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As you build a layered file you will notice that your file size gets bigger and bigger. Here at the bottom of the document window I have gone in and I've chosen Show > Document Sizes. The numbers here suggest the difference between the file with and without layers. You can see that it's going to take up quite a bit more space on my hard drive with these layers. So if you're building a multilayered file with lots and lots of layers, you may from time to time want to merge layers that you will think you'll never need separately again. But be conservative about doing that, because once layers are merged, you cannot access them separately without reselecting and separating their content.
Here for example let's say that I have now decided once and for all that I'm going to use this nice light brown design on my brown background. Rather than keep those as two separate layers, I could select the design layer, hold down the Shift key or the Commander or Ctrl key, and click Background. With those two layers selected, I'm going to go to the Layers panel menu up here and please don't forget about this menu. It has all kinds of good stuff in it, including the Merge Layers command. This command will join together whatever layers are selected and you can see that now those two layers have been merged into this one Background layer.
If I turn that on and off, you will see that they disappear together and come back together. So if you're short on storage space or working capacity from time to time, select a couple of layers and choose Merge Layers to merge only those selected layers together. Another way to merge layers together is to stamp them together into a composite layer. By that I mean you can take some or all of the layers in a file and create an additional layer in the file that contains the content of all of them. When might you want to do this? Well, it comes in handy when there is something that you need to do to all the layers at once, like your final sharpening on the image or when you're retouching a portrait, you may want to use the Liquify filter to change the shape of the face and you want to be sure to include all the layers on which you've done retouching before that.
So to make that happen, I am going to click on this top layer and then I am going to hold the Shift key and go down to the bottom layer. Then I am going to go to the Layers panel menu here and there is a command here that says Merge Visible. But before I release my mouse there, I'm also going to hold down the Option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC. So Alt+Merge Visible or Option+Merge Visible does this. It makes a brand-new layer above the top layer that I have selected which contains the content of all the layers below. Let me turn on the other layers off so that you can see what's on that top layer.
I am just going to click-and-drag down the column of eye icons, and you can see that I still see in the document window the entire composition because it's all been copied or stamped onto this new Layer 1. Let me turn everything else back on. And I want to show you one more thing about combining layers. When you finish with a layered file, I think it's really important to save the file with all those layers and to archive that layered file, but you may also have reason to flatten all the layers down to make the file smaller in size and to make it easier to share.
When you're ready to flatten a copy of your file, then you'll go back to the Layers panel menu and you will choose Flatten Image. When you do that, you lose all the layers except for one that contains all the content in the image. You want to be careful after you've flattened a file that you don't re-save over the layered file of the same name. So example here my layered file was called multilayers.psd. So I always make it a practice to add the word flat at the end of the layer name after I've flattened. So I might save this one by going to File > Save As and calling this multilayers_flat and I'll save that to my Desktop.
If you've flatten a file in error, even if you save the file, you still have a chance to rescue that layered file by walking back up the states in the History panel. Just be sure to do that before you actually close the file, because then it will be too late.
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