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I haven't been heavily using PhotoShop for a few years and now need to get some work done in CS6 and for the life of me, I can't find the setting for paintbrushes to 'preserve transparency' when painting on a layer.

Is this feature still there somewhere? Perhaps hidden or renamed?

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Preserve transparency is a layer setting. It appears at the top of the Layer Panel in the "Lock" icon list.

lock

Highlight the layer you wish to preserve and click the small checkerboard icon next to the word "Lock"

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    Aha! Both renamed ('lock transparent pixels') and moved! Serves me right for skipping a half dozen versions. ;) – DA01 Apr 12 '13 at 20:32
  • There is also a Preserve Texture painting tool option in the Brush Panel. It's a bit different than transparency but can be very helpful. – Scott Apr 12 '13 at 20:41

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