How do I Merge and Unmerge layers in Photoshop and Illustrator?

Let’s learn how to merge and unmerge layers in Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Almost all of us feel very awesome while working on any version of Adobe Photoshop, as it always comes with a variety of features and tools. These features and tools are essential, effective, and interesting, too. 

Photoshop layers are one of those important parts of Photoshop, making photo editing very easy and enjoyable. Most photoshop users always prefer using layers to progress their photo editing experience.  

Using layers allows us to keep multiple separate parts of an image to ensure easy, stress-free, and flexible photo editing. While using layers in photoshop, sometimes we may need to merge layers.

Moreover, we may need to unmerge layers occasionally at editing. But if you don’t know how to merge layers in photoshop or how to unmerge layers in photoshop, here’s how.

This photoshop tutorial article will let you learn about photoshop merge layers and many more. Moreover, we will discuss how to merge two images in photoshop and merge layers in photoshop. 

So let’s get started.


How to merge layers in photoshop

Photoshop Merge Layers is a way to combine two or more different layers in a single layer which helps us to do easy group editing. 

For example, when you need to change the different colors of four different images into the same color, photoshop merge layers allow you to create a group of these four layers, allowing you to change the color of your four different images simultaneously.

Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop comes with multiple methods of merging layers. You can apply any of them in the case of merge layers in photoshop. 

There are two major ways of merging multiple layers into one layer. Such as:

  • Destructive ways
  • Non-destructive ways

Destructive ways are the simplest and the fastest process of merging layers. But there is a problem that the layers which are merged in a destructive way can’t be undone easily. Moreover, it may be impossible in some cases.

On the contrary, destructive ways of combining layers let us edit the merged layers individually. Though non-destructive processes take more time and patience than destructive methods, it ensures that there will be no trouble in the future to unmerge the layers or edit the layers individually.

Destructive ways to merge layers in photoshop

There are specific ways of merging layers which are the primary ways of combining layers in photoshop.

So if you want to know how to merge layers in photoshop, let me discuss the basic ways of merging layers.

METHOD-1: Use the Merge Layers option 

This is the easiest way of merging layers in photoshop. Using this method, you can simply merge two or more layers into a single layer in a second.

To do so, go to the layer panel and select the layers you wish to merge. 

select the layers to merge

Now go to the top menu and click on the Layers option. By doing this, a dialogue box will appear as the following images show. From there, click on the Merge Layers option. 

click on the merge layers option

Now go to the Layer Panel and see your selected layers are merged into one!

the merge layer

METHOD-2: Use Merge Visible option 

Step-1: Go to the Layers panel and hide the layers you don’t wish to merge.

To do so, click on the Eye icon, which is just next to the layer. Once you click on this icon, this icon turns into a black box symbol, and the layer turns into a hidden layer. 

 hide the layers that you don't wish to merge

You may ask what it means by a hidden layer or how does it work? So the answer is a hidden layer is a kind of layer on which any changes you make in the layer panel won’t work. It keeps as invisible in the layer panel, not as completely vanished. 

So, as we said before, click on the Eye symbol and hide the layers you don’t want to combine. 

Step-2: In this second step, press on the Layers option from the top menu bar and select the Merge Visible option.

click on the merge visible option

Alternatively, you can also press the keyboard shortcut Shift + Ctrl + E on your keyboard to do the same thing. 

Step -3: That’s all. The visible layers will be merged except the invisible ones. Thus you can merge your selected layers except those that you don’t want to merge anymore. 

merged visible

METHOD-3: Use Flatten Image option

If you want to merge all layers at a time, this method is a very simple way to do so. 

In the beginning, make sure that all layers from the layer panel are visible. If you notice any of them is invisible, click on the square symbol next to the layer in the layer panel.

hidden layer panel

The square icon will turn into an eye icon which indicates the layer is now completely a visible one.

indicates the layer all visible

So, once you get all the layers visible in the layer panel that you want to merge, go to the top menu and select Layers > Flatten image. 

click on the flatten image option

Alternatively, you can also right-click on any layer in the layer panel to get the same dialogue box. Select the “Flatten Image” option to merge the layers. 

merged flatten image

Non-destructive ways to merge layers in photoshop 

Use the Create Smart Object Option

This is the basic way of merging layers in a non-destructive way. It is pretty much easier than any other method and effective too. 

So, let’s find out how to merge layers in photoshop using smart objects. 

In the starting, open your layers in the layer panel as we discussed above if you don’t find the layers in the photoshop window, press F7 on the keyboard or go to Windows > Layers. 

Next, go to your layer panel and select the layers you wish to combine. 

convert to smart object

Now right, click on the selected layers and click on the “Create Smart Object” option. 

merged smart object

By doing this, all your selected layers will merge. And this is all about how to merge layers in photoshop without losing effects.

Create Group of the Layers

Using the group layers is the best way of combining layers in photoshop instead of using the merge layer option. It doesn’t merge the layers but creates a group of the selected layers. 

This group lets you customize those layers anytime without unmerging them. As a result, you can edit the layers as a whole using the group as well as it allows you to edit the layers individually. 

Firstly, select the layers from the layer panel that you want to put together in the group to create the group.

choose the layers together

Once you select the layers, you wish to put together, hit on the Group icon from the bottom of the layer panel.

click on the group icon

Your selected layers will turn into a single layer as a group by doing this. 

group layers created

From the group, you can edit the layers as a whole or particularly what you need to do.


How to unmerge layers in photoshop

Photo editing in photoshop is not an easy task to do. You can never be sure about what you will be commanded next. When you merge two or more layers in photoshop and do editing, it doesn’t mean that you are done. 

You must often face an irritating problem like unmerging layers in photoshop after merging them. Since merging layers is most likely a destructive way, it is not impossible but very difficult to unmerge them again.  

However, there are two excellent methods to unmerge layers in photoshop that you should check out. So let’s find out what the methods are and how they work.

METHOD-1: Use the UNDO Command

This method is the fastest and the easiest way to unmerge layers. In that case, you should remember that this technique can only work out after one step of merging layers. 

So anytime you fall in this situation like you need to unmerge multiple layers just after a single step of combining them, it would be the best solution to use the UNDO command just like the following.

In the picture, I’ve recently merged three different layers into a single layer. But now, I need to unmerge them to step backward.

So in this situation, I need to press CONTROL + Z to unmerge the layer as I’m a PC user. 

For Mac users, this keyboard shortcut is COMMAND + Z. 

So now you can see the result in the picture resulting from the keyboard shortcut.

use the undo command

Alternatively, you can also do the same thing by going to EDIT > UNDO, as the image shows.

However, using the keyboard shortcut would be the fastest way to get the same result. 

METHOD-2: Use the HISTORY Panel

The photoshop history panel records all changes that we’ve done in a single editing session. So there is a chance to get back the layers after merging them. 

But at this point, you should remember that the history panel contains only the tracks of a single editing session. That means once you finish your editing and leave photoshop, your editing history will be removed. 

So when you come back to photoshop and start editing, you can’t get back the records of your editing that you’ve done in the previous session.

So this method only works on a single session. 

To open the History panel, go to WINDOW > HISTORY.

select history

In the history panel, all the records of your previous changes will be visible. These records allow you to go back to a particular step by clicking on a particular history. 

To unmerge the layers, click on the “Merge Visible” option. 

click merge visible

There is a point that you should never forget that the history panel will show you the records of the previous task you’ve done. So, as we merged the layers using the Merge Visible option, the history panel showed us the history of Merge visible.

When you use the Merge Layers option, it will show the history of merge layers as it shows merge visible in the image we attached.


How to merge two images in photoshop

You may occasionally want to merge two images in photoshop. But maybe you don’t know how to merge two images in photoshop.

Fortunately, there are various easy options for merging two different images into one using Adobe Photoshop. We want to discuss the easiest technique of merging two photos in photoshop.

Anyone can easily merge two pictures in Adobe Photoshop by following some simple steps. So let’s see how to merge two photos in photoshop.

Step 1: Open two photos in photoshop

In the starting, open the two different images on photoshop that you want to merge. In this case, you should remember that the selected photos should be in the same resolution and other perspectives. 

open two photos in photoshop

Step 2: Select the base photo

After opening the images on photoshop, choose one of them as the base photo. As you can see in the picture, we’ve selected the highlighted one as our base photo.

select the base photo

Step 3: Use the Move tool 

Now place the upper photo on the base photo in a suitable area. In this case, you can use the move tool to move the upper image anywhere. 

Go to the layer panel and hit the move tool icon to select the move tool, as shown in the following image.

use the move tool

Step 4. Select the Free Transform Tool 

Now resize the upper image according to your preferred size. To do so, select the Free Transform tool from the menu.

select the free transform t

So, move to the Edit menu and choose the Free Transform option.

resize the upper photo

Resize the upper photo

Now set the size of the top image as you want to do.

Step 5: Create Layer Mask

In this step, add a layer mask for the top image. Firstly, select the topmost image layer and then hit the Add Layer Mask icon from the bottom of the layer panel.

add layer mask

Step 6: Select the Brush tool

After creating the layer mask, select the brush tool from the toolbar.

This brush tool allows you to remove all unwanted and unnecessary elements from the picture. You can change the size of the brush from the top section of the photoshop window.

select the brush tool

Before brushing over the image, set the foreground color as black and the background color as white.

set the foreground color as black

Set the foreground color as black

So once you are all set, start brushing on the upper image. Thoroughly brush on the unwanted objects to vanish them from the merged image.

brush on the unwanted objects

Brush on the unwanted objects

Note: While removing the unwanted objects, unconsciously, if you remove any parts of the main picture that you don’t want to vanish, don’t be upset. Just go back one step backward and get back the parts you lost. 

Set the foreground color as white instead of black and set the background color as black instead of white. Then, brush over the parts that you’ve lost. By doing this, the lost parts will appear as they were before. 

Step 7: The Result

Once you’re finished removing all your unwanted objects, save this new image as the merged image of the two different images. 

For doing this, go to File> Save or File > Save as. 

the result unwanted objects

So this is how you can merge two images in photoshop.


How to merge layers in Illustrator

Layers are essential parts of both Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Using layers in Illustrator allows you to separate the several elements of composition and helps to manage and join different elements of an image. 

If you want to learn more about illustrator layers basics, let’s visit this site and learn it.

However, we must know how to merge layers in Illustrator. Luckily, the process is very simple that we can easily merge multiple layers in Illustrator by going through only 4 simple steps.

So, now I am about to share the easy working process of combining layers in Illustrator with you.

So let’s get started.

Step 1: Get your File on Illustrator

First of all, open your File in Illustrator. You can open the File by double-clicking on the File option or going through the File> Open menu. 

get your file on illustrator

Step 2: Enable the Layers in the Layer panel

Once you open your File, you have to enable the layers in the layer panel. In this case, go to the top menu bar of Illustrator and select Windows > Layers.

All of your layers will appear in the layer panel with several colors for each layer and a layer name individually next to the color.

Step 3: Select the layers

Now select the layers you want to put together from the layer panel. To do so, hold down the Ctrl key (for Windows users) or the Command key (for the Mac users) and click on the multiple layers that you wish to merge.

select the layers from the layer panel

Or, if you want to merge all layers of the layer panel, click on the top layer of the list, hold down the Shift key and then click on the bottom layer of the list. By doing this, all of your layers of the layer panel will be selected to merge.

Step 4: Merge the layers

If you’ve selected the layers, click on the drop-down arrow from the upper right corner of the layer panel.

click on the drop down menu

From there, select the Merge Selected option. 

merge selected

Once you click on this option, all of your selected layers will be merged. 

merged layers

So, that’s all! You can quickly join multiple layers together in Illustrator by following these steps. 


FAQ:

1. Can you Unmerge layers in Photoshop after saving?

Basically, there are no basic ways of unmerging layers in photoshop after saving. But there is a secret trick for you that allows you to unmerge layers even once you save the merged layer. You can unmerge layers by separating the elements of the merged layer using the layer mask.

2. What is the shortcut to merge layers in Photoshop?

To merge all layers, press Ctrl + E on your keyboard. Besides, to merge all visible layers, press Control + Shift + Alt + E (Windows) or Command + Shift + Option +E (Mac).

3. How can I merge two photos together?

You can merge two photos together using the Add Layer Mask option. For doing this, follow this guideline- open the photos > use the Free Transform tool > Add Layer Mask > Choose the Brush tool and brush over the unwanted elements > get the result.

4. Can you merge all layers in Illustrator?

Yes. You can merge all layers in illustrator by following 3 simple steps which are to load the file on illustrator > select all layers from the layer panel > hit on the drop-down arrow and select the ” Merge Selected” option. So that’s all!

5. How to unmerge layers in illustrator?

You can unmerge layers in illustrator using the Undo command as well as using the History panel.


Final Thoughts

So that’s all about how to merge layers in photoshop, how to unmerge layers in photoshop, and how to merge two images in photoshop.

We’ve also discussed the easiest process of merging layers in Illustrator. So hopefully, this photoshop tutorial article allows you to learn all about how to merge and unmerge layers in photoshop and Illustrator.

Finally, there is a thing that we would like to mention to you that we can’t get many options to unmerge layers in photoshop or Illustrator. If you want to undo the merged layers, you’ve to do the act quickly before the history panel becomes a mess with various records of your actions.

So, we need to follow the non-destructive ways of merging layers such as smart objects and group layers. These options allow you to edit the layers collectively as well as individually.

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About the author:

Chris Daniel

Chris Daniel

Chris Daniel is a very unique, professional, and informative website/blog writer. His biography page features various types of photography strategies in the USA. Keep an eye on his blog that contains a lot of creative details that draw with keep attention.

Chris Daniel

Chris Daniel

Chris Daniel is a very unique, professional, and informative website/blog writer. His biography page features various types of photography strategies in the USA. Keep an eye on his blog that contains a lot of creative details that draw with keep attention.

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