I have encountered a problem, or at least an annoyance, with the way that "Layer Comps" work with linked layers. I understand the reason for the design choice and I am not claiming it to be a bug, but I still don't know how to efficiently work around it.

I have a number of layers that I want to position in different arrangements such as making a collage. I create a Layer Comp including Position for each of these arrangements. Later, I add a layer mask, or I make some corrections to one of the layers using masked adjustment layers, an Overlay layer (dodge and burn), or something else that needs to remain aligned to the original layer. I clip and link these layers to keep them together.

The problem arises when I then recall one of the existing Layer Comps: these adjustment layers are not moved along with their master layer. Likewise the mask on the layer itself is also misaligned when any of the preexisting Layer Comps are loaded despite being linked to the image layer.

This results in me either manually realigning all the masks and Overlay layers or (usually) scrapping the Layer Comps and starting over.

There are two aspects to this question:

  1. For an existing PSD with a considerable number of Layer Comps that I do not want to have to recreate is there a clean method to add a layer mask, masked adjustment layer, or other aligned layer to one of the collage elements?

  2. When creating a new document and wishing to avoid this problem is there a better method than defensively making every layer (element) a Smart Object? I find that this considerably increases the size of the file and I wish to avoid that if I can.

  • Not sure why this got migrated from Graphic Design. Making a collage is generally not on topic here, since it may use photography but is not photography.
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 21:42
  • Also, while I happen to know that "layer comps" is a photoshop feature, if you're looking for a solution in using a particular piece of software rather than a general problem, it really helps to explain your environment.
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 21:43
  • Can you show an example? Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 14:34
  • I've always found Layer Comps to be a half-baked feature for these same reasons. They only work well when no further edits are done to the file. Nowadays, I create separate duplicate files rather than using Layer Comps. More files to manage, but more predictable editing. And it's easy enough to move layers between separate files.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 21:45
  • @Scott An alternative for you to consider is to proactively convert every major layer to a Smart Object before making your Layer Comps. This increases file size but should you ever need to add to or change a layer you can do so inside the Smart Object without losing the Comps. I don't like this "solution" because of the file size but if you are already saving multiple copies it's something to consider.
    – Mr.Wizard
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 8:42

1 Answer 1


There were a number of enhancements to the Layer Comps feature in Ps CC 2014. Among them are all the point you address.

You can now select multiple layer comps and update the positions, visibilities and appearances of layers, each independent of the others, for all selected layer comps.

CC 2014 also added the ability to select layer comps from within Smart Objects, something we've been wanting for a while.

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