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Chapter Twelve. Layers > Flattening & Merging

Flattening & Merging

Q1:When should I flatten a layered document?
A1: When you flatten an image (Layer>Flatten Image), you lose the ability to work with individual layers. The only reason to flatten an image is to save in different formats that don't support layers, such as JPEG. However, you should use File>Save As—that lets you make a flattened copy for other applications while maintaining the layered original. (For Web design, choosing File>Save for Web also flattens and saves a copy.)
Q2:Is it possible to get layers back once they are flattened? I flattened an image, saved it as JPEG, and then closed it. Later I realized that I needed to make more changes to the layers. Is there a way to get the layers back?
A2: Unfortunately, there isn't. There are only a few formats that allow layers to be saved, the most common being Photoshop (PSD). Unless you save in PSD, you cannot get the layers back. The best plan is to save a layered PSD version, and then use File>Save As to create a second file that is saved in any format that requires flattening. You can then use the flattened version in your other software, but you still have the layered version to come back to in order to make changes. (If you do make changes to the layered version, you would have to make a flattened version again.) However, if you hadn't closed the document, you could have gone back to the layered version through the History palette (Window>History).
Q3:When should I merge layers?

A3: Hardly ever. Remember, when you merge layers you lose some flexibility. But, if you're sure you no longer need separate layers, merging some will save on file size. The most common reason for merging is to combine elements on individual layers that really do not need to be on separate layers. To merge, you have two choices: You can hide all layers except the ones you want to merge by clicking on their Eye icons, and then choosing Merge Visible from the Layers palette's flyout menu. Or, you can Command-click (PC: Control-click) to select the layers you want to merge and then choose Merge Layers from the flyout menu.
Q4:How can I merge layers without layer styles changing? When I merge layers, some of my layer effects don't look the same. How can I get around that?
A4: Try flattening a copy of the document so that all layers are flattened (Layer>Flatten Image). Or click on the Create a New Layer icon, drag the new layer below the layer, click back on your effects layer, and then choose Merge Down from the Layers palette's flyout menu. That will merge the effects layer into this new layer—leaving you with a standard image layer—and it should not change the appearance of the layer style. (Remember that merging will remove the option of editing the layer style.)
Q5:Is it possible to merge layers and keep the separate layers? I have a bunch of layers and I'd like to create a merged layer from all my layers, but still have the layers separate. Rather than making two different documents, is there a way to merge a copy or something?
A5: Yes, this is possible. Make sure all the layers you want to use are visible (meaning their Eye icons are showing in the Layers palette), then press Command-Option-Shift-E (PC: Control-Alt-Shift-E). This will create a new layer that is a merged (or composite) version of all the visible layers.



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