Quick Tutorial: Direct selection of layers in Adobe Photoshop

Direct selection of layers

Direct selection of layers

To some, this may seem like a total “duh” tip – but you wouldn’t believe the number of people I run into that don’t know that you can directly select layers in Photoshop (from your canvas) without having to wade through the layers window. I am somewhat ashamed that even I didn’t know this until a few years ago. Immediately upon discovery, I couldn’t help but to think of all the wasted hours I had spent scrolling trough the layers dialog in search of elusive layers that I was too lazy to name.
So what’s the trick to selecting layers directly from the canvas? It’s actually very simple, and I can explain it in a few simple steps:

  1. On your canvas, hover over the element you want to select the layer for.
  2. If you’re on a Mac without left and right mouse buttons, hold down the “control” key and click the mouse. Or, if you are using a mouse with left and right buttons, right click on it (works on both Mac and PC).
  3. A dialog should appear, showing you a list of all your layers located at that spot where you clicked, with the layer of the element you selected already chosen for you.
  4. Click on it, and…voila! You have just selected that layer without even having to navigate inside your layers window.

This is a total lifesaver for those times when you receive a complex PSD file from someone else who hasn’t taken the time to organize and name their layers. As a matter of fact, that’s actually what led me to discover this little trick. I was up late one night fighting my way through an edit of a PSD that I had received from another designer, and in a fit of frustration, the smashing of the keyboard and simultaneous clicks of the mouse somehow magically aligned to reveal this handy little shortcut. I was like, “Whoa! How did I do that??” Then I spent the next 10 minutes trying to recreate those key and button smashing combinations before I finally gave up and summoned the power of google to find an explicit description of the shortcut. My life as a designer was forever changed from that moment on.

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