I wanted to write a quick post to answer a question I received a few days ago regarding the management of layers in the Layers panel of Adobe Photoshop. Many folks who are new to this application have some difficulty understanding the basics of how layers work. I always tell them to think about Photoshop as a table and layers as pieces of paper on top of that table. You can move the pieces of paper around, just as you can with layers. You can reorder the paper, just as you can with layers. You can also stack the pieces of paper on top of one another, just as you can with layers. Layers are quite literally “layers.” They’re layered on top of one another in a certain sequence.
While this post is about layers, it’s mostly about something more specific than that. The question I received had to do with how to name layers as well as how to change the order of them in the panel. Since this is quick and easy to explain, I thought I’d do it here. I would never want to respond to a question like this to an individual if others can be helped as well.
In today’s post, I’ll open a few images in Adobe Photoshop. I’ll use those images as examples when it comes time to name their layers. I’ll also demonstrate how to change the order of the layers in the Layers panel as well. This is all easy stuff, so it shouldn’t take long at all.
Okay, I’ve gone ahead and opened four different images into the same file in Photoshop. The way I did this was to select the files in Adobe Bridge and then go to the Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers menu item and click. That opens all the selected images into one file as layers. It’s a very handy feature to have around. It saved me some clicking and dragging.
Anyway, here’s the fancy “natural looking” arrangement I made. I hope the fact that the images are on top of one another is noticed.
Naming the Individual Layers
I guess the question is, why in the world would anyone want to name the individual layers in the Layers panel? I mean, most of the time, there are only one or two layers. Maybe three at most, so why not just keep them as the way Photoshop named them by default? To be honest, when I’m working with just a handful of layers, this is what I do. The answer is, you want to name them because you’re not always going to be working with just a handful. There may be a point where you work with dozens or hundreds. You’ll certainly want to not only name them, but group them as well, but that’s something for another day. Another good reason to name the individual layers is because you may be working on variations of the same image (or similar looking images). Perhaps they just have different brightness levels. Since this can get confusing fast, naming them to describe them makes a lot of sense.
Let’s take a look at the current Layers panel.
As you can see, each of the four photographs has its own layer. The thumbnails are showing which is which. You can also see that I added a bottom layer that I filled with white. That’s helping my demonstration out.
Since the current names of the photo layers are the image file names, I’d like to change them to be more descriptive. To rename a layer, I’ll simply double-click the current name with my mouse. The name area will become editable and I’ll type the new desired name and then when I’m finished with that, I’ll press the Enter key on my keyboard.
In the above screenshot, I completed the renaming, but I left the top one in the editable state, so you can see what that looked like.
Reordering the Layers
You may have noticed that I have sort of a collage of photos going on in my example. The order is random, so I may want to change that. In order to change the way the photos are stacked on top of one another in the workspace, I’ll need to change the layer order in the Layers panel. This is easy enough to do.
Currently, the “Curvy Bridge” photo layer is third from the top. I’d actually like that to be the top layer. To make it the top layer, I’ll click and drag the layer in the Layers panel to the top position. In the next screenshot, I have clicked and dragged the Curvy Bridge layer to the top position. As I dragged it, I noticed that light blue lines were appearing between the other layers. Those are the areas I can drop this one so it can reside in its new position. Once it’s where I want it to be, I can simply drop it and that’s it.
Another easy way to reorder layers is to use two keyboard shortcuts. To move a layer down in relation to the other layers, use Ctrl+[ and to raise it up, use Ctrl+]. I thought about it and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the bridge photo all the way on top, so I pressed Ctrl+[ to move it down one space. Now it’s perfect. If I wanted to move a layer all the way to the top or all the way to the bottom in one fell swoop, I would add the Shift key to the shortcuts.
I know that these were simple concepts, but they’re necessary and not everyone knows how to manage these parts of the Layers panel in Adobe Photoshop. I do hope I clearly explained everything though. If you have any questions regarding this post, please feel free to ask in the comments section down below or in the discussion forum. I’m always hanging out in both areas. Thanks for reading!