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Photoshop Tips for Beginners 1

Layer selections based on transparency By Dave Nagel
Generally it isn't too difficult to find your way around Adobe Photoshop, even for novices. But there are tricks that you pick up along the way that can help you work more quickly and efficiently and alleviate some of the frustration that can arise from doing things "the hard way" unwittingly. With this in mind, I kick off my first extended series of tutorials dealing specifically with time-saving tips, starting off with a mini-series on making selections.

Now, for our first tip, I'd like to present what has proved to be probably the most useful piece of information in my early Photoshop career: the shortcut for selecting the contents of a transparent layer. Even if you happen to know this one, there are some corollaries, which we'll get to below, that you might not know. There are also some differences in Photoshop CS2.

Layer content selection
For versions of Photoshop prior to CS2, you can select all of the contents of a layer (without selecting the transparent areas) by holding down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (Windows) and clicking on the layer in the Layers palette.

In the example below, I have an image of a butterfly on a transparent layer.

If I command-click on the butterfly's layer in the Layers palette, it will be precisely selected.

In this way, I can apply any filters, paint over the image or make other modifications to the butterfly without affecting the rest of the layer. In the example below, I've painted roughly over the butterfly using this method, covering it edge to edge without going over the boundaries of the butterfly into the transparent areas.

Similarly, I can also select the contents of multiple layers simultaneously, regardless of which layer is currently active. To do this, I'd Command-click the first layer, as usual. Then I'd hold down both the Shift and Command keys while clicking on subsequent layers. (That's Shift and Control, if you happen to be running Photoshop on Windows.)

And, if I change my mind about one particular layer being selected, I can subtract from the multi-layer selections as well. To do this, hold down the Command and Option keys (Mac) or Control and Alt keys (Windows), and click on the layer you want to deselect.

That ought to save a bit of time.

As a side note, you can also right-click on a layer's icon in the Layers palette and choose "Select Layer Transparency" from among the options.

And, similarly, with a layer selected, you can choose Select > Load Selection to load the current layer's transparency (or invert that to select all but the filled pixels on a layer).

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