Photoshop’s layers are awesome! They simplify the process of adding different elements and effects to images and designs.
Hey there, I’m Cara. As a photographer, I use Photoshop frequently to refine my images and I can’t think of a single instance in which I don’t use at least a handful of layers. Thus, it’s super important to know how to work with layers.
To speed up your workflow, you may find that you need to select multiple or all layers at once. Let me show you how to do it!
Note: the screenshots below are taken from the Windows version of Adobe Photoshop, if you’re using the Mac version, the navigations may look slightly different.
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Select Multiple Layers in Photoshop
There is more than one way to select multiple layers in Photoshop. Which method you use will depend on what you are trying to accomplish.
To demonstrate, let’s look at this product image I created of this photo jewelry. As you can see, there are several layers in this project.
Select Layers with Shortcut Keys
Let’s start with the simplest method. To select several layers in a row, click the first layer, hold the Shift key, and click the last layer. This will select all the layers positioned between the two layers.
What if you want to select multiple layers that are not contiguous (next to each other)? Hold Ctrl or Command and click each of the layers you want to select.
Select Layers with the Move Tool (Auto-Select On)
Digging through the list of layers might be tedious. Plus, if you didn’t name them well, it can be difficult to find the layer you want. You can click on layers in the image instead to select them. Let’s look at how to do that.
Activate the Move tool by clicking on the crosshairs icon at the top of your toolbox on the left side of the screen.
Enable Auto-Select by checking the box, then make sure the dropdown window is set to layer. Now you can click on the image where the layer is positioned to select it. To select multiple layers like this, hold down the Shift key while clicking.
Each set of earrings is on its own layer. However, because I held down Shift while clicking, Photoshop selects both layers as you can see in the layers panel.
You can also click and drag over the layers you want to select. This method is a little more cumbersome but can be helpful if all the layers you want to select are in a row.
If you don’t want a particular layer to be auto-selected, lock the layer in the layers panel. Do this by selecting the layer you want to lock, then click the padlock icon at the top of the Layers panel.
Notice Photoshop selected all the layers except the locked one, which is indicated by the padlock on the right side of the layer.
Select Layers with the Move Tool (Auto-Select Off)
There’s another handy way to select layers with the Move tool active. Again, select the Move tool from the toolbox on the left.
Right-click in the image over the layer you want to select. You’ll get a dropdown menu listing the layers close to where you clicked. Then you can select the layer you want. This is helpful when you have small layers or overlapping layers that are difficult to isolate.
Hold down Shift when clicking to select multiple layers.
Select All Layers At Once in Photoshop
What if you want to select all the layers at once? In a large project, you might have to scroll up or down a bit to get from the first layer to the last one.
Select All Layers with Shortcut Keys
If you need to select all the layers, this method is a time saver. Hit Ctrl + Alt + A or Command + Option + A on the keyboard. This will select all the visible layers except the background layer because it is locked.
If you want to include the background layer, unlock it by clicking the icon that looks like a padlock on the right side of the layer. Or you can select all the layers, hold the Ctrl or Command key, and click the background layer. This is handy when you don’t want to unlock it.
If you want to exclude any of the layers, hold Ctrl or Command after selecting all the layers and click to deselect the ones you don’t want.
What if you don’t remember the shortcut keys to select all the layers? No problem! Just head to the Select menu in the menu bar. Choose All Layers and Photoshop will select them all. Boom!
Play around with this a little. You’ll quickly realize how being able to work with multiple layers at once can speed up your workflow considerably.
Interested to learn more about the wonders of Photoshop? Check out more of our tutorials, such as how to flip a layer!About Cara Koch