If you’ve ever had to work with a Photoshop file someone else created, you may notice they have a much different way of organizing the layers than you do. If you have to make multiple changes, you may find their organization or lack thereof can really delay your progress.
Don’t be that person.
Working with layers can be great, but it can also be maddening, especially if you’re working with several layers. The good news is that Photoshop offers some great ways to stay organized so you can work efficiently. The two best organizational tools for me are layer names and grouping layers.
Take the time to label your layers. Chances are, you’re not going to remember what Shape 3 copy 5 is offhand, so labeling it “footer blue box” will ensure you don’t confuse it with “header red box”. If you’re like me, you create duplicate layers while working, then delete unneeded copies when you are complete. Labeling can also help remind you which layers to keep and which to delete. Sometimes I’ll even name a layer “footer blue box delete” so it’s there if I need it while I’m working, but I remember to delete it at the end since it is unnecessary.
Group layers. Maybe you didn’t feel up to committing to putting layers in a group, but it is an incredible time saver! Say you have an information box consisting of a headline, text, 2 photos, 2 photo captions, a bounding box and 2 photocorrection layers—that’s 9 layers that you probably won’t need to mess with much once you have completed them and 9 layers you are likely to have to move multiple times across your document. By grouping layers, you preserve the location of each facet and can easily minimize and mazimize the layers for editing. You can add or remove layers by dragging and dropping and by highlighting the group layer, you can move all at once.
I usually start by creating the first couple layers of the group, highlight the layers I want grouped, then click ctrl + G to group them. If I have one of the grouped layers highlighted, the next layer I add automatically gets added to the group, which makes it very easy to add to the group.
Another way this comes in handy is with my templates. If I am creating multiple designs on the same background or product, I can leave the constant layer ungrouped, then create new groups for each different design. This keeps a consistent look and makes it incredibly easy to create multiple designs in a short time frame.
Ungrouping layers is just as easy as grouping: click on the group and press Shift + crtl + G or just right click on the group and select Ungroup Layers.
Lastly, before I got into grouping, I always made a point of organizing my layers by where they appeared on my document. Header items were at the top of the layer list and footer items were at the bottom. This way, if I want to make a change, I know approximately where I can find the layer on my list.
By staying organized in Photoshop, you not only save yourself time, but if you need to send that file on to someone else, they can quickly pick up where you left making you more of a pleasure to work with.