Photoshop Quick Tip 1: Time Saving Layer Settings

Posted by John Shaver on Feb 26, 2013 in
Photoshop Quick Tip 1: Time Saving Layer Settings

I've been working with Photoshop since version 4, so you might think I know all there is to know about every single hidden function within the software. I wish that were the case.

Every week I learn something new, and not just because Adobe keeps packing on new features. There are some things I have no use for, but there are some little known layer options that have saved me hours over the course of my design life. Check them out.

1. Copy an Entire Layer into a New Photoshop Document

Have you ever had a document open and wanted to create a new document with just a layer or two out of the hundred in your design? Before I knew this trick, I would spend my time selecting all the items I didn't want and deleting them, then I'd click Save As and get back to work.

There are two problems with this:

  1. It's slower than frozen molasses
  2. Since you did a Save As, you no longer have your original document open for reference

There's a better way, and you've already been using it for the most part.

Just right click the layer you want to keep in the Layers palette and select Duplicate Layer. Then, instead of just hitting OK, select "New" as your document destination.

Photoshop will create a brand spankin' new document with just that layer.

If you need to copy more layers over, you can select multiple layers by SHIFT + clicking or CTRL + clicking in the Layers palette and repeating this process, only choosing your new document as the desination instead of creating a blank one.

Yeah, yeah. It may not seem too cool if you already knew how to do it, but it's a huge time saver for those that never noticed the options in the Duplicate Layer dialog box.

2. Stop Photoshop from Adding "Copy" to Every Duplicate Layer

While we're on the topic of duplicating layers, don't you find it irritating that after duplicating a layer a few times, you end up with a layer named "Layer 1 Copy 3283"?

You may not go that far, but it can still be annoying.

To tell Photoshop to stop adding "copy" onto everything, just click on the Layer palette Panel Options and uncheck "Add 'Copy' to Copied Layers and Groups". Voila!

3. Increase the Thumbnail Size in Photoshops Layers Palette

But wait, there's more! Within the Layers palette Panel Options, you'll also see a set of radio buttons that allow you to change the size of the thumbnails in the Layer palette. The default is pretty small, especially if you're on a larger monitor, so you might want to try one step up.

4. Improve the Usability of Your Layer Thumbnails

Don't leave yet! Under the Layers palette Panel Options, you'll also see radio buttons under Thumbnail Contents. The default is "Entire Document", and shows a thumbnail of your layer in relation to your entire canvas. This can make thumbnails useless if you have a 10px wide element in a 2000px wide document.

Switch this to "Layer Bounds" and the thumbnail will crop down to the contents of that particular layer, making the thumbnails much more useful.

5. Expand or Collapse New Layer Styles in the Layers Palette

Another thing that used to irk me about Photoshop was that whenever I had a document that used a lot of Photoshop Layer Styles, the Layers palette would quickly become cumbersome to use because all the Layer Styles would be expanded and take up all the space.

CS6 changed that and let you expand/collapse all the Layer Styles in the document at once by ALT + clicking the expand/collapse arrow, but you can also set this by default.

Simply uncheck the "Expand New Effects" checkbox in the Layers palette Panel Options, and when you add new Layer Styles to a layer, it will remain collapsed.

Everything I mentioned above has become a part of my daily workflow and increased my production tremendously. With thousands of hours put into Photoshop, every little time saving can add up.

What is the best trick to working with layers that you've encountered? Is there something you wish you could do with layers that you don't know how to do, or that doesn't exist yet?

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