Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Selecting and moving a layer, part of Photoshop CS4: Layers in Depth.
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Selecting a layer is one of the most basic but important skills in Photoshop because if you don't have the right layer selected before you move or paint or perform some other editing task you are going to get results that you didn't expect and don't want. Selecting a single layer is pretty straightforward. First, figure out which layer you are after, and the best way to do that is to be consistent about getting each layer a meaningful name, as I'll show you how to do it in another movie. So if I wanted to select this center piece of chocolate in this design, I would go to the Layers panel and look for the chocolate central layer. And if I hadn't named this layer, I would at the layer thumbnails to try to find the content that I want.
Then to select that layer, I would just click once on its bar. That highlights the layer in blue, telling me that it's now the active layer and it also adds the layer name to the Document Tab up here. And that comes in handy if you have lots of layers in the Layers panel so that you can't necessarily see them all at any one time. Checking up here will always tell you which layer is selected. Now that I have the chocolate central layer selected, I could edit it or move it, and let's say I just want to move the piece of chocolate. I don't actually have to go the toolbox and select the Move tool. Often when I want to move something, I'm in the middle of working with some other tool and I just need the Move tool temporarily. So here for example, I have been using the Dodge tool to lighten part of the image, and I'd like to continue with that work, but in the meantime I need to move that piece of chocolate.
So I can access the Move tool temporarily like this. I'm just going to hold down the Command key on my keyboard, that's the Ctrl key on a PC keyboard and that changes the icon for the tool to the Move tool icon. And now, if I click-and-drag anywhere in my image, I don't have to actually click on that piece of chocolate, the entire chocolate central layer moves and I can reposition that piece of chocolate where I wanted on the screen, and then I release the Command or Ctrl key and my cursor changes back to the Dodge tool cursor and I could keep on working with that tool.
Sometimes I'd like a more precise tool to move an item. So let's say I just want to nudge this piece of chocolate over a little bit, again I'm going to hold down the Command key on a Mac or the Ctrl key on a PC to select the Move tool temporarily, and then I'm going to use the Arrow keys on my keyboard. I'll press the Right Arrow a few times to nudge that piece of chocolate over to the right. If I'd like to move that piece of chocolate in slightly bigger increments, I'll hold down the Shift key as well. So now on a Mac I've got Command and Shift key held down, on a PC that's Ctrl and Shift key and at the same time, I'll click the Right Arrow and that will move that piece of chocolate in larger increments.
Even though selecting a single layer and then moving at or working on it in some other way, sounds pretty straightforward. There are a couple of things that can trip you up. And I want to mention those so you keep your eye out for them. First of all, it's pretty easy to just plain forget to select a layer before performing a task. I have seen lots of people and I'll admit myself included, who will do something like this. You are working along and then you realize that you want to move, say, this top piece of chocolate. So you go over and you select the Move tool, and you come in and click on the top piece of chocolate and drag.
And wow, a different piece of chocolate is moved. And you know why that is? It's because I skips the step of selecting the chocolate top layer. So when I drag it with the Move tool, the chocolate central layer which I had selected before is the one that moved. Now if you make a mistake like this, the easiest way to put things right is not to try to move that piece of dark chocolate back because it will be hard to get it exactly where it was. Instead, use the undo command, which, on the Mac is Command+Z and on the PC is Ctrl+Z. Or if you've made an error that involves a number of steps, you can always open the History panel from the Window menu at the top of the screen, and here you'll see the history of each step you've taken and you can just click on those states to move back in time. Or you can click Forward to move forward in time. But do watch out because if you move back in time like this and then you do another action in your image, you will lose that linear history.
So I'm going to move forward in time to where I was and then I'm going to click the panel menu on the History panel and close that tab group. Another thing to watch out for when you are trying to select a layer is to just single-click on the bar in the Layers panel, don't double-click. If you double-click on a blank area of this layer that will open the Layer Style dialog box and that's not what you want. So I'm going to cancel that. And if you happened to double-click on the name of the layer that does something else as well. It opens the layer name for editing. So you don't want to do that either. I'll click off of that to close that editing window.
Selecting a layer manually by clicking on it in the Layers panel I think is the most straightforward and the safest way to make sure that you've selected the right layer. But there are some automatic ways to select a layer, which I'll be showing you in another movie in this chapter.
- Creating, selecting, and organizing layers
- Controlling layer visibility, opacity, and stacking order
- Working with type and shape layers
- Practical uses for layer blend modes
- Adding dimension with layer effects and layer styles
- Using clipping layers to shape content
- Merging and saving layers
- Introducing 3D layers, video layers, and Smart Object layers