For the longest time I didn’t understand the difference between Merge Down and Merge Layers, two layer options available in both Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. If I wanted to merge layers, I tried Merge Down. If that didn’t give me the result I wanted, I clicked Control+Z (to Undo), and tried Merge Layers. One day I decided to actually stop what I was doing, take the time to discover the difference between the two, and why I could / should choose one over the other. This is what I discovered!
- When we have layers that we would like to merge together and choose Merge Down, the top layer will take on the name and characteristics of the bottom layer(s).
- When we have layers that we would like to merge together and choose Merge Layers, all layers are merged together but each retains it’s own characteristics.
In the image below, we see a pumpkin template, with multiple layers. The first layer is the stem. The remaining layers are the different sections of the pumpkin. I want to merge the 2nd and 3rd pumpkin layers.
When I select and right click on the “pumpkin2″ layer, I see the Merge Down option.
Here is the pumpkin, without the fly-out menu open. You can see that the layer named “pumpkin2″ has an Inner Shadow and Drop Shadow applied. Pumpkin 3 has an Inner Shadow and Color Overlay.
I have right clicked on the “pumpkin2″ layer, and selected Merge Down. According to the definition of Merge Down, we would expect to see “the top layer take on the name and characteristics of the bottom layer.”
In the image below you can see that this is exactly what happened. We no longer see a separate layer for “pumpkin2,” and the merged layers have the name of “pumpkin3″ with just the Inner Shadow and Color Overlay (just as “pumpkin3″ originally had). The Drop Shadow from “pumpkin2″ is gone. You can also see that the look of the pumpkin has changed. Since these layers now have the same characteristics, their look has “blended” and they are no longer distinguishable from each other. (We see only 3 distinct pumpkin segments instead of 5.)
This is not the look I want, so let’s use our friend Control+Z to Undo, and try Merge Layers.
When we have two (or more) layers selected, and right click, the Merge Down option is replaced with the Merge Layers option.
According to our definition, if we merge our selected layers, each layer will retain it’s own characteristics. Let’s see what that looks like.
In the image below I merged the layers “pumpkin2″ and “pumpkin3″ using the Merge Layers option. The merged layers have retained the name “pumpkin2″ and each layer has retained it’s own characteristics. Just as Adobe promised!
This is the look I wanted! Now I need to texture this pumpkin, remove that orange drop shadow on the transparent area, and this little cutie is ready to be decorated for Halloween!
Next week we’ll talk about a few other merge options! I hope to see you back then!