Unlock Background Layer
To quickly unlock your “Background” layer simply Alt/Opt + double click the “Background” layer. Boom.
Adding a New Layer & Duplicating a Layer
You can quickly add a blank, new layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + N and the new layer will appear above the selected layer in the layers panel. I’ll scribble on the layer with the Brush tool and then hit Cmd/Ctrl + J to quickly duplicate that layer.
Delete a Layer (Hit the delete key)
I can quickly get rid of a layer by selecting it and hitting the “Delete” key. It’s just that easy.
Merge All Visible Layers to New Layer
When you have a stack of layers and you want to preserve the layers but get a copy of the “finished” image in one layer at the top of your layers panel, all you have to do is hit Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + E. You have just merged all layers to a new layer.
Selection Around Contents of Layer
You can load a selection around the contents around any layer you like by Cmd/Ctrl + clicking the layer thumbnail. I have this type layer here so I’m going to Cmd/Ctrl + click the “T” thumbnail that we have next to our type layer to load a selection around my text.
Select Layer From Stack With the Move Tool
When you have a ton of artwork and you can’t remember which piece of artwork is on which layer, you can grab the Move tool (V) and Cmd/Ctrl + click the artwork and that layer will be selected in the layers panel.
Search for Layers & More!
One of the cool features which is relatively new to Photoshop’s layers panel is the search function at the top of the layers panel. You can choose to search for a layer based on things like the name, the kind of layer it is, the colored label, and a bunch more!
Lock Transparent Pixels & Lock Image Pixels
Locking the transparent pixels of a layer allow you to manipulate the layer only on top of those pixels. Simply click the “Lock Transparent Pixels” icon near the top of the layers panel to prevent damage to any transparent areas of the image. I’ve locked the transparency of this badge layer and grabbed the Brush tool (B) and just painted to show exactly the effect.
The “Lock Position” icon is the brush icon near the top of the layers panel. When you turn this on it basically prevents you from any pixel editing and only allows you to move/transform the layer contents.
Change Layer Panel Thumbnail Size
To change the layer panel thumbnail size you can choose “Panel Options” from the fly out menu in the top right. You can choose any layer size that you like from the “Thumbnail Size” of this dialog box.
Layer Thumbnail Shape of Photoshop Document
You can change the layer thumbnails in the layers panel to outline either the artwork on that layer or the entire Photoshop document. Just like in the last tip, open the panel options and select one of the options from the “Thumbnail Contents” section of the dialog box.
You can link multiple layers together to ensure they all move together when you drag just one of them. Select multiple layers by Cmd/Ctrl and clicking the names of each layer that you want to link together. I’m going to link my badge layer to the text layer by selecting both layers and hitting the little chain link icon at the bottom of the layers panel to link them together.
A clipping mask allows you to prevent a layer from “flowing over” the edges of the layer it is clipped to. In this case I’m going to make the badge graphic a bit larger to almost cover the text and then I’ll hover between the badge layer and the text layer in the layers panel while holding down the Alt/Opt key. Click when you see the clip icon appear to clip the top layer to the layer beneath it. That is a clipping mask.