Duplicate a layer within an image

You can duplicate any layer, including the Background layer, within an image.

  • Select one or more layers in the Layers panel, and do one of the following to duplicate it:
    • To duplicate and rename the layer, choose Layer > Duplicate Layer, or choose Duplicate Layer from the Layers panel More menu. Name the duplicate layer, and click OK.

    • To duplicate without naming, select the layer and drag it to the New Layer button in the Layers panel.

    • Right-click the layer name or thumbnail, and choose Duplicate Layer.

Duplicate one or more layers in another image

You can take any layer, including the Background layer, from one image and duplicate it in another. Keep in mind that the pixel dimensions of the destination image determine how large the printed copy of the duplicated layer can be. Also, if the pixel dimensions of the two images are not the same, the duplicated layer may appear smaller or larger than you’d expect.

  1. Open the source image. If you plan to copy a layer to an existing image rather than a new one, open the destination image as well.
  2. In the source document’s Layers panel, select the name of the layer or layers you want to duplicate. To select more than one layer, hold down the Ctrl key (Command key in Mac OS) and click each layer’s name.
  3. Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer, or choose Duplicate Layer from the More menu in the Layers panel.
  4. Type a name for the duplicate layer in the Duplicate Layer dialog box, and choose a destination document for the layer, and then click OK:
    • To duplicate the layer in an existing image, choose a filename from the Document pop‑up menu.

    • To create a new document for the layer, choose New from the Document menu, and enter a name for the new file. An image created by duplicating a layer has no background.

Copy a layer from one image to another

You can copy any layer, including the Background layer, from one image to another. Keep in mind that the resolution of the destination image determines how large the printed copy of the layer can be. Also, if the pixel dimensions of the two images are not the same, the copied layer may appear smaller or larger than you’d expect.

  1. Open the two images you want to use.
  2. In the Layers panel of the source image, select the layer that you want to copy.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Choose Select > All to select all of the pixels in the layer, and choose Edit > Copy. Then make the destination image active, and choose Edit > Paste.

    • Drag the layer’s name from the Layers panel of the source image into the destination image.

    • Use the Move tool (Select section of the toolbox), to drag the layer from the source image to the destination image.

      The copied layer appears in the destination image, above the active layer in the Layers panel. If the layer you’re dragging is larger than the destination image, only part of the layer is visible. You can use the Move tool to drag other sections of the layer into view.

    Note:

    Hold down Shift as you drag a layer to copy it to the same position it occupied in the source image (if the source and destination images have the same pixel dimensions) or to the center of the destination image (if the source and destination images have different pixel dimensions).

Copy a layer
Dragging the bamboo layer to another image

Move the content in a layer

Layers are like stacked images on panes of glass. You can “slide” a layer in a stack to change what portion of its content is visible in relation to the layers above and below.

  1. To move multiple layers at the same time, link the layers together in the Layers panel by selecting the layers and then clicking the Link Layer icon of any one layer.
  2. From the Select section of the Tools panel, select the Move tool.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • Drag within the image to slide the selected layer or layers to the desired position.

    • Press the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the layer or layers in 1‑pixel increments, or press Shift and an arrow key to move the layer in 10‑pixel increments.

    • Hold down Shift as you drag to move the layer or layers directly up or down, directly to either side, or on a 45° diagonal.

Change the stacking order of layers

The stacking order determines whether a layer appears in front of or behind other layers.

By default, the Background layer must remain at the bottom of the stack. To move the Background layer, you need to convert it into a regular layer first.

Change layer stacking order
Dragging a layer below another layer changes the stacking order

  1. In the Layers panel, select one or more layers. To select more than one layer, hold down the Ctrl key and click each layer.
  2. To change the stacking order, do one of the following:
    • Drag the layer or layers up or down the Layers panel to the new position.

    • Choose Layer > Arrange, and then choose Bring To Front, Bring Forward, Send Backward, or Send To Back.

When layers are linked, you can move their contents together. You can also copy, paste, merge, and apply transformations to all linked layers simultaneously. At some point, you may want to edit or move one linked layer. You can simply unlink the layers to work on one layer at a time

  1. To link layers, do one of the following:
    • With one layer selected, click the link icon of another layer.

    • Select the layers you would like to link. To select more than one layer, hold down Ctrl (Command in Mac OS) and click the layers you want to select. Click the link icon of any one layer.

    • With multiple layers selected, right-click and select the Link Layers option.

  2. To unlink layers, do one of the following:
    • To unlink one layer, click the link icon of a layer.

    • To unlink multiple layers, select more than one layer, right-click and select the Unlink Layers option.

Merge layers

Layers can greatly increase the file size of an image. Merging layers in an image reduces file size. You should merge layers only after you have finished manipulating them to create the image you want.

Merge layers
Example of merging

You can choose to merge only the linked layers, only the visible layers, only a layer with the layer below it, or only selected layers. You can also merge the contents of all visible layers into a selected layer, yet not delete the other visible layers (in this case, there is no reduction in file size).

When you complete work on an image, you can flatten it. Flattening merges all visible layers, discards all hidden layers, and fills transparent areas with white.

  1. Go to the Layers panel and make sure that an eye icon appears (not crossed) next to each of the layers you want to merge.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To merge selected layers, select more than one layer by holding down the Ctrl key (Command key in Mac OS) and clicking each layer. Right-click and choose Merge Layers.

    • To merge a layer with the one below, select the top layer of the pair and choose Merge Down from either the Layer menu or the Layers panel flyout menu.

    Note:

    If the bottom layer in the pair is a shape, type, or fill layer, you must simplify the layer. If the bottom layer in the pair is an adjustment layer, you can’t choose Merge Down.

    • To merge all visible layers, hide any layers you don’t want to merge and choose Merge Visible from the Layer menu or Layers panel flyout menu.
    • To merge all visible linked layers, select one of the linked layers and choose Merge Linked from the Layer menu or Layers panel flyout menu.

    Note:

    If the bottom-most merged layer is a type, shape, solid color fill, gradient fill, or pattern fill layer, you must first simplify the layer.

Merge layers into another layer

Use this procedure when you want to keep the layers you are merging intact. The result is a new merged layer plus all the original layers.

  1. Click the eye icon next to layers you don’t want to merge (the icon appears with a line across it), and make sure that the eye icon is visible (not crossed) for the layers you do want to merge..
  2. Specify a layer in which to merge all visible layers. You can either create a new layer in which to merge or select an existing layer in the Layers panel.
  3. Hold down Alt (Option in Mac OS), and choose Merge Visible from either the Layers menu or the Layers panel More menu. Photoshop Elements merges a copy of all visible layers into the selected layer.

Flatten an image

When you flatten an image, Photoshop Elements merges all visible layers into the background, greatly reducing the file size. Flattening an image discards all hidden layers, and fills any transparent areas with white. In most cases, you won’t want to flatten a file until you’ve finished editing individual layers.

  1. Make sure that the layers you want to keep in your image are visible.
  2. Choose Flatten Image from either the Layer menu or the Layers panel More menu.

    Note:

    You can see the difference between your image’s layered file size and its flattened file size by choosing Document Sizes from the status bar pop‑up menu at the bottom of the image window.

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