How To Unmerge Layers In Photoshop

While merging layers can help organize your layers panel and save time by allowing you to edit all merged layers at once, it’s likely that you already know how to do it if you’ve been using Photoshop for a bit. You may need to divide those components again. Maybe you need to correct a mistake you made or edit one of the pieces separately.

What should you do in Photoshop in order to separate merged layers? You can unmerge the layers by simply undoing the merged layers. Or you can use the history panel. The last option is to separate the elements.

Keep reading below for more information.

How to Unmerge Layers in Photoshop

You can follow any of the methods below to unmerge layers in Photoshop.

For more information on how to unmerge layers in Photoshop, watch this video below:

Method 1: Undo the Merged Layers

Undoing the previous command is the simplest method to separate the layers. 

  • Press the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl + Z or Command + Z to undo the previous action.
  • As an alternative, you can select “Undo Merged Layers” under “Edit” in the top menu bar. Even after making a few adjustments, you can still employ this technique.

Just a few more undo operations will be necessary before you can go back far enough to undo the merged layers.

Method 2: History Panel

The use restriction of the last technique is obviously a drawback. Once you’ve made a few more modifications, going back that far is no longer practical. If you haven’t already exceeded the limit, you can use the history panel in this situation. 

  • By selecting the image of three stacked boxes with an arrow pointing upward, you can access the history panel.
  • If the icon on the right isn’t there, you can also access the panel by clicking Window, then History.
  • To undo back to the previous version, you would normally have to completely remove all instances of the brush tool. But, you can go back to the action that came before the one you wish to undo using the history panel.
  • All your work will still be lost (notice the squiggles are gone). Nonetheless, this technique saves time if you have a lot of undoing to do.

Remember that you can only travel so far in the past. 50 steps can be displayed in the history panel by default. There is no way to go back to the point where you merged the layers and undo the activity once you have reached 50.

Method 3: Separating Elements

What if you’ve already made too many adjustments (or don’t want to reverse them)? The elements can still be separated, but it will require some effort.

  • To separate the elements, you must make selections around them and duplicate them onto a new layer.
  • Make a swift selection all the way around one of the shapes. To copy the selection, press Command + C or Ctrl + C. After that, press Command or Ctrl + V to paste your selection. Whatever you choose will inevitably show up on a new layer.
  • Continue doing this until all of your elements have been separated.

Alternatives to Layer Merging

With simple designs, separating each piece one at a time is not a sizable problem. Yet, a lot of your projects will be considerably more challenging. Thus, it is often a good idea to refrain from merging layers.

Yet if you don’t need to separate them out again later, combining them can be useful for accelerating your productivity. Here is what you may do instead to reap the rewards of merging while maintaining the ability to eventually separate the layers once more.

Group the Layers

  • Use Ctrl+G or Command+G to group the layers you’ve chosen. The chosen layers will organize themselves into a folder. Changes you make to the folder will impact all of the grouped layers.
  • With the major exception that you may quickly ungroup them later if you change your mind, it functions very similarly to merging the layers. You may easily separate them again by pressing Ctrl + Shift + G or Command + Shift + G.

Keep Original Layers

  • Another choice is to keep the original layers after merging them. Start by disabling any layers you don’t intend to merge. To disable the layer, click the tiny eye icon on the layer’s left side.
  • After you’ve selected only the layers you wish to merge, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (or Command+Option+Shift+E) on the keyboard. All visible layers will be duplicated and combined onto a new layer as a result.


That’s all there is to it! The process of unmerging layers can be tedious if you haven’t used one of our suggestions for doing so. So, unless you are very certain that you won’t need to separate the layers afterwards, we advise against merging layers.