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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
For some new users to Photoshop, selecting layers can be sometimes a little confusing or frustrating. So, I'm going to give you a couple of tips on how to make it much easier. Now the default method is to go to the Layers panel and click on the name or the thumbnail of the layer that you want to select. Pretty straightforward, right? It's a visual thing and you can see the thumbnail, so you can just click on it, right? Okay. That's fine up until you have certain number of layers that you end up having to scroll the Layers panel, right? Let's say that you have a hundred layers, which is really not all that uncommon depending on the type of project you are working on.
You might even have more than that. Having to find the layer and know its name and recognize its thumbnail on the Layers panel can be problematic when you have to sit there and start scrolling just to find the layer that you want to target. So, I want to teach you a couple of different ways. Now the tool that you'll use to select, and then move or transform layers is always going to be that Move tool. If you're not in the Move tool you just press the V key to go to the Move tool, and then there's a couple of different ways to target layers without even having to use the Layers panel at all. Here's the trick though. You want to make sure you name your layers something that makes sense.
Things like layer 1, layer 2, layer 3, aren't going to be all that helpful for this technique I'm going to show you. So, the first technique, kind of a bonus technique of not using Layers panel, is with the Move tool selected simply right-click. So, if you have a two-button mouse, just right-click the right-mouse button and click. And wherever your cursor is, a little pop-up menu of all the layers that have pixels directly into my cursor will be displayed for me. So, I can actually just choose the name of the layer that I want to move or select. So if I choose the Tulips layer, that layer is now selected. And if you take a look over the Layers panel, you'll see the Tulips layer is highlighted and the name of the Tulips layer is bold.
Now if I click and drag, you'll see that the layer I'm moving is the Tulips layer, even though it's not quote the top layer. So, by default, you can click anywhere in the document window and only the selected layer will move. Whether you can see it initially or not, it was hidden behind the Lily layer, and now I can click and drag and move it around anywhere. I don't actually have to click right where the tulip pixels are. I can click anywhere on that image window to do so. If I right-click again on anywhere in the document window, again, I get a list of all the layers that have at least some pixels directly underneath the cursor where I clicked.
So, you can see here Tulips is not on the list because no part of the Tulips layer has pixels directly into my cursor. So, if I choose the Dahlia layer, let's say, again I can click and drag. You can see that pink layer moving in the background here. It's because it's behind all the layers in the list here. So, if I move it to the top, I just click on the word Dahlia and drag it up to the top of the stack. So, again, that quick technique is just to right-click with our two-button mouse, choose the name of the layer that you want to go for, select it from the list, and then now you can move it around just by clicking anywhere in the image window.
A different technique is to use something called the Auto-Select command. This only works if you see the layer that you want to target. If it's behind in the layer and you can't see any part of it to click on, it's not going to work, but it's still a good technique. If you look up here in the Options bar for the Move tool, you see there's an Auto-Select check box. I'm going to go and turn that on. It's off by default, and I'm going to choose from Group. I'm going to change it to layer. And what this lets me do is just click on any portion of the layer that I see that I want to move. So, I just clicked on the Purple Lily layer and it selected it and moved it.
Now the difference between this technique is that I can't just click anywhere in the image window to move the selected layer, because if I do that it's going to end up selecting a different layer. As long as I click anywhere on the Lily layer, the selected layer here, I can move it around just fine. But if I clicked on the pink layer here, this Dahlia layer, I've now selected that. Even though it was overlapping the Lilly layer, because Auto-Select has been turned on, that selects the topmost layer directly under my cursor, and lets you target and just start clicking and dragging to move it. And if I want the Mixed layer, I can click anywhere I see that Mixed layer and start dragging to move it.
Now if you're familiar with something like Illustrator or InDesign, this might feel more intuitive. If you've been working with Photoshop for years, this is a behavior that might actually take getting used to, because if you're used to just clicking anywhere in the image window to move the selected layer, this is now actually selecting that particular layer directly under your cursor just like an object in some of these other program. So, a couple of different ways. If you can't see the layer that you want to grab, you can right-click, get the list of layer names, choose the layer you want, and then start moving it. But with Auto-Select turned on, again, remember, that's actually going to select whatever layer you actually click on. The topmost layer directly under your cursor.
So, it's more of a visual thing by using the document window. If you want to be sure, you can always try to find the name of the layer that you're looking for in the Layers panel, or use the right-button technique to get the list of layers directly into your cursor. If you like the idea of Auto- Select but you don't want to leave it on permanently, I'm going to give you one more bonus tip here. I'm going to turn off Auto-Select. I love that feature, but I sometimes forget that it's turned on. I end up accidentally moving and selecting the wrong layer all the time, because that check box is turned on and I kind of forget it. So, here's a different way to get Auto- Select behavior, but only when you want it.
So, right now, I have Auto-Select turned off. It's not on in the Options bar here. The Dahlia layer is selected, which means anywhere I click in the image window I'm moving just that layer. Now if I want to get to the Lily layer here, if I hold on the Command key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on Windows and click, it's going to act as if Auto-Select Layer is turned on. Okay, so I didn't turn on the check box in the Options bar. I just Command or Ctrl+Click, Command on the Mac, Ctrl on Windows, click on the layer that I see, the pixels that I see-- In this case, it was the Purple Lily layer here, Let go the Command or Ctrl key, and then I can click anywhere in the image window to move that layer around.
The trick here is you just need to be able to see the layer that you want to target. I want to get the Tulips layer here. I Command or Ctrl+Click. That targets that layer, because I was able to see it to click on it. Once I let go of the keys, I can freely move that wherever I want. So, you can kind of guess I'm ending this video on my favorite technique. It takes a little bit of advanced skill. You've got to remember to hold down a modifier key down. But over time, you'll gravitate towards this technique because it really is the most flexible. It gives you that freedom of being able to click anywhere in the image window to move a given layer. So, I can actually come over here to move the Tulips, right. It doesn't really matter where your cursor is and it also gives you that flexibility to target the particular layer that you can see very quickly without having to turn on some option permanently.
Just Command or Ctrl+click on the layer that you want to target, and then you're free to move it around. So, there's some tips and tricks and just some basics of how to select and target layers either using the Layers panel, the right-click contextual menu, or those two different ways to use the Auto-Select Layer feature.
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