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The Layer List

Last updated on 14 Dec 2023
4 min read

In the Layer List, you’ll find all the Pages, Artboards and layers in your document. You can reorder and rename all of these from here.

The Layer List is a great way to locate things on the Canvas — which is particularly useful for more complex designs. In documents with multiple Artboards, groups, Symbol instances and other layers, the Layer List makes it easier to find exactly what you need.

The Layer List is searchable, so it’s good practice to name your layers, especially if the name reflects the function or appearance. To rename a layer, either double-click on a layer’s name, hit R, or Control-click and choose the Rename option in the context menu.

Different types of layers behave differently in the Layer List. You can select layers directly in the list by clicking on them, which will also highlight them on the Canvas with a selection box:

Image showing a selected layer in the Layer List

A selected layer in the Layer List

Tip: the Canvas won’t move to show your layer when you select it in the Layer List. To bring it into view, press 2 to focus you right on that layer.

You can drill down into layers that contain other layers, such as combined shapes, Symbols and groups. Clicking the chevron right icon in front of the group will open it to show the layers within.

If you use boolean operations to create combined shapes, the Layer List will group the shapes together, making it easier to edit the individual shapes or the group as a whole.

You can also use Symbols in your designs. These appear in the Layer List with a purple Symbol icon Symbol instance next to them. Just as with groups, you can expand them to see the layers inside.

Layers within a Symbol instance have a different type of selection box:

Image showing the two types of selection boxes that appear in the Mac app

The two types of selection boxes that appear in the Mac app (v94 October 2022)

Note the difference in the corner selection handles. This tells you that this layer within the Symbol instance can only be resized by editing the Symbol Source.

Layer List icons

The Layer List displays icons that correspond to the type and form of the layer on the Canvas — for example, a rectangle shape will appear in miniature in front of the layer name in the list. The order of the list determines how the layers appear on the Canvas.

Want to focus on a layer in double quick time? Simply click on a layer’s icon in the Layer List to quickly pan and zoom to that layer on the Canvas.

Image showing example of the icons you’ll see in the Layer List in the Mac app

An example of the icons you’ll see in the Layer List in the Mac app (v94 October 2022)

Symbols appear in purple. Hidden layers appear in light grey. When layers, groups or combined shapes have a Text Style or Layer Style applied to them they will also appear in the Symbol highlight color.

Hiding and locking layers

To hide a layer, hover over its name in the Layer List and click the eye icon Eye cloud that appears. If the eye icon next to a layer has a line through it Hide before you hover it, the layer is already hidden. You can also use H to toggle hiding and showing layers.

To lock a layer, hold , hover over a layer and click the padlock icon Open lock that appears. Click the padlock Lock/Unlock rulers to unlock it. Or use L to toggle a layer’s lock on and off. When you lock a layer, you won’t be able to edit or move it.

Note: You can show or hide Symbols in the Layer List, but not the individual layers within a Symbol.

Searching the Layer List

If you have a document with lots of layers, you can use the search bar Search Layer List at the top of the Layer List to find a specific layer type. You can also use the search bar to find a layer by name.

Tip: The Layer List will truncate long layer names. Hover over them to see a tooltip with the full name.

You can quickly navigate the Layer list with shortcuts:

  • : expand a group or Symbol
  • Esc: exit a group
  • : open Symbol Source
  • : select next layer or group
  • : select previous layer or group

Note: When navigating layers within a group, and will only select layers within that group.