Keeping your layers organized is key. Here’s how to merge layers in Photoshop.
Photoshop works with layers. Layers are crucial because they allow you to follow a non-destructive approach to photo editing. They are helpful because they let you hide or remove edits with a simple click. At some point, you will need to merge all the layers to export the file. You might want to print your photo or share it on social media. Merging layers is not hard, but you have to know what you are doing or risk losing your work.
Let’s see how to merge layers in Photoshop in a few simple steps.
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How to Merge Layers in Photoshop Step-by-Step
There are three different methods to merge layers in Photoshop. We are going to use the latest version of Photoshop. Make sure you use the most appropriate method based on what you want to obtain.
Read to the end to learn a hidden method to merge all layers in Photoshop.
Method 1: Merge Layers
It’s time to finalize your post-processing and send it to the printer. Let’s see the first method for merging layers in Photoshop.
Step 1: Open the Layer Panel
If you haven’t already, open the Layer Panel from the top menu bar.
Go to Window > Layers or press F7 on your keyboard.
You will see the Layers panel at the bottom right corner of the Photoshop window.
Step 2: Select Layers
Select all the layers you want to merge by left-clicking on the top layer.
Press and hold Shift on your keyboard, and left-click on the Background layer at the bottom of the list.
Step 3: Merge Layers in Photo
You can now right-click on the selected layers, and when the menu opens, click on Merge Layers.
If you are anything like me, you like to use keyboard shortcuts, press Ctrl + E (Windows) or Cmd + E (Mac). All the selected layers will merge into one.
Method 2: Merge Visible Layers in Photoshop
This time we are going to take a different approach. For some reason, you want to hide but not remove some of the layers you have created. At the same time, you need to reduce the file size. In this case, ‘Merge Visible’ comes to the rescue.
Step 1: Showing the Layers Panel
This step is the same as method 1. Press F7 to show the Layers panel. Otherwise, go to Window > Layers.
Step 2: Hide Layers
Left-click on the eye icon to hide the layers you don’t want to merge. Click again to make it visible.
Step 3: Merging Visible Layers
Right-click on one of the visible layers. From the opening menu, select Merge Visible. As you can see, Merge Layers is disabled.
After you click on Merge Visible, Photoshop will merge the visible layers into one, leaving the hidden layers intact.
Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Shift + E (Windows), Cmd + Shift + E (Mac)
Method 3: Flatten Image
This method is useful if you need to reduce the file size. The flattening tool merges all layers into one and removes all hidden layers.
Since it causes you to lose all the layers, use it only if you are sure it’s what you need. Once you save and close the document, there is no way to regain all the separate layers you had.
Step 1: Flatten Layers
Right-click on any of the layers in the list and select Flatten Image from the menu.
Step 2: Confirm
If you have hidden layers, a popup window will ask you to confirm you want to remove them.
If you don’t have hidden layers, Photoshop will proceed without asking you to confirm.
Secret Method: Merge All Layers
This method is the best way to merge layers, and I always use it. You’ll see why in a moment. The interesting thing about it is that it’s only available via a keyboard shortcut.
It’s useful because it allows you to keep all your existing layers and merge them as a copy into a new layer. In my post-processing workflow, I use it to keep a separate copy of my original photo, the edit layers, and the final image.
Related: How to Crop an Image in Photoshop
Step 1: Start From the Top Layer
When creating a new layer in Photoshop, it appears in the layers panel on top of the current layer. You will want your merged layers to be at the top of the layer list. So, you must select the top layer in the layers panel.
Step 2: Merge Copy of All Layers onto a New Layer
Now use the secret shortcut to merge all the layers into a new one as a copy.
Secret keyboard shortcut: Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E (Windows) or Shift + Cmd + Option + E (Mac)
If you now look at the Layers panel, you will now see a new layer at the top of all the original layers. This new layer is a merged copy of all the other layers present.
Step 3: Rename the New Layer
It’s a good practice to rename your layers. Have descriptive names and keep your workflow efficient and straightforward. Select the layer you want to rename and double click on the layer’s name. Type the new name and hit Enter. It’s that simple. In this image, you can see how I rename my layers when I merge them in Photoshop.
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Before You Go
Now you know how to merge layers in Photoshop. With these methods, you can improve and speed up your post-processing. You can also avoid losing important information by adopting a non-destructive workflow.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.