By Jennifer Farley

Five Photoshop Layers Speed Tricks

By Jennifer Farley

Here are a few tips and tricks to help speed up your design work in Photoshop. There’s much more to layers than first meets the eye…

Use one click to select everything on a layer

You can quickly put a selection around all objects on a layer by holding down the Ctrl key (pc) or the Cmd key (mac) and clicking on the layer thumbnail icon on the Layers palette. Even if you have multiple, separate objects on the layer, they will all be selected.


Export each layer as a separate document

If you are working on a document in Photoshop with multiple layers, it is possible to export each of those layers as separate documents. An example where I use this, is when I make up a document with several layers of photos to work on, when I’m finished I can lash them out quickly to separate documents.

All you need to do is choose File > Scripts > Export Layers to Files.

Whiz through the blending modes

When you’re trying to find a good effect by blending two layers together with the blending modes, it can be a bit of a pain to go backwards and forwards to the Blend Mode drop down menu on the Layers palette. A real time saver here is to select your first blending mode, the switch over to the Move tool and simply hold down the Shift key and press the + (plus sign). Each time you press the plus sign, it goes to the next Blend Mode.

Move more than one layer at a time from one document to another

If you want to move a few of your layers from one Photoshop document to another, the first thing to do is to link your layers together, by selecting them in the Layers palette and then clicking on the link icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Then drag the layer from within the document itself, rather than from the Layers palette. This will carry all of the layers over to the second document.


Color code your layers

You can use color coding on your layers for organization purposes. To add a color to a layer Right-click (pc) or Ctrl-click (mac) on the eye icon next to the layer you want to color code. A pop-up menu will appear and you can pick the color you want.


What other tips do you have for working with the Layers palette and Layers?

  • Handy

  • After going through that list again I feel that it is aimed more at beginners than on experienced users. I would like to add a few.

    1.Instead right clicking on a layer in the layers palette to select the ‘Blending Options’ you can double click on the layer in the layers palette to go to ‘Blending Options’

    2. Create groups for similar objects so that you can hide or reveal all the layers in a group with a single click on the eye sign next to the group in the layers palette.

    Just a few tips for beginners. :)

  • Thanks for the “move layers between documents” tip, Jennifer. I’ve wanted to do that on multiple occasions before but never known how to!

  • newsace

    To move multiple layers from one document to another, rather than select/link/drag from document, just select them in the layers palette and drag from there–no need to add the extra steps of linking and going back into the document window.

  • I disagree I have been using Photoshop for 13 years and must admit to not knowing half of those. The clour coding could be very handy.

    A few suggestions of my own.

    PC only – To quickly select blend modes click on the drop down menu, click again to close the menu and then use your up and down arrow keys to scroll through.

    Name your layers as you create them

    When in Move mode (V) right/cmd click your image for a menu of layers under your pointer

  • Justin

    I loved the blending option tip. Friend of mine showed me that once and I totally forgot it.
    My favorite Photoshop shortcut is when I need to re-size an image that is way larger than the canvas – instead of zooming out to find the handles, I just hit command+0 and the canvas automatically zooms out to where I can see all of the handles.

    Thanks again!

  • @artemis I can understand that.

    @newsace – you are right…it is much easier that way

  • wow

    hey i have another speed trick you forgot: RTFM

    this “5 best” and “10 fast” trick/tip/nonsense has to end soon. if you actually own photoshop but don’t know how to link layers or color-code them, you’re an idiot.

  • Bobby

    WOW, how old is this blog post?

    That looks like Photoshop 7.

  • dc

    There are two other selection options in addition to the [ctrl/cmd + click] on a layer thumbnail:1. Pressing [ctrl/cmd + shift + click] will add the layer content to the current selection.2. Pressing [ctrl/cmd + alt + click] will subtract the layer content.You’ll find them useful. I use them all the time.

  • Thanks for the top tips Jennifer, I don’t really have any shortcuts – I like to do things the long way I guess, but that’s just me and not liking to change I guess – works for me anyway

  • pkrey

    My layers navigating trick.
    Name all of your FOLDERS with a asterisk, ie… *Group 1, *Group 2…
    Then, when you right click an element on your canvas, you will know the difference between your folders and your layers without having to remember what you called everything. Why adobe doesn’t stylize folders differently in the drop down I’ll never know. I don’t have CS4 yet. Did they fix that problem?

    Good luck!

  • ravi_k47

    that blend mode trick is superb Thanks
    i have a doubt, why do we use the colors for layers ? :P
    btw thanks for the tutorial

  • @ravi_k47 Have you worked with files having more than 50 layers…they are very handy under such circumstances.

    You can also use colors to color code your layers. For instance if you have layers that you plan to work on later (after a few days) you can use RED color for them …for finished layers you can use GREEN and so on.

  • ravi_k47

    :) thanks
    i’m just starting in photoshop. I have used upto some 20+ layers. and ur site name is cool :)

  • A real time saver here is to select your first blending mode, the switch over to the Move tool and simply hold down the Shift key and press the + (plus sign). Each time you press the plus sign, it goes to the next Blend Mode.

    Am I misunderstanding what you or wouldn’t it be far easier and faster to simply select a blending mode and then the up/down arrows?
    If the layer is selected and the blend mode dropdown is NOT active, though, you can indeed use shift +/- with most tools, not only the Move tool (at least in CS4 for Windows): any one of the selection tools, zoom, hand, eraser, etc…

  • Many shortcuts can be used to work with layers and can be real time savers once you’ve remembered them. To name a few:
    – CTRL (command on Mac) + new layer icon: create a new layer BELOW the current one (default is above)
    – ALT (option on Mac) + new layer icon: open the new layer dialog box, to set options such as blending mode, name and color
    – CTRL + ALT + new layer icon: new layer below + dialog box
    – to copy layers effects from one layer to another, hold the ALT key and drag&drop the effect to be copied. If your drag&drop the header (“effects”), all layer effects will be pasted at once. NOT holding ALT will simply move the effects
    – the same works for layer masks: just hold ALT and drag&drop the mask icon from one layer to another. Again, not holding ALT will just move hte mas instead of copying it.
    – and so on and on and on…

  • Shane75

    thanks buddy for providing such a good information its really work. Please give more information about the different layer which is helpful in photoshop.


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