How to Add an Image as a Layer in Photoshop

How do you open images as layers in Photoshop? You won’t get far into image manipulation or designing in Photoshop without needing to open multiple images on different layers. 

Hey there! I’m Cara. As a photographer myself, opening images on different layers is a regular part of my workflow.

Photoshop gives us a few options. Which one is right for you will depend on what you’re trying to do. Come along and I’ll show you the easiest methods for adding images as layers in Photoshop.

Quick note: screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Adobe Photoshop, if you’re using the Mac version, navigations will look slightly different.

How to Open Multiple Images as Layers in Photoshop: Load Files Into Stack

This method is useful when you’re starting a new project and you want to open all the images in one fell swoop. I’ve used this method when creating simple stop motion videos. It’s a lot quicker than opening 25 or 50 files individually!

The only hard part about this method is remembering where to find the command. Go to File in the menu bar, and hover over Scripts near the bottom of the menu. Choose Load Files Into Stack from the fly-out menu. 

In the box that opens, you can choose where to get the files from. Click the Use: box to select Files or Folder. Files will allow you to pick and choose individual images, Folder will bring in all the images in a selected folder. 

Click Browse to navigate to the images you want to open. Select the files and hit Open. The file names will appear in the box. 

Note: Photoshop will name each layer the filename. It can be helpful for organization purposes to rename your files before importing them. 

If you accidentally added a wrong file, select the file from the list and click Remove. If you need to align the layers, such as for an HDR image that you didn’t shoot with a tripod, check the Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images box. 

If you want a smart object, check the Create Smart Object after Loading Layers box. For our purposes, we’ll leave them both blank.

Once you’re happy with your selected files, hit OK. Photoshop will open each image on its own layer.

How to Add Images to New Layers in Photoshop: Place Embedded

What if you already have the project open and you need to add more images as layers? Then you’ll use the Place Embedded command. 

Go to File and choose Place Embedded from the menu.

Choose the file you want to add and click Place.

Photoshop will open this image as a new layer, but first, it will appear with the Transform tool active so you can adjust the size. Resize as needed and accept by hitting Enter or Return or clicking the checkmark at the top of the screen.

Notice that it also automatically converts the image to a smart object. Learn more about the benefits of smart objects here

However, if you want to make direct edits to the layer, it can’t be a smart object. Right-click on the layer and choose Rasterize Layer to convert it back to a normal layer.

Adding Individual Images as Layers in Photoshop

What if you already have your images open in Photoshop and you want to place one as a layer on top of another? 

Photoshop makes this simple. Open the image you want to place on a layer and select the Move tool from the toolbox on the left.

Click anywhere within the image and drag up to the tabbed files. Hover over the name of the file you want to add your image to. When the image appears, drag it down and you’ll see the cursor turn into a plus sign. 

Let go and your image will appear as a layer on top of the base image. Again, it will be placed with the Transform tool active so you can make the appropriate sizing changes. Hit Enter or Return to accept the changes. 

Easy as pie! Now you can easily combine images and make amazing creations in Photoshop. To learn more, check out more of our tutorials such as how to flip a layer for some stunning effects!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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