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How to Merge Layers in Photoshop

Published: 14/06/2021

In Photoshop, layers allow you to have a unique image editing experience by keeping all the different objects of your image separate from each other. However, sometimes you may want to combine the different layers of your project for multiple reasons. Learn how to merge layers in Photoshop using different techniques.

How to Merge Layers in Photoshop

Working on different layers in Photoshop offers various benefits. It keeps all your visual objects segregated from each other, and you can easily edit each element individually without disturbing the others. Yet, sometimes, you may not want to work on a multi-layered Photoshop project. This is where the feature of merging layers comes in handy.

Plus, merging layers keeps your layer stack organized and reduces the size of your file. There are various methods of merging layers in Photoshop. In this tutorial, we will give you a step-by-step tutorial of each of these methods so that you can easily combine layers when required. 

Merging Multiple Layers 

The simplest way to merge layers in Photoshop is to merge multiple layers together. This method takes the layers you select and combines them with each other. Once merged, any change you make to one component will manifest on all the merged components. 

There are essentially two different ways through which you can carry out this procedure. You can either use the menu bar or the layers panel. Both of these methods are elaborated below:

Through the Menu Bar

  1. If you are working on a multi-layer Photoshop project, and want to see all your layers at once, then you can see it on the Layers panel. So, firstly, make sure that the Layers Panel is visible on your Photoshop interface. If it’s not, then go to Window > Layers.
  2. Once your Layers Panel becomes visible, select the layers that you wish to merge together. To do this, press down the CTRL key and click on the layers you want to merge. Release the CTRL key once you have made all your selections.
  3. Now, go to the menu bar that is present at the top of your Photoshop interface.
  4. From the menu bar, click on ‘Layer.’ This will open up a drop-down menu for you.
  5. Select ‘Merge Layers’ from this menu to merge all your selected layers into one single layer.
Merging layers using the Menu Bar

Through the Layers Panel

  1. First, you have to ensure that you can see your Layers Panel on the bottom right side of your Photoshop workspace. If you cannot see the Layers Panel, then go to the menu bar and navigate to Window > Layers. You should now see the Layers Panel, displaying all your layers.
  2. Once your layers panel becomes visible, select the layers that you want to merge together. To make the selection, hold down the CTRL key and click on any number of layers you wish to merge at a time.
  3. Release the CTRL key once you have selected the required layers.
  4. Now, right-click on any of the selected layers. This will open a pop-up menu.
  5. From the menu, click on ‘Merge Layers.’ If your layers only consist of shapes, you will see the option ‘Merge Shapes.’
Merging layers using the Layers Panel
  1. Alternatively, you can use ‘CTRL + E’ to achieve the same result.

Merging Visible Layers

Another method merges layers depending on their visibility. In this procedure, you will not have to select the layers. Instead, you will have to hide them. To merge layers based on their visibility, follow these steps:

  1. In your layers panel, the visible layers are shown by an eyeball icon, while the hidden ones are shown by a black box icon. So, the first step is to hide those layers that you don’t want to merge. Make sure that only those layers remain visible that you want to merge together.

In order to hide the unrequired layers, all you have to do is click on the eyeball icon present beside them. As you click on the eyeball, it will turn into a black box, showing that this particular layer is not visible anymore.

Merging layers in an image using visible layers
  1. Now, only the visible layers will be the ones that you will merge. Right-click on any one of your visible layers. This will open a pop-up menu. From the menu, select ‘Merge Visible.’ 
Choosing the Merge Visible option in Photoshop
  1. At this point, you will see that all of your visible layers are merged into one, while the hidden layers stay put.
  2. Alternatively, you can also go to the menu bar and navigate to Layer > Merge Visible to achieve the same results.
Merging visible layers via the Menu Bar

Merging All Layers Into the Background Layer

If you don’t want to select or hide each of your layers one by one to merge them, then this method is the way to go for you. This is a quick procedure that results in all your layers merged into the background. You will not have to work on each of your layers individually. You only have to follow the steps below:

  1. Hover your cursor to the layers panel.
  2. Right-click on any of the layers present there. This will open up a menu for you.
  3. Now, from the menu, click on ‘Flatten Image.’
Merging layers by using the Flatten Image option

Now you will see that all of your layers are merged into your background layer. However, this method of merging layers does not allow you to have much layer control.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Merging Layers in Photoshop Is Good For Your Project?

Merging layers in Photoshop is good for your project in several ways. It keeps your layers well-organized, and your layer panels look clean. As a result, your Photoshop workflow greatly improves productivity and efficiency. Moreover, when you merge the layers, your file size reduces considerably.

Are There Any Downsides to Merging Layers in Photoshop?

Yes, there are some downsides to merging layers in Photoshop. Although it is an easy way to organize your project and reduce your project size, it also makes you lose control over your individual layers. Once you merge multiple or all layers into one, you can no longer make changes to your individual components.

What if I Don't Want to Merge My Layers?

If you don’t want to merge your layers in Photoshop, then don’t worry. Thankfully, Photoshop offers several alternatives to merging layers that allow you to organize your layers without having to lose control over individual objects. Following are all the Photoshop features that you can utilize instead of merging layers:

  • Groups: This is the most basic tool for layer organization in Photoshop. It creates ‘groups’ and then stores a series of layers within. Groups in photoshop work just like folders on your computer. Where folders store the files, groups store layers. You can hide these groups the same way you hide layers when not in use.
  • Linked Layers: This is the second option available for you if you don’t want to merge your layers. It links multiple layers together so that they move together but can be edited individually.
  • Smart Objects: You can think of smart objects as merged layers with a backup. They do combine multiple layers, but they also retain your access to individual layers. As a result, you are able to edit individual components even after the layers are merged.

What Is the Difference Between Flattening and Merging Layers in Photoshop?

The difference between flattening the image and merging layers is that flattening will merge all your layers into the background layer, whereas merging layers will only combine the layers you select into one.

Conclusion

Learning the different techniques of merging layers in Photoshop is essential. It helps you out by keeping your project more organized and smaller in size. Thus, with merging layers, you can have a more manageable project at your hands, making you have a more efficient and productive workflow.

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