1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

In most UIs, selecting item 2 and shift+clicking on item 6 would select the following:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

but in Illustrator when you click on the target icon in the Layers panel to select a layer and shift+click another layer, it does not select any of the layers between them.

How can this be accomplished?

  • 1
    Are you familiar with this thread? Also try "Highlight the necessary layers / sublayers by selecting the first and last while holding Shift." – vectorboom.com Dec 29, 2015 at 10:11
  • It's working for me, so I'm not sure what is happening on your end. Perhaps, closing it out and rebooting your computer. Little hiccups like that do happen and simply rebooting helps. Even just deleting your preferences and then restarting. Hope this helps.
    – ErickP
    Dec 29, 2015 at 16:53
  • I've actually seen a shortcut to bulk-select consecutive layers exactly as you mention. So the statement that "it doesn't exist" is not correct. I'm very positive that the shortcut do exist. Unfortunately, I saw it on a video tutorial about another issue on Youtube, so I can't recall what was it about nor which video it was. So keep looking around, for I can assure you that there is a direct way for that especific action. Hope you find it!
    – Sam
    Apr 2, 2018 at 6:19

9 Answers 9


To bulk-select objects on different layers using the layers palette (from CS6 on, previous versions worked), there's this work around.

ithaca.andy - Instead of trying to select the layers, click and hold the "lock" icon while sliding from the first layer to the last layer you want to select.Once you've locked the layers, press Ctrl+Alt+2 to unlock the layers and they should be the only layers selected.


Note: if you want to do more complex selections - shift click or command click to choose various selections of layers (ie non contiguous) as shown on previous answer. Then go to Layer palette fly-out menu, choose Options For Selection.., lock the layers, then use the Ctrl-Alt-2 shortcut to unlock them. It's a longer process, but works if you have more complex selections than simple contiguous.

  • 2
    AMAZING. Note that on Mac it's Command + Alt + 2. Jun 12, 2019 at 20:23
  • I can't believe this is necessary. Seriously Adobe, the UX of Illustrator is beyond awful. But thank you for the workaround.
    – Keavon
    Jul 20, 2020 at 22:34
  • Oh wow the click and hold and slide of the lock icon is freaking amazing. Oct 17, 2021 at 1:47

It may be important to realize that highlighting a layer and selecting a layer are two very different things in Illustrator.

  • Highlighting a Layer allows you to perform layer operations, such as move the layer in the stacking order, delete the layer, duplicate the layer, etc. Highlighting a layer does not give you the ability to edit the objects in that layer, only the ability to alter the layer as it pertains to the Layers Panel.

  • Selecting a Layer means you are actually selecting the objects contained in the layer, the artwork, as well as the actual layer itself - giving you the ability to add Appearance Panel adjustments at the layer level.

You can Highlight Layers, as mentioned, by holding down the Shift key and highlighting the first and last items you want to highlight.

enter image description here
Note that in the above animation only the object on Layer 8 is selected, but not Layer 8 itself. The Shift key is being held down.

However, to Select multiple layers, the "spanning" ability does not exist. You have to hold down the Shift key and click each and every target for the layer.

enter image description here
Note that in the above animation the Shift key is being held down.

And, if you are seeking to select the objects on the layer but not the actual Layer itself, you click to the right of the circle target....

enter image description here
Note that in the above animation the Shift key is being held down.

There's no shortcut for multiple selection of layers (or objects on the layers) other than actually using the the artboard(s) to select what you need selected. But if only using the layer panel... you have to Shift-click-click-click-click. There's no way around that I'm aware of.

And, of course you can combine selecting and highlighting (not sure why you'd need this though) and using the Command/Ctrl will allow you to highlight non-continuous layers.

enter image description here
Note that in the above animation the Shift and Command/Ctrl keys are being depressed.

If you have the need to repeatedly select the same objects, on various layers, you may find the menu item Select > Save Selection very helpful. This allows you to select something once, save it, then when you need to reselect those same objects, the saved selection will be listed in the Select menu.

This isn't a widely used feature from what I see, but it's been around for some time. In addition, the Save Selection will honor layers without the need to combine everything on a single layer (like a Group). So... really it may be troublesome to create the first selection, but you should only have to do it once.

  • Very good answer, although I don't find the Cmd/Ctrl key (discussed near the end of your answer) is required to select and/or target non-contiguous layers.
    – Geoff Ball
    Jan 26, 2017 at 16:48
  • @GeoffBall Actually Command/Ctrl is needed to highlight non-contiguous layers... for selecting layers, it's not needed.
    – Scott
    Jan 26, 2017 at 18:23
  • 1
    @VikasKumar as far as I'm aware, nothing has changed.
    – Scott
    Jun 28, 2019 at 13:11
  • 2
    @VikasKumar I could spend years trying to guess at explanations as to why some of the UI idiosyncrasies in AI exist. :) The only thing I know for certain is that they exist and always will after version 8 (which was really the last reliable version for the UI in many ways).
    – Scott
    Jun 28, 2019 at 14:22
  • 1
    I can't suggest anywhere to ask such a question on the stack network.
    – Scott
    Jun 28, 2019 at 14:32

I think I found the trick for bulk selecting target layers, just by chance... Click on the target box, then click on the layer, press ALT while selecting. It is shown here: https://youtu.be/_bpOs-NEiz0

  • 1
    This is it. You are a god!
    – JustGoscha
    Dec 11, 2020 at 16:43

Unfortunately this use to be done in in the CS versions of Illustrator, by Alt-Clicking/dragging, if I remember correctly. This was removed in the CC versions...

Only thing that works similar to actively selct items is Command-Shift Clicking each layer you need to select. This can be Cumbersome though, depending on the amount of items you need to select.

Another possible solution would be to highlight each specific layer you need to select, then clicking the fly-out menu and select "collect in new layer". This could however change your layer order.

Hope this Helps.

  • Is this "Windows" specific? I'm using Illustrator CC on a Mac and have no issues selecting multiple layers using the "SHIFT" method. Unless, I'm misunderstanding the question.
    – ErickP
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:37
  • 4
    I use both MAC and PC. Shift clicking works to highlight multiple layers (in the layers panel) but not to actively select them, which is what I believe they are referring to.
    – Grayson
    Dec 29, 2015 at 19:42
  • Oh, I see. If that's the case then you are out of luck. ;) That seems to be one of the big complaints. They for some reason got rid of that ability and have no idea why. Hopefully they will put it back in future releases.
    – ErickP
    Dec 29, 2015 at 20:14

The best I have is... create a new layer at top level. Shift+select all layers you want to bulk select. Drag them into the new layer. Select the layer. Done.


You can delete multiple items like this:

  1. select your layers with Shift
  2. click on the tiny dropdown menu options on the top right corner of the Layers panel
  3. click "Delete Selection"

I know, it's dumb and not user friendly, but it's how it's done.

delete multiple layers illustrator

  • 1
    The OP doesn't want to delete layers, but select them Jan 16, 2019 at 1:08

You can select multiple layers AND objects on those layers in bulk, here's how:

  1. Highlight Layer
  2. Click to the right of the FIRST layer to select objects within that layer.
  3. Shift select all layers and then release the shift button.
  4. Hold Shift + Option + Command (MAC) and click the last layers 'TARGET' circle icon.

Works on Illustrator CC I have latest version of 2020.


You can highlight continuous layers and then "collect into new layer." That will allow you to select multiple layers and delete or move as a group. Only work around I have found.



I've found the best way to do it right now is:

  1. Select all objects in the layers panel.
  2. Click the little menu of the layers panel (top right, hamburger menu)
  3. Press "Collect to New Layer"
  4. Now select the entire layer by clicking the little circle of it.
  5. CTRL+G (or CMD+G on Mac) to group

Now you can move it out of the layer or leave it.

It's ridiculous that there is no easier way. FIX it Adobe. It's also ridiulous that there is no right click in the layers panel to just Right click - Select highlighted, or group highlighted.

  • Oh I just realised this is not really an answer to the question. But it's still helpful to move multiple objects to a new layer.
    – JustGoscha
    Dec 11, 2020 at 16:44

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