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Ivan's picture

On the importance of naming and grouping layers

There are obvious benefits to spending the extra time and effort grouping your layers into folders and naming them appropriately.

For one you will appreciate the organization if you have to work further on the file after considerable amount time went by. Second, your coworkers or your css programmer will appreciate a neat file as well.

There are some less obvious and immediate advantages to such tidy practices. Design is not done on paper or on screen. Design is something you do in your mind. You continuously evaluate your work and make further design decisions while you work. Design is an internal dialogue and the result is your design work.

The process of naming layers is not done only to differentiate the layers from each other. More importantly it helps the thinking process by making you stop and evaluate and shelf the piece of graphic you created. Is that line you just created a decoration, separator or a highlighter? Is the text you typed the headline or the tagline? Etc.

Similarly, the grouping (and perhaps coloring to an extent) helps not only to move elements together but more imprtantly helps you get things out of the way both mentally and physically. The activity also helps establish hierarchy within your design.

Failing to continously name layers will result in minor mistakes and will inadvertently block you from further refining your layout as the number of layers become impossible to manage. You will convince yourself the design is good enough instead of trying out further options which would be relatively easier if the layers were well groomed. If you force yourself to use a file with confusing layer names you will end up spending a lot of frustrating minutes trying to find the right layer (especially multiple layers) to be able to achieve what you have in mind. The free flow of ideas will be blocked and you will get anxcious to get the work done instead of enjoying what you like most — designing.

Summary: Grouping and naming layers is beneficial for both short and long term and it results in a more pleasant work experience and a better end result.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.'s picture
532 pencils

Yep. Once I start using more then, let's say, 5 layers, I'm going to name them.

Ivan's picture

You brought up an important point. The benefits only show up if there are 10 or more layers.

morse's picture
69 pencils

One more benefit. Spotlight will find index layer names, so you can search for them later on.

Ivan's picture
monkey1979's picture
680 pencils

It's all about consideration for whoever opens your file next, everything should be in place and labeled correctly.

Since I have been working for myself I have become quite lazy though, but even that has bitten me in the arse when finding that subtle lip highlight or glint in the eye, sooo much easier if you name / group everything.

Sorry for my disgraceful file that I submitted for photoshop tennis.

living on dreams and custard creams.

3dogmama's picture
1990 pencils

The photoshop tennis is a judging allowed. We're playing it to have fun. I won't be at my best...just my worst!;)

"Art -- the one achievement of Man which has made the long trip up from all fours seem well advised." - James Thurber

Ivan's picture

That's just a game. :)

Kilik's picture
80 pencils

If I can see what layer I need by looking at the preview I just might skip naming the layer. But I do name things if the number of layers starts to climb.

Ivan's picture

That's a reasonable. I agree.

pG0's picture
2 pencils

yes but naming always help's. and one can save a lot of time. i design layouts and naming is something which helps a lot.

NeoGraphics's picture
33 pencils

Very good post and very true. This also goes for your InDesign layers, correct naming and clean linking of assets, folder structures, your desk, paperwork and studio management. Keeping these things in order and in some kind of structure helps free your mind up for the important thinking and also helps when you are still thinking about a project when you are not working on it.

Graphic Designer and Founder of fu•gu

steveballmer's picture
653 pencils

... better yet is having everything on one layer without the complications caused by all that layering stuff! MS Paint does it this way baby!
I am not Steve Ballmer pretending not to be me!

gwells's picture
1707 pencils

if only illustrator would allow you to group layers, too... can't believe that still hasn't been added in.'s picture
532 pencils

Actually you can. Just drag and drop the layers into another layer.(which is unlocked). Make that your group layer. Only thing missing though is the folder icon.


fuzedotprinting's picture
8 pencils

I have a habit of creating 3 layers when i start a new project for a client.

A.Guides (Contains all movable guides)

B.Text (Contains all editable text)

C.Graphics (Contains jpg, tiff, etc.)

Creates a less piled up environment.

haroldking's picture
10 pencils

nice techniques...Actually it helps when you are working on a group. is it?

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