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Lock Image Pixels in Photoshop

by SnickerdoodleDesigns on 1 February 2014
in Designer Tools & Tips,Elements (PSE),Photoshop CS+,Tutorials Pin this scrappy stuff!

For the past 2 weeks we have been exploring the “lock” options in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.  In case you missed those tutorials, you will find them here:  Lock Options in Photoshop and Lock Transparent Pixels in Photoshop.  Today we will look at the last remaining lock option:  Lock Image Pixels.

The Lock options are located at the top of the Layers Panel, and the Lock Image Pixels is the 2nd icon from the left (the icon that looks like a paintbrush).


The Lock Image Pixels does exactly what its name says it will do.   When you select a layer, and click on the Lock Image Pixels, all of the pixels on that layer are locked, so you are unable to write over them.  It does not lock the image in position, as the Lock Position option does; it just locks the pixels.

I have spent some time playing with this option to discover in what way it might be helpful for either designers or layout artists.   Honestly?  I can’t find a way.  I felt like I surely must be missing something so asked my good friend and design buddy, Jill (Jilbert’s Bits of Bytes) to take a look.  After her own exploration, she agreed with me.

When the Lock Image Pixels is active, there are only 2 things that you can do with that layer, as far as we can see.  You can use a selection tool to make a selection. However, you are unable to do anything with that selection, because the layer is locked.  Secondly, you can go to Filter > Blur > and use the Field Blur, Iris Blur, or Tilt-Shift Blur.  Because those options are available for use on a selected layer anyway, we don’t see any value to locking the image pixels in order to use that filter.


 Are we missing something? Do YOU use this option, and if so what for?  Please share with us so we can all learn.  Thanks so much!

Photoshop Elements users:  The Lock Image Pixels is not an option in Photoshop Elements.

Credit: Paper and element shown are from an upcoming SnickerdoodleDesign release; stay tuned!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dona 1 February 2014 at 6:04 pm

This function just keeps you from drawing/painting on that layer. But it will move. If you lock the whole layer it will not move, nor can you paint/draw on the layer.


2 SnickerdoodleDesigns 1 February 2014 at 10:37 pm

Yes, that is what I discovered as well, Dona. Do you find that useful?


3 Sue 3 February 2014 at 10:39 am

I use lock pixels when I know I don’t want anything else on that layer … that way if it defaults back to it when I redo and I don’t notice it I don’t have to go back and redo/erase anything I may have done on top of it by accident … which happens to me when I am concentrating on something. Artists who draw and paint in Photoshop use it a lot for that reason, imagine water colouring a layer and then going back and finding out it was a previous layer that should not have been disturbed, not just an element. In scrapbooks and assemblage it may not be as useful….SuCanDo


4 yoann 23 May 2014 at 2:33 am

As pointed by Dona, this function still allows you to not paint on it at all. Still, you can make a transformation (ctrl T) on it or move it (autoselect V), or select and delete it.

It is actually very close to the transparent lock, except than with pixel lock you cannot even paint on the transparent pixels.
It is also different from the lock layer in the sense that lock layer make it unselectable and undeletable.

So the lock pixels’s description would be: I don’t want to accidentally affect any pixel’s color or transparency information, but i want the freedom to be able to move it or transform it. You could argue that a transformation modifies the pixels (by stretching a gradient for example), but since there is an interpolation that (tries to) keep the “spirit”, it is not that harmful (most of the time).

So basically, you use this function when you are happy with this layer, but not sure enough to lock it completely.
To be honest, i never use it. I usually just use the lock layer.


5 SnickerdoodleDesigns 3 February 2014 at 2:32 pm

Great information, Su. Thanks!


6 Su Hall 4 February 2014 at 11:17 am

I got curious when I read this post, so, I set out to experiment. I am not quite grasping what SuCanDo means. But, what I see is that the first icon, looks like a checkerboard, locks the transparent part. With it you can brush all over that layer and paint will only adhere to the pixels, not the transparent parts. As an opposing function, Lock Image Pixels is the counterpart to the first function. It’s icon is the paint brush. Once you place pixels on a layer and lock it with this feature, Lock Image Pixels, you are not able to change those pixels at all. You can move them around, apply a layer style or whatever, but, you cannot ‘mess up’ the original pixels. I could see using this feature if you, say, extract an element from a background. Once your extraction is perfected, you may want to dodge and burn or add a shadow, but, you don’t want anything to mess up that extraction! I often make a copy of my extraction, but, having researched this, it would work great. I can do all kids of non-destructive things to the extraction, and it is all un-do-able. LOL
The other lock features you have already explained quite well. I don’t know if this helps or not.


7 SuCanDo 4 February 2014 at 4:22 pm

That’s exactly what I am talking about … if you are painting on layers …. not manipulating, but actual painting you will not be able to do it on a layer that has it’s pixels locked …. if you mistakenly go back to that layer when you undo the locked pixel option prevents you from mistakenly painting on it …. you can not draw on a layer with the pixel layer (paint brush) checked


8 Su Hall 4 February 2014 at 7:08 pm

Oh, okay! So, I basically reiterated what you wrote! Great minds think a like, Sue!



9 PeggyNC 7 February 2014 at 9:34 pm

Thank you all, I found this discussion quite helpful!


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