Grouping and Linking Layers in Photoshop

Grouping

About linking and grouping layers

In the layer palette, multiple layers can be selected at one time. On a Windows computer, hold down SHIFT while clicking on each layer you want to select. (On a Mac, COMMAND+click to select multiple layers.)

Linking

Layers can be linked together to form a relational bond between them which allows you to apply certain changes to all the grouped layers, like:

  • Moving all the linked layers at the same time
  • Expanding or contracting (transforming) all the linked layers at the same time

Linked layers can be identified by the little chain link icon beside each layer.

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Screenshot is from Photoshop CS5

The chain link can be toggled on or off by clicking on it.

Linked layers do not have to be sequential in the layers palette. For example, you could link layers 3, 9, 11, and 147 and it would not alter where they appear in the layers palette.

Linking works in both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

Grouping

Grouping is available in Photoshop.

Grouping layers provides you with the option of collapsing or expanding a little “folder” of layers in the layers palette. This is useful to reduce the number of layers visible in the layers palette list. (Collapsing a layer group does not make them invisible on the actual layout.) You can group individual layers or even group layers and other groups together. With groups, you can do things like:

  • Move all the grouped layers at the same time
  • Expand or contracting (transforming) all the grouped layers at the same time
  • Apply drop shadows to all the grouped layers at the same time
  • Apply other styles to all the grouped layers at the same time

Remember, layers stay grouped or linked until you ungroup or unlink them. That means that you can work on other parts of the layout and come back to the grouping later and it will still work. (However, if the layers selected aren’t grouped or linked, as soon as you click off of them, they will no longer be related to one another and changes won’t apply to all of them at the same time.)

Example

Let’s start with a template, like this one from The Daily Digi’s My Life In Print member exclusive kit:

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On a Windows computer, hold down SHIFT while clicking on each layer you want to select. I’m going to work on the smaller photo cluster on the right-hand side of the page.

You can see that the selected layers turn blue in the layers palette and the selection box on the layout expands to encompass all the selected layers.

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Select Layer+Group Layers or hold down CTRL+G to create a group. You can also click on the the little folder icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

OR

Right click on the layers and select “Link Layers” from the menu.

Once a group is made, all items in the group are listed under the Group heading (which can be changed to anything you want) and the group list can be expanded (shown below) or hidden from view. Hiding group layers is a handy way of simplifying the layer palette to make it easier to work and find what you need.

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Now that the layers are grouped, we can use the move tool (M) to move all the layers in the group at one time.

(For the screen shots below, “grouped layers” are shown, but the ability to move multiple layers is the same as if the layers were linked instead.)

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And that’s it! A handy tool to use, especially when you’re digi scrapping a page with many layers.