How to organize layers in Photoshop

How to organize layers in Photoshop. Layer groups can help you organize a document in Adobe Photoshop so it’s easier to find text and other design elements as you create. Layer groups also make it easier to work with several layers at once. In this article, Ngolongtech will show you How to organize layers in Photoshop.

How to organize layers in Photoshop
How to organize layers in Photoshop

What is layer merge? How to merge layers in Photoshop

Merge Layer is the operation of merging 2 or more overlapping layers into a single layer.

When working in PTS where you have created too many layers, in addition to grouping them into a Group, layer merging is also a quick method, moreover, when merging layers will delete old layers (all layers below) That reduce the image file size to help low-profile machines “breathe” more.
To merge layers in Photoshop, you just need to select the layers you want to merge and then press Ctrl + E on the keyboard or right-click and select Merge Layers. If you select only 1 layer, the above operation will merge that layer with the closest layer below.

What is image flattening? How to flatten in Photoshop

Flattening Image is to combine “all” existing layers in the working file into a single layer, so it also deletes all remaining layers (all but the top layer) in the PTS.
This concept, most PTS users in Vietnam refer to collectively as “combining layers” or “combining all / merging all layers”, these are all layering operations, just different from merging a few layers or merging. only the whole.
The special feature of merging “all” layers is to make the image really “flat” if we put the layer on any “plane”, ie after merging (flattening) there is only one left. layer containing the image (top layer).
Although flattening an image and merging layers both work quite similarly, to flatten an image you have to do something different:
Press Ctrl + Shift + E (Win) / Cmd + Shift + E (Mac) on your keyboard or right-click any layer and select Flattening Image.
Compared to the normal “layer merge”, you do not need to select the layers to merge, just select any layer and then flatten the image and the entire layer will merge into a single layer.

Why shouldn’t images be flattened in Photoshop?

In the previous part we showed you how to combine layers and flatten images. Those are very quick and simple operations, but sometimes that ease will interrupt your work, we will give some practical examples as follows:
I am using Photoshop CC 2020 but you can follow with any recent version.
1. In the Layers panel, I added some layers to the working file along with the original image on the Background layer. Specifically a layer to smooth the skin, above is a layer to whiten teeth and on top is a layer to change eye color:
The Layers panel shows multiple layers 
The Layers panel shows multiple layers
2. If I’m done with the image, I can print it, email it, or upload it to the web. But first, I want to sharpen the image, to do this, I have to merge all the layers into a single layer (flatten the image) leading to the following problem.

Problem with image flattening

1. A quick way to merge entire layers in Photoshop is to simply “flatten the image”: Select Layer in the menu bar and click Flatten Image.
2. By flattening the image, I “lost all the remaining layers”. If I save and close the working file right now, the layers will be permanently deleted, resulting in not being able to edit any of those old layers in the future:
Result after flattening the image
Result after flattening the image
3. I will undo that and restore the layers by choosing Edit -> Undo Flatten Image (or press Ctrl + Z (Win) / Command + Z (Mac):
Undo Flatten Image
Undo Flatten Image

How to merge layers in photoshop on Mac without flattening

This is a better way to work. Instead of flattening the image and “deleting all old layers” we can keep them and simply merge their copy into a whole new layer.

Step 1: Select the top layer in the Layers panel

Whenever we add a new layer, Photoshop will place it right above the currently selected layer. So you will most likely want the merged copy to appear above the existing layers, start by selecting the top layer in the Layers panel:
Click on the top layer to select it
Click on the top layer to select it

Step 2: Merge the entire layer into a new layer (do not lose the old layer)

Then use the “secret” shortcut to merge the entire layer into a new layer without having to delete them.
On a Windows computer: press Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E.
On a Mac: press Shift + Command + Option + E.
It’s basically pressing all three modifier keys plus the letter E.
Take a look at the Layers panel, we should now see a brand new layer above the original layers. This new layer is the merged copy of all the other layers in the working file:
Photoshop adds a new layer that merges all existing layers into it
Photoshop adds a new layer that merges all existing layers into it

Step 3: Rename the new layer “Merged”

You can do this step or not, we’ve done the layering in Photoshop without flattening the image, so it’s basically done.
To rename this new layer, double click on the existing name (in my case “Layer 1”), rename the layer “Merged” then press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard To accept:
Rename merged layer
Rename merged layer

Change the order of layers and layer groups

To change the order of layers and layer groups, do any of the following:

  • Drag the layer or group up or down in the Layers panel. Release the mouse button when you see a highlighted line at the position where you want to place the selected layer or group.

  • To move a layer into a group, drag a layer to the group folder . If the group is closed, the layer is placed at the bottom of the group.

  • Select a layer or group, choose Layer > Arrange, and choose a command from the submenu. If your selected item is in a group, the command applies to the stacking order within the group. If the selected item is not in a group, the command applies to the stacking order within the Layers panel.

  • To reverse the order of selected layers, choose Layer > Arrange > Reverse. These options appear dimmed if you do not have at least two layers selected.

By definition, the background layer is always at the bottom of the stacking order. Therefore, the Send To Back command places the selected item directly above the background layer.

Move the content of layers

  •  In the Layers panel, click to select the layers containing the objects you want to move.

  • Select the Move tool .

    You can select the layers that you want to move directly in the document window. In the Move tool’s options bar, select Auto Select and then choose Layer from the menu options that show up. Shift-click to select multiple layers. Select Auto Select, then choose Group to select the entire group when you select one layer in the group.

  • Do one of the following:


    • In the document window, drag any object onto one of the selected layers. (All objects on the layer will move together.)

    • Press an arrow key on the keyboard to nudge the objects by 1 pixel.

    • Hold down Shift and press an arrow key on the keyboard to nudge the objects by 10 pixels.

Rotate a layer

  • From the Layers panel, select the layer you want to rotate.

  • If anything is currently selected in the image, choose Select > Deselect.

  • Choose Edit > Transform > Rotate. A box defining the boundaries of the layer (called a bounding box) appears.

  • Move the pointer outside of the bounding box (the pointer becomes a curved, two-sided arrow), and then drag. Press Shift to constrain the rotation to 15° increments.
  • When you’re satisfied with the results, press Enter (Windows) or Return (Mac OS), or click the check mark in the options bar. To cancel the rotation, press Esc, or click the Cancel Transform icon on the options bar.

Lock a layer

You can lock layers fully or partially to protect their contents. For example, you may want to lock a layer fully when you finish with it. You can lock a layer partially if it has the correct transparency and styles but you are still deciding on positioning. When a layer is locked, a lock icon 

 appears to the right of the layer name. The lock icon appears solid when the layer is fully locked and hollow when the layer is partially locked.

Lock all properties of a layer or group

  • Select a layer or group.
  • Click the Lock All  option in the Layers panel. Layers in a locked group display a grayed out lock icon .

Partially lock a layer

  • Select a layer.
  • Click one or more lock options in the Layers panel:

    • Lock Transparent Pixels: Confines editing to the opaque portions of the layer. This option is equivalent to the Preserve Transparency option in earlier versions of Photoshop.
    • Lock Image Pixels: Prevents modification of the layer’s pixels using the painting tools.
    • Lock Position: Prevents the layer’s pixels from being moved.

    For type and shape layers, Lock Transparency and Lock Image are selected by default and cannot be deselected.

Apply lock options to selected layers or a group

  • Select multiple layers or a group.
  • Choose Lock Layers or Lock All Layers In Group from the Layers menu or the Layers panel menu.
  • Select lock options, and click OK.
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