Layer tags in Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 introduced layer searching. Rather than a simple filter-by-name, Adobe elected for a far more elaborate execution, opening up some nice possibilities.

One of my favourite uses of Photoshop’s search is for tagging — applying something to layers for easy recall at a later date. There’s two main methods I’ve been using: Changing layer colours and adding tags to layer names.

Layer colour #

This only allows seven possibilities — one for each of Photoshop’s layer colours — but often that’s enough. I’ve been using red to flag layers that are likely to need editing after a document has been scaled. Being able to edit with the filter active speeds up the process a lot.

Layer name #

Adding tags to the end of layer and group names allows for more heroic finding-stuff-later abilities. It’s a very similar hack to the way Faruk Ates uses tags in Address Book (and how I’ve used tags in Address Book and iTunes since reading his article).

Imagine tagging identically styled elements. Now imagine editing one of those elements, copying its layer style or shape attributes, filtering by a tag, selecting all the results, then pasting the layer style or shape attributes. You’ve just updated your entire document. It’s not as automatic as using something like CSS to style HTML documents, but hey, it’s alright.

At this point, I don’t believe it’s possible to use Actions to perform layer filtering — recording an Action and using search doesn’t add anything to the Action, which is a shame. Although, someone could probably write a script to automate the layer style and shape attributes syncing (please let me know if you’d like help tackling it).

Other search options #

Another favourite is searching by layer effect — really helpful if you’re hunting for all instances of a particular overlay or drop shadow. Or, searching for all Not Visible layers, to quickly clean up a messy document.

A caveat #

I don’t think layer name tagging would be compatible for those of you who are using layer name based tools for exporting. Yet another reason to use slice sheets for asset exporting, eh?

Happy tagging.

Published 14 January 2013.