How to use Layers in Photoshop CC 2019

All about Photoshop layers

Layers are one of the best features of Photoshop and they are probably the thing that you will use most when designing graphics in Photoshop.

Luckily, they are super-simple to get to grips with, and they make the designing process so much easier.

Watch this video tutorial to find out how to use Photoshop layers, as well as some handy tips and tricks for making the most of the Layers Palette.

Video timings

Use the timings below to skip to the part in the video you’re interested in, or click on the titles to read a written explanation instead.

How to access Photoshop layers

If you look at the screenshot below, you can see that over on the right-hand side of my screen is a tab which says “Layers” which has lots of little boxes underneath – one for every layer in my design.

Photoshop CC 2019 Layers Palette

If you don’t have the Layers Palette on your screen then don’t panic, you can make it show up by clicking “Window” in the top menu and then “Layers”.

How to enable Photoshop layers

Clicking “Layers” will cause the Layers Palette to pop up on your screen. It might not be in the exact position that mine is, but you can drag-and-drop on the top of the box to move it to wherever is easiest for you on your screen.

What are Photoshop layers?

Every time you add a new element to your document, it will be automatically added as a new layer.

This means you can move, alter and change each individual element of your design without affecting anything else.

For example, by left-clicking onto the layer that says “Heart” and then using the Move Tool, I can move the heart around the design and everything else stays still.

How to move a layer in Photoshop

Similarly, I could change the colour of the background rectangle to blue without turning everything on my design blue.

Blue background

How to delete Photoshop layers

If you decide that you don’t like a particular part of your design then you can delete that layer.

To do this, go to the Layers Palette and right-click on the right hand side of the layer you want to delete.

Delete layer in Photoshop

This opens up a menu with lots of different options. Click on the link that says “Delete Layer”.

Delete layer menu

It will open a little popup prompt asking if you are sure you want to delete the layer. Click “Yes” and your layer will be deleted.

Only the layer that you explicitly clicked on will get deleted – all your others remain the same.

How to temporarily hide Photoshop layers

Sometimes you might want to temporarily hide a Photoshop layer. An example would be if you are working on something that sits underneath another layer and it’s hard to see the bit you want to work on due to the graphics on top.

To hide layers, go to the Layers Palette and left-click on the little eye icon on the left of the layer you wish to hide.

Layer visibility eye icon

This will hide that layer from view. To get it back again, click the little square where the eye used to be, and the eye will return and your layer will be visible again.

How to use layers in Photoshop

The layers palette is really easy to use because it all happens automatically.

For example, if I add a new heart using the Shape Tool it will automatically appear as a new layer.

How Photoshop layers work

The same is true if you copy-and-paste something in to a design. So, if you added a stock photo for example, it would appear on your design as a new layer.

How to reorder Photoshop layers

Layers work on a “stacked” basis. The layers that appear at the top of the list in the Layers Palette show at the ‘top’ of your design, so they will appear at the forefront of any layers that sit underneath them in the Layers Palette.

As an example, in the image below I have drawn a screen box around some text on my design.

Reordering layers introduction

However, I can’t see the text anymore because the box is covering it up.

Looking at the Layers Palette, I can see that the box shape (“Rectangle 1”) is sitting ABOVE the text layer (** let’s learn photoshoshop! **) which is why I can’t see the text.

If I click and drag on the text layer to move it above the rectangle, this reorders the layers so now the text is on top and it can be read.

Layers reordered

Naming Photoshop layers (& why you should!)

A good practice to get in to is naming your Photoshop layers.

As your designs get more complex and you start adding lots more layers, it can be tricky to find a specific one you are looking for if they all have generic names like “Shape 1”, “Shape 2”, etc.

To give a layer a name, double-click on the existing name and then you can type a description of that layer into the box.

How to rename Photoshop layers

Then, when you are scrolling through the Layers Palette trying to find something, it should be much more obvious which layer you need to choose.

Learn more about Photoshop layers

The information on this page is an excerpt from “Photoshop Made Simple”, my FREE Photoshop training course.

To learn more about Photoshop layers, including how to move multiple layers at the same time and how to auto-select layers with one click, sign up to the course by clicking the button below.

The course contains eight separate lessons that teach you how to create your own graphics in Photoshop – even if you’ve never used it before!

Start the course now