I’ve got lots of great tips for you today. Most of them have to do with working with layers and various functions in the Layers panel. I’m not sure if these tips would fall under the “advanced” category because they’re so simple to execute. They’re powerful though and trust me when I say this; If you’re an Adobe Photoshop power user, you definitely want to know what I’m about to share down below. Your workflow will be altered for the better and quite a few of those more annoying aspects of the Layers panel will disappear.
In today’s post, I’d like to discuss a few keyboard shortcuts that can assist when changing the order of layers in the Layers panel of your projects, changing which layer is active and how to select and work with layers in a much more efficient manner than you have ever before. I’ll also throw in some good information that has to do with layer opacity and fill. All of this will occur in Adobe Photoshop and it’s really too good to miss.
Today’s Demo Photo
I decided to go with a summer theme for today and sunflowers are on my mind. We have about five of these things that, I swear, are at least ten feet tall, right outside our front door. They’re enormous and beautiful.
What I plan on doing is adding three text layers, a custom shape and a few layer styles to this image. I’ll also unlock the background image layer so it’ll work better with the examples I share below.
Adding the Text, Shape & Styles
Since I’ve already covered how to add the items I’ve added to this image on this website, I’ll just tell you what they are. I typed out three text layers with one word per layer. I also applied a white Outer Glow to those layers and applied the Linear Burn blending mode to them as well. Then, I drew a custom shape that reminded me of a sunflower. I didn’t apply any blending mode to this layer, but I did apply a white stroke. Take a look at the finished product.
Here are the layers in the Layers panel. Notice how four of them have down facing arrows to the right of the Fx symbol. Those arrows indicate the presence of layer styles. If I clicked on those arrows, I would be able to see which effects I applied. I’ll keep them hidden for now.
Changing Layer Order
While my project for this post is very small and relatively simply to deal with, projects in Photoshop often become absolutely huge as they’re being worked on. Layers get created and moved around and the Layers panel can actually become quite confusing. It’s for this reason that clicking and dragging layers around with a mouse sometimes ins’t the best route to take. Even with a few layers, moving them with a mouse is cumbersome.
If you select a layer with your mouse and then use the Ctrl+[ or Ctrl+] keyboard shortcuts, you can move that layer without touching it with your mouse at all. That’s Ctrl (or Command for Mac) and the left and right bracket keys. The left bracket key moves the layer down while the right bracket key moves it up in relation to other layers in the project. This type of shortcut becomes extremely helpful when dealing with text layers, as they’re often overlapping and need a certain “look.”
To move a layer all the way to the top of the stack, skipping all the layers in between it and the top position, add Shift to the mix. So if you had a layer that’s located down near the bottom and it would be a pain to click and drag up multiple positions, you could use your mouse to select it in the Layers panel (or select it using the next tip I’ll share below) and then use the keyboard shortcut of Shift+Ctrl+]. That’s Shift plus Ctrl plus the right bracket key. Mind you, you can do the same thing if you want to move a layer all the way down to the bottom of the stack. Just use the left bracket key instead of the right one.
Automatically Selecting a Layer With Your Mouse
Out of all the tips I’m going to share today, this one is the coolest. I love it because it helps so much when there are many layers to deal with. Instead of bringing your mouse pointer over to the Layers panel to select a layer and then move it around in your workspace, all you need to do is (using the Move Tool) press and hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and then hover your mouse over the layer in question in your work area. When you hover the mouse over the layer, it will become outlined in pink, indicating that it’s the layer that will be selected.
Once the layer is outlined in pink, you can click on it to select it. You’ll notice that the layer in the Layers panel will become highlighted as well.
An Alternative For Selecting Layers
If you’re not great at remembering keyboard shortcuts, I’ll show you something that’s really easy to remember. If you want to select a particular layer in your workspace, all you have to do is right-click on the layer and Photoshop will show you a small menu that names each layer that’s below that position. Let me show you what I’m talking about.
I right-clicked on top of the “Store” layer. When the menu appeared, it showed me that the Store layer as well as the “Layer 0” layer (the image itself) was below. If I rolled over and clicked on the Store option, that layer would be selected in the Layers panel.
Changing Layer Opacity With Your Keyboard
This trick is so simple. As you may already know, there’s an Opacity slider located at the top of the Layers panel that can change the opacity of a layer. To do this, all you need to do is click on that slider and drag it to the left or to the right. Did you know that you don’t have to drag that slider at all to change opacity? If you simply click a number between zero and 100 on your keyboard, the layer opacity will change just the same. You may have experienced this by mistake, as I have many times through the years.
Changing Fill Opacity With Your Keyboard
You may already know this, but I’ll repeat it here. While the Opacity slider alters the opacity of the entire layer, styles included, the Fill slider alters the opacity of just the original object in the layer and not the styles at all. So, as I mentioned above, I have a few effects that I added early on in this post. For the text, I added a white outer glow. If I went ahead and dragged the Fill slider that’s located at the top of the Layers panel to the left, I’d reduce the opacity of the text, but not the glow. Take a look.
Do you see that white glow outline?
So the question now is, how can we alter the fill of a layer with a keyboard shortcut? Well, all we need to do is hold down the Shift key and then press a number, just as we did above. Doing this will accomplish the same thing as pushing the slider would.
I was actually going to cover a few more neat shortcuts in this post, but I think I’ll leave them for the next one. They’re sort of on a different topic, so I think it would be better that way.
I hope I clearly explained how to go about using various keyboard shortcuts that help make working with the Layers panel in Adobe Photoshop a bit easier. If you have any questions regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!