Photoshop Quick Tip: Improving Workflow Using Auto-Select

Photoshop Quick Tip: Improving Workflow Using Auto-Select

There is a tool in Photoshop that I use so often that I don’t even think about it. This tool is so essential to my work flow that I would be lost without it. I realized that if I didn’t write a PS Quick Tip on this simple tool, I would be doing the design community a disservice. If there is even one Photoshop user out there that discovers this tool from this article, I will have done my job. :-)

Some of my designs can reach up to 50-100 layers before I start flattening and finalizing the piece. And as you already know, a PS file with that many layers can be difficult to navigate. For example, in the artwork below there are over 50 layers. If I wanted to select and move one of those layers, I would have to navigate through the entire layers panel to find what I’m looking for. And if you’re like me, you don’t always name your layers for easy reference.

Enter the Auto-Select feature of the Move Tool (V). By checking this option in the top toolbar, when the move tool is selected, you can simply click anything on your document and the layer will “auto select”. This is an unbelievable time saver.

One other thing to note about this setting is the drop down. When layer is selected it will select layers regardless of whether they are in a group or not. When group is selected it will select the entire group (if available) that a layer resides.

This setting is not obvious if you don’t know it’s there. Give it a try and it will change your workflow tremendously.

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. This is a great tip – thanks so much!! I do name my layers but this step is preferable. It automates the navigation… Thank you!!!

  2. Treestar

    Yeah, thanks for this big tip. I hope this will work as well with the type layers also because i hate it when i want to change some letters and there are many type layers it always select the biggest.

  3. I think this setting only works to interfere with the workflow, if you need to click without selecting or maybe you click by mistake your layer selection has changed.

    My advice? Turn this setting OFF and If you want to still select a layer directly press CMD(CTRL on Windows) and Click, the layer you want will be selected – and only when you want it.

    • Agreed! I’ve been using the CMD-click to select layers for some time (can’t remember when it was introduced).

  4. This auto-select option will save lots of time in the designing when selecting any layer or group individually, which helps to increase the work flow.

  5. Helena Souza

    I just discovered this tool from this article. Thank you veeeery much!

  6. Wah! Had no idea this was there — thank you so much! :)

  7. Excellent tip. Have used to Move Tool so much and never even noticed this option. Very useful. Thanks.

  8. Leel

    yeah! that great tips. i use a lot with this. but do you know the short cut to turn it on/off? i’ve been wondering with this one..

  9. Great tutorial, the texture really spice up the design.

  10. ryan butterfly

    Wow… This post changed my life. Seriously, I’m so “all over the place” with some of my PS files that it’s a nightmare to find the layer for that tiny brush stroke that needs to move. I’m self taught, so an argument could be made about me not knowing what I’m doing… but I’m learning.

  11. I’m going to try it Brown. All I know is that there are still lots of wonderful features in photoshop that is still unexplored just like this one

  12. Interesting., I have no idea about this. Glad I discovered this site. Visit the above link
    to visit my page

  13. Thank you very much., You are a good writer.
    In addition to art that will give you good
    I congratulate you

  14. Writing is an art that everyone does it. Congratulate you for having this art.
    Your blog is unique

  15. I congratulate you
    Writing is an art that everyone does it. Congratulate you for having this art.
    Your blog is unique

  16. I really appreciate your work… nice tutorial, loved it so shared it…

  17. Gray

    Where have you been all my life! Incredibly useful tool tip, thank you!!!

  18. How much time did it require you to post “Illustrator Quick Tip:
    Create Decorative Swirls in Minutes Using the Width Tool”?
    It comes with a great deal of very good tips. Many thanks -Jocelyn

  19. When I move the letter, there’s not white space inbetween. Just a continous black which simply makes the letter thick instead :L. What do I do?

  20. eva

    *–* muchassssss graciassssss estaba buscando esa forma hace un tiempooo <3 haha te ame :3

  21. I found this function awhile ago and was not impressed with it as it would select things when I didn’t want it to (with overlapping layers it doesn’t always work so well) so I looked online and found that if you just press Ctrl+Click (cmd + click) for Mac users, this tool is much easier to utilize.

  22. thank you for this technical
    for more tuto

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  24. nice and helpful tut …thanks for sharing with us..!!!

  25. Excellent post. that is really very helpful.

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