Here’s a marvelous shortcut for merging a number of different layers into a new single layer, without loosing the original ones! This is a very useful technique for when you are not sure of the outcome of a layer merge, or when -for some reason- despite merging them, you still need to keep some layers separated for later use. Furthermore, the technique expands the horizons for more experimentation with various layer blending modes.
The following technique works from Photoshop 7 onwards to the latest versions (thank you for the info liverbones!) , for older versions please check and let me know 🙂
1. I’m having 4 separate layers here: a background layer filled with white, another layer on top of that with a red circle, above that there’s another layer with a green circle and on the topmost layer there’s a blue circle. Our task will be to merge the 3 layers with the circles on a separate layer, while maintaining the 3 original circles on their own layers!
2. Select the 3 layers that contain the colored circles (the artwork to be merged)by control-clicking on each layer.
3. With the layers selected, hit Control+Alt+E. A new layer will be generated above the selected layers with the merged content, in my case it’s the layer called “Layer 3 (merged)” above the 3 original ones! That’s it, we’re done!
Tip: Now that you have your merged layer, you can turn off the originals, or leave them on and change their blending mode, so that you can experiment with some interesting color/shading combinations. The possible variations are almost infinite, as you can fine tune each layer separately!