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Layers Palette

In every version since 3.0 (the Þrst time that the layers feature was introduced), the Layers palette has become increasingly important to how people use Photoshop. With such a crucial palette, there have to be at least a few good tips around here. No?

Tip: Click to Turn Off Layers.

Another way to make multiple layers appear or disappear is by Option-clicking in the display column of the Layers palette. When you Option-click on an eyeball, Photoshop hides all the layers except the one you clicked on. Then, if you Option-click again, it redisplays them all again. Even though this trick doesn't save you a lot of time, it sure feels like it does (which is often just as cool).

Tip: Creating a New Layer.

Layers are the best thing since sliced bread, and we're creating new ones all the time. But if you're still making a new layer by clicking on the New Layer button in the Layers palette, you've got some learning to do: Just click Command-Shift-N (or Command-Option-Shift-N, if you don't want to see the New Layer dialog box). If you're trying to duplicate the current layer, just press Command-J (if you have pixels selected when you press this, only those pixels will copy to a new layer).

Tip: Rename your Layers.

It's a very good idea to rename your layers from Layer 1 or Layer 2 to something a bit more descriptive. However, Adobe changed the way to rename layers in Photoshop 6. In earlier versions, you could simply double-click on a layer to open the Layer Properties dialog box (where you could name and color-code layers); now you have to hold down the Option or Alt key while double-clicking. A subtle, but important difference.

Tip: Creating Layer Sets.

The more layers you have in your document, the more difÞcult it is to manage them. Fortunately, Photoshop now offers layer "sets," in which you can group contiguous layers (layers that are next to each other). Layer sets are so easy to use that they really don't require a great deal of explanation. Here are the basics, though.

  • To create a layer set, click on the New Layer Set button in the Layers palette (see Figure 3).

    Figure 3 Layer Sets

  • To add a layer to a set, just drag it on top of the set. Or, to create a new layer inside the set automatically, select the set or any layer within the set (in the Layers palette) and press the New Layer button. You can remove a layer from a set simply by dragging it out.

  • You can move layer sets in the same way you move layers: just drag them around in the palette. You can also copy a whole set of layers to a different document by dragging the layer set over.

  • If you have more than one layer set, it's helpful to color code them: Just double-click on the layer set's name and pick a color in the Layer Set Properties dialog box. You should probably name the set, too, while you're here (the default "Set 1" doesn't help identify what's in it). Watch out, though: If you drag a color-coded layer out of the set, it still retains its color-coding!

  • If you want to move all the layers within a layer set at the same time, select the layer set in the Layers palette. This is easier and faster than linking the layers together.

  • You can add a layer mask to the layer set and it'll apply to every layer in the set. Similarly, locking a set locks every layer within the set.

  • Layer sets act almost like a single layer, so when you show or hide the set, all the layers in that set appear or disappear.

  • When you delete a layer set, Photoshop lets you choose to delete the set and the layers inside it or just the set itself (leaving the layers intact).

Unfortunately, you can't apply a layer effect to a set or use a set as a clipping group.

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