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123RF Design: Top 10 Guide To Using Photoshop Layers

Stock Photo - Colorful abstract image

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this handy list of the top 10 things you need to know about Photoshop layers.

1. Keyboard Shortcuts for Layers

Get things done faster by using Keyboard shortcuts. Memorize these popular ones for later.

  1. F7 to open/close layers panel

  2. Create a new layer (Control-Shift-N)

  3. Duplicate a layer (Control-J)

  4. Create a group (Control-G) to ungroup (Shift-Control-G)

  5. Merge Layers (Control-E) Merge Visible Layers (Shift-Control-E)

  6. Delete Layer (Delete or Backspace)

  7. Select multiple layers in order at once (select first layer + holding Shift+ select more layers)

  8. Select multiple layers out of order at once (select first layer + holding Control + select different layers)


The layers panel is where all your layers will reside during the duration of your project. You can access it easily by hitting F7 at any time. Check out this quick diagram below to see the general features.


Photoshop automatically opens each time with a background layer ready for you to get started. How considerate, right? But because that layer is initially locked into place, you may run to some issues while trying to move or even edit it. To solve this problem, simply unlock the background layer by double-clicking it and hitting ok when the box pops up. Get into the habit of doing this automatically when Photoshop opens to have more freedom in your designs.


It’s easy to get a little messy in Photoshop. Clean things up by organizing your layers into groups. Control-G to create a group, then select + shift the layers you want and drag them into your new group. You can either make slight adjustments on the entire group itself, or keep certain layers out of the way as you experiment.


Layer masks allow you to show and hide certain parts of a layer by controlling its transparency, while clipping masks make it incredibly easy to edit only on areas that you want. Although they’re a little intimidating at first, both masks open the door to unlimited versatility in Photoshop.


You usually work with smart objects whenever importing or creating vector images. And even though they’re completely different from raster images, smart objects are great for creating changes that are nondestructive because they always preserve the original.


Want a drop shadow or cool glowy effect? Right-click on any layer to select Blending Options. These options come in handy whenever you want to add an extra element to your design. A favorite amongst typography lovers, layer styles help you to create interesting effects fast and easy.


Need to bump up the contrast a bit? Add a new adjustment layer! Adjustment layers are great non-destructive ways to apply changes to your work without the hurting the original. Perfect for editing, you can keep or discard adjustment layers at any time.


No, of course not! A huge myth when creating in Photoshop is that the less the layers you have the better the art becomes. But we all make mistakes and sometimes you might like previous versions of your work. So take advantage of the unlimited layers that are available to you to experiment and try new things before committing to a final merge. Your art will thank you later!


With that being said, there are many great benefits to finally merging layers together. Not only can you lower your file size and avoid major Photoshop lag, but you may also find it easier to apply filters and effects using only one layer. But just for safety measures, make sure to save previous versions separately before finally committing to “merge visible.”


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