Layer Thumbnails and Panel Options

Enlarge Layer Thumbnail Size

I often hear complaints that the thumbnails in the Layers panel are too small. Especially when working on a high resolution monitor, those thumbnails can be very difficult to see. One of the hidden features within Photoshop, is the ability to enlarge those thumbnails. Today’s tip discusses just that!

The Problem

Layer thumbnails are in place to give you a quick visual as to what that layer contains, but you may find that due to your monitor’s resolution, or personal preference, that the layer’s thumbnails are too small. This can result in an inability to identify the contents of your layers, or make creating a selection from the layer very difficult.

Small thumbnails

Hidden Menus

Most panels in Photoshop contain a ‘hidden’ menu which can be accessed by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of each panel, highlighted below.

Panel Icon

These menus usually contain options directly related to the panel you’re working with, and can sometimes help you customize the user experience. Panel Options is the option which will allow you to customize the feel of your Layers panel.

Panel Options

Panel Options

The Panel Options window contains a few items related to your Layers panel, starting with Thumbnail Size.

Thumbnail Size

There are four options available to you, including an option to turn off the thumbnail completely. In the image below, you can see the difference each thumbnail size makes when viewing your layers.

Panel Thumbnails

As you can see, when the thumbnail size is increased, the contents of that layer are much easier to see. The “medium” option will usually be suitable for most layers, but if you want an even larger view, the “large” option is available.

Other Options

Of course, the Panel Options window contains a few more features which can help improve your experience.

Layer Bounds vs Entire Document – If you’re working on a very large document, and your layer in question is fairly small in comparison, the Entire Document option may leave you squinting to see what that layer contains. Switching to Layer Bounds will focus the Layer thumbnail on only the contents of that layer.

Use Default Masks on Fill Layers – If you’ve ever added a Solid, Gradient or Pattern ‘Fill Layer’, you may have noticed that a Layer Mask is also added along with it. It’s a blank Layer Mask, so it won’t cause you any harm, but if you want to avoid having it added to begin with, turning off this option will prevent Photoshop from automatically adding that mask.

Expand New Effects – Whenever you add new Layer Styles to a layer, they’re automatically displayed underneath the layer, as seen below. However, if you want to have those effect hidden (collapsed) by default, turn this option off.

Layer Effects

Add “copy” to Copied Layers and Groups – By default, when you duplicate a layer, Photoshop adds the word “copy” at the end of it, as seen below. If you would like to prevent Photoshop from adding “copy” at the end of duplicated layers, turn this option off.

Layer Copy