp button at the bottom of the panel.

  • To display your document at its latest configuration: Select Restore Last Document State from the panel or simply click in the column to the left of the Last Document State item in the Layer Comps panel.

  • To rearrange the order of the layer comps: Simply drag it to a new location in the panel.

To output your layer comps, choose File→Scripts→Layer Comps to Files. Select this command to make Photoshop export your layer comps to individual files. In the dialog box that appears, provide a destination and prefix name for your file. Indicate whether you want to include Selected Layer Comps Only. Leave that option deselected to have Photoshop export all layer comps.

Then, choose your desired file type and specify whether you want to include ICC Profiles and any other options, depending on your chosen file type. Click Run and then sit back and watch the magic happen.

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