Layer Groups in
Photoshop Elements

Layer Groups are a useful new feature added to Photoshop Elements 15. Lets take a look at what they are and how they work.

Be sure to download the Layer Groups Cheat Sheet that you can print out and use as a quick reference when using PSE.

It lists what you can use Layer Groups for and how to perform the basic functions. All on a one page PDF that you can have in front of you to guide you when using Layer Groups.

Be sure to grab it now:




Click on the video below to see a detailed demonstration of using Layer Groups in Photoshop Elements.

Under the video is an illustrated guide explaining what Layer Groups are and how to use them.













Using Layer Groups In Photoshop Elements

As shown in the video above I created a fake ad in Photoshop Elements that has lots of Layers to help show how you can get the benefits of using Layer Groups.

Layer Groups are similar to the folder concept used to organize files on a computer. In this case Layer Groups are the "folders" and individual Layers are the "files".

To create a new Layer Group you click on the "Create a New Group" icon located at the top of the Layers panel.

The Create a New Group icon is at the top of the Layers panel.

Once you click that icon a new Layer Group appears in the Layers Panel right above whichever Layer was active before you clicked on the icon.

A Layer Group has been added to the Layers Panel.

Once you add a Layer Group to the Layers panel you can drag any Layers that you want to be part of a group on top of the Layer Group and they will be nested inside of the Layers Group.

This is similar to adding files to a folder on your computer.

If you know which Layers you want to be in a group before you add a Layer Group, there's a quicker way than described above. Here's how:

First select any Layer that you want to be in a group by clicking on the Layers in the Layers panel.

Once you have the Layers that you want selected click on the "Create a New Group" icon.

After selecting the Layers you want to group together click on the "Create a New Group" icon.

Now all of the selected Layers are placed inside of the new Layer Group.

There's a tiny black arrow located next to the thumbnail of the Layer Group. You can click on that arrow to expand the Layer Group to see the Layers inside.

Click on the tiny black arrow to expand the Layer Group.

With the Layer Group expanded we can see that all the Layers that we selected before clicking the "Create a New Group" icon are nested inside the Layer Group.

With the Layer Group expanded we see all the Layers inside the group.

To collapse a Layer Group you do it the same way as expanding it, you click the tiny black arrow again.

You can tell that the Layer Group is collapsed because the black arrow is facing right instead of down.

Now that you know the basics of creating Layer Groups most of the other operations work exactly like ordinary Layers.

The only difference (and it's a big one) is that you can do the thing to several Layers at a time instead of one at a time.

I briefly highlight some of those operations below:




Some Common Operations You Can Do . . .

In the ad that I created for this tutorial I made a group out of seven individual Layers. They consist of six shapes and a light gray background.

In the screen shot below the seven Layers (before I put them into a Layer Group) are at the top of the Layers panel (red border).

I also put a red border around what those seven Layers look like in the Active Image Area.

I'll use that group to illustrate the following examples.




SHOW AND HIDE VISIBILITY

To show and hide the visibility of a Layer Group you click on its Eye.


When the Eye is clicked "off" the visibility of all the Layers in the Group is hidden in the Active Image Area.


When the Eye is clicked "on" the visibility of all the Layers in the Group is shown in the Active Image Area.




RENAME THE GROUP

The default name of the Layer Group is "Group 1" for the first group you create, "Group 2" for the second group, etc.

You can rename the Layer Groups by double-clicking on the name in the Layers panel to highlight the text. Then type whatever name you want to give it and press enter or return.

For my example I renamed Group 1 to Shapes.




MOVE THE GROUP

You can move the Group by first clicking on it in the Layers panel to select it. Then use the Move tool to click-and-drag it where you want.




FREE TRANSFORM THE GROUP

Make sure that the Group is selected in the Layers panel. Then press Command-T on a Mac or Control-T on a PC and the Free Transform box appears around the Group.

You can use the Free Transform box to:

  • Resize the Group by dragging on any of the eight handles
  • Rotate the Group by placing the cursor outside the box and  when you see it change to a curved arrow click-and-drag

Once you have it how you want it click the green check to accept.




ADD A LAYER MASK TO THE GROUP

Make sure that the Group is selected in the Layers panel. Then click on the "Add a Mask" icon located at the top of the Layers panel.

A Layer mask thumbnail will appear next to the thumbnail of the Layer Group in the Layers panel.


To demonstrate lets pretend we want to hide the right side of our Shapes Group.

We could make a selection around the area that we want to hide by using the Rectangular Marquee tool.

Then go up to the Edit menu and choose Fill Selection.... In the Fill Selection dialog box choose "Black".

Now we see black on that part of the Layer Mask in the Layers panel and that area of the Group is hidden over in the Active Image Area.




CHANGE THE OPACITY OF THE GROUP

Make sure that the Group is selected in the Layers panel. Then drag to the left on the word "Opacity" located at the top of the Layers panel.

You can see the opacity change accordingly on the Group over in the
Active Image Area.




Those are some of the main ways that you can use Layer Groups to make a change once and have it affect several Layers at once.

Play around with this and I think you'll see how useful Layer Groups can be.

Be sure to download the Layer Groups Cheat Sheet that you can print out and use as a quick reference when using PSE:

That completes this lesson on how to use the Layer Groups feature in Photoshop Elements.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!







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