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How to unlock layers in Adobe Photoshop

Layers are an integral feature in Photoshop. They allow users to separate work into smaller pieces and the effects that can be applied to individual layers allows users to create more complex work. 

unlock layers in Adobe Photoshop

Unlock layers in Adobe Photoshop

Layers can be locked and some images, when opened in Photoshop, open as a locked layer. A locked layer prevents changes from being made to whatever is on it. This is great if you’re tracing over or coloring line art or if you do not want to change a particular layer but still need it to be visible. It can prevent accidental edits. A locked layer is a layer property that persists after you close and open a file. 

Locking and unlocking a layer in Photoshop is easy. Here’s how it works. 

1. Unlock layer in Photoshop

Layers can be locked individually, or you can lock an entire group of layers (layers grouped into a folder). To unlock a Photoshop layer;

  1. Open the Photoshop file.
  2. Look for the Layers panel.
  3. Select the layer that is locked (and that you want to unlock). 
  4. Click the lock icon on the layer.
  5. The layer will be unlocked.

2. Unlock a group in Photoshop

You can unlock a group in Photoshop by following these steps.

  1. Open the Photoshop file.
  2. Select the locked group.
  3. Click the lock icon on the group to unlock the group.

3. Unlock background layer in Photoshop

We mentioned how some images open as locked layers in Photoshop. Unlike other user created layers, these types of layers cannot be unlocked the same way. To unlock this sort of layer, follow these steps.

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.
  2. In the layers window, select the layer that image is on (this is normally the very first i.e., background layer).
  3. Right-click the layer and select Layer from background.
  4. A new layer will be created from the image.
  5. The new layer will be a copy of the image and it will be unlocked.


Photoshop doesn’t have a password protection feature for individual files and certainly not for individual layers in a file. In some cases, for example, if you open an SVG file, you won’t be able to create new layers. This isn’t a locked layer. Instead, it’s the nature of the image. You will have to rasterize the layer before you can edit it directly. Even when copying and pasting from one file to anther, and SVG file won’t be editable until it is rasterized. Photoshop is a complex app and it can take a little time to figure out how all of it works. You should know that, aside from PNGs and JPG, other image formats may behave differently as layers in Photoshop.

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