Why Take the Time to Organize?
I’m sure we’ve all had this experience at one time or another. We open a Photoshop document and it is a mix of Layer 1, Layer 2, etc. that are ungrouped and unnamed, even some are hidden. In frustration, you have to go through layer by layer to make sense of it. Together, as motivated graphic designers, we can break this cycle of layer chaos. It’s quick and easy to implement these layer organization good habits into your graphic design and photo editing work.
Today we are going to go through some tips so that your Photoshop file is more organized for whomever opens it. Even if you are the only one who is using the file, these organization tips will save you time and keep you productive.
Name Those Layers
To see your Layers Palette, go to Window > Layers or F7 if the palette is not open already. To make a new layer within your graphic design, go to the dropdown options on the right in your Layers Palette and choose New Layer. Or use the shortcut Shift+Ctrl+N (Win) / Shift+Command+N (Mac) to make a new layer and you have the option to name the layer in the dialog box. To rename the layer, simply double click on the default name.
Naming Considerations and Tips
It is a time investment upfront to label and group layers rather than just plugging along with the graphic design project. Sometimes we think and design so fast and want to make our ideas come to life that we don’t take the time to do that organization work upfront. The reason could be that we’d rather keep working on our fun project than doing a task like naming files. That’s my opinion anyway and I am certainly guilty of a little Photoshop disorganization from time-to-time myself.
This example shows how a web page layout can have a lot of layers! This shows just the top part of the header and how layering can easily get out of control if they are not named.
A little investment goes a long way. As soon as you get to a good point where you have your idea mapped out, go ahead and name those layers you’ve just worked on. That way you at least remember which layer was which. This will be helpful as you move through the project. You will be happy that you did later on, and it is a very good and easy habit to start.
I know some people wait until the very end to label their layers. In my opinion, this works better if you do not a lot of layers. For those complex projects, sometimes with 100 or more layers (a website layout typically), it is easier to take the time to do this as you work rather than sorting it all out later.
This group shows the different elements of the search bars. Layers were named so it is easy for the developer to know which graphic design element is which on the layers.
The best way to find layers later on is if they are named with something descriptive. Giving them a more logical name, rather than descriptive will help whoever is using the file later on. For example, if you are designing a contact form, you could name the text field something like “Address Input Field Background” rather than “Gray Rectangle”.
Grouping Your Layers
When an Adobe Photoshop document gets complex and has many layers, you will want to utilize Folders.
To create a new folder, click on the Folder icon at the bottom of your Layers Palette to create a new group.
Layer groups are a folder structure that you can place similar or related layers into. You can open the folder at any time to see the layers that are in there, and you can close the folder when you don’t need it. There is a triangle looking shape that you can chose to expand or hide the folder contents. This helps keep the layers palette shorter, which is a nice feature.
It is easy to scroll through the layers. Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key and the left and right bracket keys ( [ and ] ). The right bracket is used to scroll up, and the left bracket key scrolls down.
It is simple to move layers up and down by dragging them, but there’s also a faster way with a keyboard shortcut. To move a layer up , hold down your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and press the right bracket key ( ] ). To move a layer down hold down your Ctrl (Win) / Command (Mac) key and press the left bracket key ( [ ).
Also, there is an option to color code your layers and folders, which some graphic designers prefer.
We hoped you learned a few tips about layer organization and will use them in your next project. Using keyboard shortcuts will certainly improve your workflow. We covered a few here, but there is every shortcut you’d ever need listed on this Photoshop Shortcut chart.