Selecting Layers and Groups in Photoshop Using Move Tool

Selecting layers and groups in Photoshop using Move Tool

Most of time we are dealing with layers and groups in Photoshop. It is pretty easy to select layer or group in Layers panel: just click on it. Photoshop CS6 offers easy way to search and display (filter) layers by name, effect, attribute, kind… but what about selecting layers and groups and moving them around without to make that big effort to navigate cursor over Layers panel? It is possible off course and that's what I will present in this post.

Photoshop add-ons created by Bojan Živković owner of DesignEasy blog

Method 1 Using Auto Select from options bar

First method to quick and easy select layer(s) and group(s) without to even move cursor over Layers panel is using Auto Select in options bar which is just below menus. Requirement for this method is Move Tool selected and option Auto Select turned on. You must also decide what to auto select: Layer or Group from drop-down list on the right side of Auto Select:. Note that you must manually uncheck Auto Select option, it will remain selected and valid even after restarting Photoshop. It works nice all the time, set up settings, navigate cursor over image and click. Photoshop will automatically highlight (select) layer or group  in Layers panel. Which layer or group will be selected depends on where you clicked or in other words on which layer or inside which group is clicked content. When selecting layer, If you have layers organized into groups and nested groups, Photoshop will expand group(s) so you can visually confirm that intended layer is selected.
Selecting layer with Auto Select option turned on

To select multiple layers (or groups) actually to add to selection hold down Shift key and click again on image to add layer or group to selection. To deselect (subtract) layer or group from selection, Shift + click as when adding to selection.This method will fail only if you have nested groups, with Auto Select > Group checked it will always select top most or parent group, never child or nested one.
Add to selection with Auto Select turned on

Alternatively you can use keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd instead of checking Auto Select option but you must change manually to Layer or Group from right side drop-down. With Auto Select unchecked and Layer option active by Ctrl/Cmd + clicking on image you will select layer on which lies clicked content. With Auto Select unchecked and Group option active by Ctrl/Cmd clicking on image you will select group with layer on which lies clicked content.

Method 2 Using right click or context menu

This method works always and requirements are: Move Tool selected or active and layers and groups properly named. If you are not naming your layers and groups this is best time to start. Once you make naming convention your habit you will start celebrate it. Here is how this works: navigate Move Tool icon over content which lays on layer or inside group you want to select, right click (Cmd + click) and select layer or  group name. What is listed in context menu depends also on clicked point.
Select layer using context (right click) menu

To add to selection, hold down Shift key and right click one more time then select layer or group name from context menu.
Add to selection using context (right click) menu

Lets say you have selected layer or group you didn't want to select. Is there any way to deselect using this method? Off course, here is how:

To subtract form selection repeat same steps: hold down Shift key, right click over content which lays on layer or inside group you want to deselect and choose that layer or group name from context menu.

There are also and keyboard shortcuts to work with layers if you prefer that method: Cycling through and moving layers in layers stack from keyboard.

Photoshop / Selecting, grouping, and linking layers

A product used in this tutorial: Adobe Photoshop CS6


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