Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Layering tips and tricks, part of Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
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In this final movie of the chapter, I'll share with you a grab bag of tips and tricks for working with layers. For starters I'm going to scroll down the list of layers and turn off the background. This bright checkerboard pattern provides a lot of contrast when you're working with dark layers. However if I Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eye in front of the swirls layer, you can see it doesn't fair so well when working with bright layers, which is why I prefer a pattern that's darker and a bit more muted as well. To change the checkerboard pattern press Ctrl+K or Command+K on a Mac to bring up the Preferences dialog box and then click on Transparency & Gamut.
Here is what I do, I change the Grid Colors from Light to Medium and then well that's better, the checks are just too busy. So I click on this darker gray box and then I change the Brightness value to 54% and click OK and then Click OK again, and you get this more neutral, less busy checkerboard background. All right, now let's talk about controlling visibility. Notice this grunge layer that's clipped inside the paper back layer, if I turn the grunge layer on that also turns on the paper back layer and the reason is that you can't see a clipped layer without seeing its clipping mask.
The same goes if I turn off the visibility of the paper back layer, the grunge layer again disappears. Now let's say I want to make all my layers visible again, what I'd like to do is Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eye in front of the swirls layer. But if I do, I just hide that dimmed eye in front of grunge and that's it. If I Alt+Click or Option+Click again, I bring back the dimmed eye. And that's because when you Alt+Click or Option+Click on an eye, you switch back and forth between two visibility states. If you want to make all layers visible, you have to choose a secret command twice.
Here is what you do, right-click on the eye in front swirls and then choose Show/Hide all other layers. That will hide all of the other layers so you're just seeing the swirls layer, so in other words the dimmed eye in front of grunge disappears. Then again right-click on that eye and then choose Show/Hide all other layers, and all of the layers will become visible, including that wall layer that we have formerly turned off. Let's say I not only want to turn off the wall layer, but I also want to get rid of it and all other hidden layers inside of my composition.
Well go ahead and turn off those layers that you want to delete and then go up to the Layers panel flyout menu and choose Delete Hidden Layers. Photoshop will ask you if you really want to go through with it, if so click on the Yes button. All right, now let's take a look at a few tricks that work with the Move tool. I'll go and switch to the tool either by clicking on it or pressing the V key. You can switch between layers using this tool by right-clicking inside the image. Photoshop brings up a pop-up menu that lists every layer that exists at the point on which you clicked, which is by the way, one of the reasons it's so imperative to get in the habit of naming your layers.
I'll go ahead and switch to paper back and notice that that goes ahead and selects the paper back layer here inside the Layers panel. Another way to work is to go directly to the top most layer, at a click point, and you do that by Alt+Right-clicking here on the PC, or Option+Right-clicking on the Mac, and you can see in this case that took me to the yosemite layer because that's the top layer at this point. If I were to Alt+Right-click or Option+ Right-click on the frame that would take me to the top wood layer, which is the top most layer inside the image.
I can also Alt+Right-click or Option+ Right-click in the white background and that will take me to the background at the bottom of the stack. You may notice when you press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, you get this double arrowhead cursor, which is telling you that you can clone a layer. I'm going to start by releasing the key and right-clicking there on the swirls and then choosing the swirls layer. Then I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag by pressing the standard left mouse button. And notice that I create a copy of this layer on the fly and you can see that layer here inside the Layers panel.
I'm going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of it. Here's another way to create a copy of a layer, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac once again and drag the layer inside the Layers panel. Notice you get that same double arrowhead cursor and as soon as you release, you create a copy of the layer. All right, again I don't want that so I'm just going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of it. Moving right along, Photoshop allows you select multiple layers. One way to do that here inside the Layers panel is to click on one layer and then Shift+Click on another, in which case you select a range of layers like so.
If you want to select multiple non- adjacent layers, you click on one layer and then you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on a Mac and click in an empty portion of another layer, don't click on the thumbnail, because that will select the layer, rather you Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on an empty area like so. And then you can drag these layers up and down inside the panel to change your stacking order. You can move them together inside the image window or what have you. All right, I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on a Mac to undo that move. Here's yet another way to work.
I can right-click inside the image with the Move tool and click on a layer to select it, and then if I Shift+Right- click inside the image window with the Move tool and select another layer, whether it's adjacent or non-adjacent, I'll select it as well. Finally, let's say I want to take this swirls layer and I want to pop it to the top of the stack. Well I'll go ahead and click on it to make it active. I could just drag it up the stack if I want to, but there's another way to work that comes in handy when you have an awful lot of layers inside of a file.
Go to the Layer menu and choose the Arrange command and then notice that you have all these stacking options including Reverse. If I had two layers selected, I can reverse their order. But along with these commands, which aren't really that easy to access, you have these keyboard shortcuts, if you care to remember them. So you've got Ctrl or Command along with the right bracket key to move a layer up the stack. Ctrl or Command along with the left bracket key to move a layer down the stack. If you want to move the layer all the way up, you press Ctrl+Shift+Right bracket, if you want to move it all the way down you press Ctrl+Shift+Left bracket.
Let me show you what that looks like just by pressing the keys. If I press Ctrl+Shift+Left bracket here on the PC or Command+Shift+Left bracket on a Mac, I will move that swirls layer as far down as it can go. Notice it has to stay on top of the background because the background is the flat image always at the back of the stack. Then if I press Ctrl+Shift+Right bracket or Command+Shift+Right bracket on a Mac, I pop the layer all the way to the top of the stack and it appears that the front of the composition here inside the image window as well.
And that friends, is my exhaustive list of tips and tricks for working with layers in Photoshop.
- Opening an image from Photoshop, Bridge, or Camera Raw
- Navigating, zooming, panning, and rotating the canvas
- Adding, deleting, and merging layers
- Saving your progress and understanding file formats
- Cropping and straightening
- Adjusting brightness and contrast
- Identifying and correcting a color cast
- Making and editing selections
- Enhancing portraits by retouching skin, teeth, and eyes