Work with layers in Photoshop on the iPad

Learn the basics of working with layers in Photoshop on the iPad.

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Work with layers 

Layers contain the images, fonts, and objects that make up a layered file. Layers enable you to move, edit, and work with content on one layer without affecting the content within your other layers. Use layers to perform tasks such as compositing multiple images, adding text to an image, and applying filters and adjustments.

Layers are arranged in a stack and can be viewed by tapping either the compact or detailed layer view from the taskbar in the workspace.

Create stunning composites

Layer views

You can choose to view the layers in your document and other layer information from the taskbar. The available layer view options are compact, detailed, or hidden layer view.

Compact layer view

Compact layers view

Tap  from the taskbar to view layer thumbnails only. Swipe left on a thumbnail to see applied mask, if one has been applied to the layer.

Detailed layer view

Tap  from the taskbar to view layer names, visibility, and thumbnails of the layer and applied mask, if one has been applied to the layer.

Compact layers view

Hidden layer view

Deselect the compact layer view and detail layer view to hide both layer views from the canvas.

View generative variations in the Properties panel

Introduced in Photoshop on the iPad 5.0 (September 2023 release)

Choose from variations of an image previously created using Generative Fill on Photoshop desktop or the web in Photoshop on the iPad and experiment to create AI-generated variations of objects, effects, or even patterns.

Select the Generative Fill layer in your PSD file, go to Layer properties, and navigate to Generative to select your preferred option from the Variations panel. 

Anything is possible with generative layer variations--- try it to see what you can create on Photoshop desktop and the web.

Layer properties

Tap   from the taskbar to access layer properties:

Thumbnail: Displays the layer thumbnail and name.

Blending options: You can create various special effects using blending options — Opacity and Blend mode.

  • Opacity: Use the Opacity slider to adjust the overall opacity level of a layer. Opacity determines to what degree the selected layer is obscured or revealed. A layer with 1% opacity appears nearly transparent, whereas one with 100% opacity appears opaque. To learn more about how opacity works in Photoshop, see Layer opacity and blending.
  • Blend mode: A layer’s blending mode determines how its pixels blend with underlying pixels in the image. You can choose from a list of special effects using blending modes available in the drop-down list. To learn more about blending options in Photoshop, see Blending modes.
Layer properties

Add clipped adjustment:  Adds a clipped adjustment layer to the current layer — Brightness/Contrast, Black and white, Color balance, Curves, Exposure, Hue/Saturation, Levels, and Vibrance.

Effects: This feature is not supported on iPad yet. Adobe is working to add more Photoshop capabilities and workflows that can be used while on your iPad, in future releases.

Smart filters: This feature is not supported on iPad yet. Adobe is working to add more Photoshop capabilities and workflows that can be used while on your iPad, in future releases.

Dimensions: Displays the dimensions of the current layer bounds.

Add and name a layer

Tap  from the taskbar, to add a new layer. The new layer is inserted above the currently selected layer. To name or rename a layer, open the detailed layer () view. Double tap the layer name to bring up the Rename layer dialog. Type a name for the layer and tap Rename to confirm the name.

You can also long press  to bring up additional layer options — New layer, Adjustment layer, New empty group, and Paste as new layer.

Layer visibility

You can choose to show or hide the contents of a particular layer with the layer visibility () option available in the taskbar. Tap  from the taskbar, or from the detailed layer view to hide the contents of a selected layer. Tap again to view the contents of that layer. 

Layer mask

You can add a mask to a layer to show parts of the layer and hide others by tapping on the layer mask () icon. In the areas where the layer is masked (hidden), the layers below are visible. Masking layers is a valuable compositing technique for combining multiple photos into a single image or for removing a person or object from a photo.

You can edit a layer mask to add or subtract from the masked region. Areas you paint in black on the mask, hides those areas of the layer while areas you paint white on the mask are visible. For areas you paint on the mask in shades of gray, the layer appears in various levels of transparency.

Tap the mask visibility () icon to temporarily make the mask invisible, so that you can see the entire layer without the mask applied. 

By default, a layer or group is linked to its layer mask. To break the link between a layer and a mask, tap (). This allows you to move the layer image and the mask independent of one another.

Clipping mask

A clipping mask allows you to use the content of one layer to mask the layers above it. The masking is determined by the content of the bottom or base layer. The non-transparent content of the base layer clips (reveals) the content of the layers above it in the clipping mask. All other content in the clipped layer is masked out. When the layer to be clipped is selected, tap the clipping mask () icon and the layer below it is used to clip the layer. More layers can be placed on top and clipped to the same shape.

The top layer is the layer to be clipped. The middle layer determines what is clipped. The bottom layer is the lower layer that shows through when the top layer is clipped.

Add a clipping mask in Photoshop on the iPad
Add a clipping mask in Photoshop on the iPad

Filters and adjustments

Tap  from the taskbar to bring up the Filters and adjustments panel.

Gaussian blur: Applies the selected amount (from .1 to 1000) of Gaussian blur to a layer.

Invert: Inverts the contents of the layer.

Liquify: Corrects and modifies images and clears distortions.

Liquify now available in Filters and adjustments in Ps-iPad

Liquify now available on iPad

Introduced in Photoshop on the iPad 4.8 (July 2023 release)

Use the Liquify   filter on the iPad to correct and modify images, clear distortions, and create cool artistic effects. 

You can warp, smooth, twirl, pucker, or bloat the pixels of your image by adjusting the size of the brush and make subtle or drastic edits. 

Liquify filter is now available on the iPad
Liquify filter is now available on the iPad


Liquify filter has been disabled for text layers, smart objects, Layers (size more that 8192 X 8192 pixels), mask, and color modes including Grayscale, Lab color, RGB (16 Bits and 32 Bits), CMYK (16 Bits and 32 Bits). 

Add Stroke and Drop shadow layer effects

Introduced in Photoshop for the iPad 4.7 (June 2023 release)

Add Stroke or Drop shadow effects to a layer by navigating to Layer properties > Effects > Add layer effect.

Add layer effects using Ps-iPad

Your designated layer will be marked with the   icon, and you'll be able to make adjustments for different sliders, such as Blend modeOpacitySize, Distance, Spread, Size, and Position.

Drop shadow effects using Ps-iPad

You can also use the Layer effect actions three-dot icon to hide or delete actions or reset to default.

Use the three-dot icon in Layer effect actions to hide or delete actions or reset to default

Layer actions

Tap  from the taskbar to bring up the Layer actions panel.

Lock layer: Locks the layer so it can’t be edited.

Delete layer: Deletes the active layer.

Rename layer: Renames the active layer.

Add clipped adjustment: Adds a clipped adjustment layer to the selected layer.

Add layer effects: Adds Stroke or Drop shadow layer effects to a layer

Begin multi-select mode: Allows you to select multiple layers.

Duplicate layer: Duplicates the active layer.

Copy layer: Allows you to copy a selection or layer to be pasted.

Select all: Selects all contents of the active layer.

Load as selection: Selects all the nontransparent areas on a layer, or if a layer mask exists all the unmasked areas. Selecting these areas is useful when you want to select text or image content that is surrounded by or contains transparent areas or to create a selection that excludes masked areas on a layer.

Convert to smart object: Transforms operations on a layer—Scale and Rotate, Skew, Distort, and Perspective—without losing original image data or quality because these transformations don't affect the original image data.

Flatten layer
: Brings all layers of a multi-layered document to one plane.

Merge downMerges the active layer with the layer below it.

Merge visibleMerges all visible layers into the active layer.

Layer actions panel in Photoshop on the iPad
Layer actions panel in Photoshop on the iPad

Auto-select the preferred layer straight from the canvas

Select your preferred layer or bounding box directly on the canvas without navigating to its thumbnail view on the taskbar. Or, once selected, tap outside the transform bounding box and move the layer.

You can also add text to images, apply filters, and make adjustments without slowing down your workflow. 

This feature is enabled by default but can be disabled from the Move tool settings. Toggle between Individual Layer and Group to work with either individual or group layers. 

Manage your layers

Select multiple layers

You can select multiple layers to work with. Select the compact layer view or the detailed layer view, and tap the layer actions () icon. Select Begin multi-select mode from the layer actions panel that opens. In the Select layer mode, checkboxes appear next to each layer thumbnail in the layer view. Tap only those checkboxes that are next to layer thumbnails you want to select. Tap Done in the Select layer mode, or Cancel to exit selection.

Group and ungroup layers

You can select multiple layers that you want to group as described above. Tap the folder icon () to group the layers together. To ungroup layers, do the following:

  1. Select the grouped layer.
  2. Tap the three dots icon () on the taskbar .
  3. Tap the open folder () icon to ungroup layers. 

Reorder layers

To reorder a layer, long-press the thumbnail of the layer you want to move and then move it to the desired location in the layer stack. 


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