Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Selecting multiple layers, part of Photoshop CS4: Layers in Depth.
There will be times when you want to work on the content in more than one layer at a time. For example you may want to move the content in more than one layer together, or you may want to change the size of artwork on more than one layer, or you may want to add the same style to web buttons that happened to be on different layers, or maybe you just want to align the content of multiple layers one piece to the other. In all those cases after you select multiple layers in the Layers panel you can act on those layers all at once. The way that you select multiple layers in the Layers panel depends on whether those layers are next to one another in the panel.
I'm going to start out by selecting three layers that are next to one another. These three type layers: Delectables, Fine Chocolates and From France. The content of these layers is over here in the image. One line of type on each layer. When you are working with contiguous layers like these, to select them all you just click on the top layer and then you hold down the Shift key and you click on the bottom-most of those layers and that will select any number of layers in between. Now that I have these three layers selected, with my Move tool selected in the toolbox, I can click-and-drag and all three lines of type go with me.
Now let's say that I'd like to move these three lines of type again and also have this little butterfly icon go with them. To add another layer to the selection of layers that I already have, I'm going to hold down the Command key on a Mac, that's the Ctrl key on a PC. As I click on the butterfly shape layer, and now when I click-and-drag with the Move tool, the content of all four layers moves together. Now let's say that I want to move these three lines of type separately from the butterfly. To remove one layer from this selection of layers, again on the Mac I'll hold the Command key and on the PC the Ctrl key and click on the layer that I want to remove from the selection. And now when I drag with the Move tool, only those three lines of type move and not the butterfly.
Well, how do I select layers that aren't next to one another in the Layers panel? So for example let's say that I want to work on these three pieces of chocolate. One of those is on the chocolate top layer, another on the chocolate center layer down here, and another on the chocolate bottom layer; and those layers are non-contiguous in the Layers panel. I'll start by clicking on the chocolate top layer to select it and then I'm going to hold down the Command key, that's the Ctrl key on the PC and click the chocolate center layer, and still with the Command or Ctrl key held down, I'll click on the chocolate bottom layer. So that's how you select multiple non-contiguous layers in the Layers panel.
With those three layers selected I'm going to do something different rather than just move them, I'm going to transform them. One way to transform is by going to the Edit menu and choosing Free Transform or choosing the Transform command and choosing one of these flavors of transformation. Another way is to select the Move tool and click Show Transform Controls which I'm going to do now, and then come into the image and holding down the Shift key to constrain proportions, I'm going to click-and-drag in to make all three pieces of chocolate on those three layers smaller, all at the same time.
I could also rotate these three pieces of chocolate by moving my mouse outside of that corner anchor point and dragging and that turns the three pieces of chocolate. If I click inside of this bounding box, I can click-and-drag to move the three pieces together. When I'm all done with the various transformations that I want to make, I'll go up to the Options bar and I'll click this check mark to commit the transforms. And to hide these anchor points, I'm going to go up to Show Transform Controls and un-check. Another thing you can do with multiple layers is to add the same style to all the layers at once. So if I'd like to add the same style to these three lines of type, I'll select them all again by clicking the Delectables layer and then holding down the Shift key as I click the From France layer. Then I'm going to open the Styles panel. I'll do that by going to the Window menu and then down to Styles.
Here in the Styles panel there are lots of styles and I can apply any one of these to all three layers at once by just clicking the Style. I'll try this blue style here and when I click it, you can see that all three type layers have turned blue, and in the Layers panel under each one of the type layers you can see all of the effects that are included in this particular style. Because these are type layers there are couple of other things that I could change about all three of these selected layers that I couldn't change about pixel-based layers if I select the Type tool in the toolbox, and then I go up to the Options bar and I click on the arrow to the right of the Font Field, I can see all of the fonts that I have on my computer. You may have different fonts and you can select any font you like here. I'm going to scroll up to find a different font. I think I'll choose this Calligraphy font, Lucida Calligraphy; but if you don't have that on your computer, choose whatever font you like.
As you can see that changed the font of all three of these lines of type. I could actually change any of the options here in the Type Tool Options bar and all three of the selected type layers will change. To show you one more thing that you can do to multiple layers, you can align them one to the other. As I'll show you in much more detail in another movie, but for now with these three type layers selected, I can go the Move tool and in the Move Tool Options bar I'm going to click on this option which will align the three selected layers by their own left edges.
So as you've seen you can select multiple layers in Photoshop's Layers panel, and you can make some kinds of changes to all the selected layers at once. But there is a caveat. You can't do just anything you want to multiply selected layers. So to show you that I'm going to select those three chocolate layers again by clicking on the chocolate top layer and then scrolling down to find the chocolate center layer holding the Command key on a Mac or the Ctrl key on a PC and clicking that and then scrolling down to the chocolate bottom layer and Command or Ctrl-clicking on that.
Now with those three chocolate pieces selected, if I were to go to the Brush tool and try to paint on those pieces, I wouldn't be able to; and I get this message that the Brush tool can't be used because more than one layer is selected. The same is true of any of these painting Type tools including the Dodge tool, and the Burn tool, and the Sponge tool, and the others that you see in this section of the toolbox. And finally I want to show you how to de-select when you have multiple layers selected. One way is just to click on another single layer. Another way would be to go up to the Select menu and choose Deselect Layers. So I'm going to do that and that de-selects all layers in the Layers panel. But I want to be careful because now if I try to work in the Layers panel, I'll get this message that I can't use the tool because no layers are selected. So I have to have at least one layer selected in order to work on the image. I'll click OK.
So now you understand that you can select multiple layers in Photoshop's Layers panel and you can act on those layers in lots of interesting ways.
- 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