What are the Advantages of Layers?

Layers are a life saver. Sometimes your files can get complex and it helps to work on certain areas in isolation.

The advantages of layers in Adobe CC applications is it allows you to edit easily without affecting all aspects of your file / document.

It’s hard to wrap your head around layers if it is a new concept to you. I like to think of it like a sandwich. The more you stack into your sandwich, the more layers you have. Let’s look at how it works and how you benefit.

What is a layer?

A layer is one or more components in your file separate to any others. If you think of it like a sandwich. Each different component has its own layer.
Bread: Layer 1
Cheese: Layer 2
Bologne : Layer 3

And so on, but also that mayonaise might be also included in your bread layer.

You can have as many layers as you wish. You can just keep ‘Adding’ to your layers panel.

Then either place from a file or copy and paste into your document.

By creating a document with layers it means you have more control of the final outcome of your file.
The most important thing to remember is which layer you are currently working on. You may be trying to move an object or change a typeface or text and can’t seem to select it. This is because you are on the wrong layer.

Before you do each step, side eye your Layer Panel and make sure the correct layer is selected. It’s is the one that is highlighted. If you are having difficulty with this I advise that you turn off or hide layers that you are not using. But sometimes this is not possible because you need to see what effect your changes are having on the other layers.

Moving : Hiding : Merging

Layers are a feature within most Adobe CC applications. It’s probably most commonly used in Photoshop but comes in handy in Illustrator and InDesign.

Let’s look at Photoshop advantages first.
Every file you open in Photoshop will display the file / image as Background in your Layers Panel. This is named Background and is generally a locked layer.

Your background Layer is your Safe Layer. Firstly copy your Background and paste. The cool thing about Photoshop Layers is that every time you paste, it generates a New Layer. You can then either hide your Background, (just in case you need to refer back to it) or delete it and Save As.

Each Layer that you generate is independent of another. Any changes you make will only apply to the layer highlighted.
This can take a while to get used to. You think you are working on one item and you have the wrong Layer Selected.

My advice is to use an additional layer advantage and hide everything except the one you are working on.
You can do this by clicking on the ‘Eye Icon’ to the left of the Layer Name in the Layer Panel.

You can select multiple layers but they must all be beside each other in the panel. Click and hold Shift. You can also move a layer.

Thinking back to your Sandwich Image, you now want your Cheese Layer to be on top of your Bread layer (for example)

Just Click and Hold your layer in the Layer Panel and move it either up or down. You can also move multi layers by holding Shift for multi selection.

Another advantage is the merge tool. You may find that you are finished with a couple of layers, or that they have similar elements that can be paired together.

In the top right there is a hamburger. Right click on this. In this menu there are a couple of options towards the end.

Merge Down
The layer you are clicked on will merge with the one below and become one layer

Merge Layers
If several layers are selected these will merge to become one

Merge Visible
All layers that have the ‘Eye Icon’ visible will merge to become one layer.

InDesign Layers
Layers can also be used in InDesign. I find I use them less so in this application if the file is large. (Multi Page)
If you want certain items on every page it is easier to do this on your Master Pages. Titles, headers, footers, page numbers.

However, if you are creating a flyer or poster that has a lot of different elements, it is a good idea to utilise your layers panel.

When Exporting your InDesign file for Print you can decide which layers (or all layers) you need to export.

Illustrator Layers
Illustrator layers are a mix of Photoshop and InDesign.
Illustrator is a single document artboard as is Photoshop. However, I find that if you have a Vector or Graphic that you use a lot but change certain items or text on, Illustrator layers come in very handy.
When you save your file it will only save what is visible. So you can have the one file will multi us by toggling on and off the layers.

Not Using Layers

Of course you don’t have to use layers. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet and are still using the one layer there are some things you need to watch for.
As I say in Photoshop you are pretty much forced in to it. I think this is a good thing. Every time you paste an item it generates a new layer.

You can keep an eye on each layer and not have to worry about your file being a flat image.
However, when you are Saving your Photoshop file you need to Save in a specific way.

If you File – Save As / Save a Copy as a JPG/ PNG/ PDF / GIF, all of these formats will flatten your Image.
So ensure that you first save your file as a .PSD or you won’t be able to make any further layer changes.

Not using InDesign layers is not going to affect your file output greatly. You will always save your original InDesign File in an INDD format and then generally Export it as a different format.

In Illustrator your layers will remain even if you save your document / file as a PDF / EPS.

All items will still be available as individual elements when you reopen the file.

Layers are very beneficial. As you use them more and more you can utilise how each layer can become its own identity. You can add colour and opacity to individual files to create more interesting images within your file. Don’t be afraid to play around with different aspects of the applications.
As long as you have your Original File you can’t go wrong.

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Why can’t I type in Photoshop?

Which Adobe should I learn first?

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on PurpleHotKeys.com

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