How to Link Two Layers in Photoshop CS5: A Step-by-Step Guide

Linking two layers in Photoshop CS5 is a straightforward process. Just select the layers you want to link in the Layers panel, right-click and choose ‘Link Layers’. This pairs the layers so that any transformations applied to one will affect the other, maintaining their relative positions.

After linking layers, moving, scaling, or rotating one will automatically do the same to the other, which is especially useful in design and composite work, ensuring consistency across multiple elements.


Photoshop CS5, a powerhouse in the graphic design and photo editing world, offers a plethora of tools that make the creative process both innovative and efficient. One such tool is the ability to link layers together. Now, why is this important, you ask? Well, it’s simple. In the vast creative expanse that is Photoshop, maintaining consistency and harmony between different elements of your design can be crucial. Whether you are a professional designer working on a complex project or a hobbyist creating a photo collage, knowing how to link layers will streamline your workflow significantly.

Think of it this way; you have two separate elements that you want to move across the canvas together without changing their relative positions. What do you do? You link them. That way, any transformation applied to one affects the other identically. It’s a feature that, once mastered, becomes an indispensable part of your Photoshop toolkit, and it’s applicable to anyone using the software, from beginners to seasoned pros.

Step by Step Tutorial on How to Link Two Layers in Photoshop CS5

The following steps will guide you through the process of linking two layers in Photoshop CS5.

Step 1: Open your document

Open the document with the layers you wish to link.

Opening your document is your starting point. Ensure that the layers you want to link are within the same document and are visible in the Layers panel.

Step 2: Select the layers

In the Layers panel, click on the first layer you want to link, then hold down the ‘Ctrl’ key (Cmd on Mac) and click on the second layer.

This step is crucial because it determines which layers you will be linking. You can select multiple layers if needed by continuing to hold down the Ctrl or Cmd key and clicking on additional layers.

Step 3: Link the layers

Right-click on one of the selected layers and choose ‘Link Layers’ from the context menu.

Once you click ‘Link Layers’, the selected layers are now linked. You’ll notice a little link icon next to the layers in the Layers panel, signifying that they’re linked.

Step 4: Test the link

Move, scale, or rotate one of the linked layers to ensure the other moves with it.

Testing the link ensures that you have successfully linked the layers. If done correctly, any transformation you apply to one layer will now be reflected in the other.


Improved workflowLinking layers streamlines your workflow. Instead of manually adjusting each layer, you can move, scale, or rotate them together, saving time and effort.
Consistency in designIt maintains consistency in your work. When elements are supposed to move together, linking ensures that they do, which is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your design.
Easy to toggleThe link between layers can be easily toggled on and off. If you need to work on layers independently, simply select them and choose ‘Unlink Layers’.


Can be confusingFor beginners, linking layers can be confusing. If you’re not aware that layers are linked, you might make unintended adjustments.
Limited to active documentLinking is limited to layers within the same document. If you’re working with multiple documents, you’ll need to duplicate and link layers separately for each one.
Possible layer confusionWith multiple layers linked, it can become confusing to keep track of which are linked and which are not. Proper layer management and labeling are essential.

Additional Information

When working with linked layers in Photoshop CS5, there are a few additional tips and insights that can further enhance your experience. First off, remember that you can link more than two layers; there’s virtually no limit to the number of layers you can link together. This capability can be a huge time-saver in complex projects with multiple elements that need to move as one.

Another important point is that linking layers is different from merging them. When you link layers, they remain independent in the Layers panel, retaining their individual properties and effects. Merging layers, on the other hand, combines them into a single layer, which can be irreversible without the proper precautions.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that linked layers can have different blending modes and opacities. This flexibility allows for creative combinations while still moving them as a unit. And let’s not forget about layer groups – you can link entire groups, which again shows the versatility of this feature.

Lastly, for those who love shortcuts, after selecting your layers, you can hit ‘Ctrl + L’ (Cmd + L on Mac) to link them quickly. Embracing these additional nuggets of information will undoubtedly make your Photoshop experience more efficient and enjoyable.


  1. Open your document.
  2. Select the layers.
  3. Link the layers.
  4. Test the link.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I unlink layers in Photoshop CS5?

Yes, simply select the linked layers and right-click to choose ‘Unlink Layers’, or use the Layer menu at the top.

Does linking layers reduce file size?

No, linking layers does not affect the file size as it does not merge the layers or alter their individual properties.

Can I link layers across different documents?

No, layer linking is restricted to within the same Photoshop document.

What happens if I delete one of the linked layers?

Deleting one of the linked layers does not affect the other linked layers. They remain in the document, just no longer linked.

Can I apply layer effects to linked layers?

Yes, layer effects can be applied individually to each linked layer, and they will still move together when transformed.


Mastering the art of linking layers in Photoshop CS5 can significantly enhance the way you manage and manipulate multiple design elements. Whether you’re creating a complex digital painting or simply aligning text and images, linking layers ensures consistency and efficiency. Remember, the key is to keep experimenting and finding what works best for your workflow.

So go ahead, give it a try, and watch as your Photoshop prowess grows with each project. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover new creative possibilities along the way—after all, that’s the beauty of Photoshop CS5.

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