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V2 Layers Panel: key changes and improvements

Take a short overview of the Layers Panel changes in the recent Affinity V2 releases.

In the Affinity V2.0 and V2.1 releases, apps have had some major user interface changes, including a new-look Layers Panel. Andy takes a quick look at some of the key changes that will improve workflows and overall layer management.

Better identification of layer types

The V2 release introduced icons that precede every layer entry on the Layers Panel. With this icon-based approach, you’ll be able to clearly identify types of layers without relying on layer naming.

For example, a shape object shows a shape icon, but when converted to curves, a curves icon is shown instead. The respective default layer names would still be ‘Ellipse’ and ‘Curves,’ but if you cloned the ellipse and named them the same prior to conversion, the icons may be the only way to tell them apart post-conversion.

For some layer types, e.g. adjustments, you’ll see not only an icon identifying the layer as being of a specific type, e.g. an adjustment layer (a), but also a secondary icon that shows the specific type of adjustment layer, e.g. White Balance or Brightness/contrast (b).

Icons have been designed to be unique, intuitive and instantly recognisable. You’ll get a full list of icons and their meanings in either in-app help or Affinity.Help in the Layers>About layers topic.

In the V2.1 release, Affinity lets you hide these icons if you’re temporarily looking for a cleaner view of the Layers Panel (like pre-V2 apps).

Clearer drop zones

Drop zones for reordering (a), clipping (b) and masking (c)

For V2, Affinity’s Layers Panel has clearer targets, called drop zones, for greater assurance when dragging objects to reorder, clip or mask them. In particular, you can mask by dragging a clipping object directly onto a clipped object’s thumbnail.

Desktop and iPad apps offer the same drop zones for cross-platform consistency.

Multi-object visibility control

All objects visible (a), all other objects hidden (b) and drag up/down to hide or show (c)

For more powerful control of object visibility, all other objects (apart from the current one) can be hidden or shown in one Hide Others/Show Others operation. The former is a great way to temporarily focus exclusively on an object you’re currently working on, in a similar way to the isolate (solo) feature (Alt-click/tap on a layer thumbnail).

Alternatively, for desktop apps only, you can drag up or down on the Toggle Visibility buttons to hide or show multiple objects in one movement.

Easy layer renaming

Another desktop-only feature (new to the 2.1 release) that will speed up your workflow is the step-through renaming of layers. Renaming layers is important if you want to identify a layer or object by using a memorable name, but this can be a time-consuming process. To speed this up, use the Tab key to jump to each layer name one-by-one, renaming as you go.

Parent bars

Many designs contain groups within groups, clipped objects/adjustment layers or masked objects–these are nested (as child layers) inside the parent group, clipping or masking object, respectively. More complex designs may have combinations of these nested within each other–creating a multi-level layer stack. In the V2 release, there is no limit to the number of levels possible–the more levels, the more complex the layer stack.

Drop zones for reparenting above the current layer

Affinity also offers vertical parent bars to help visualise levels and to reparent any object to a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent level by drag-and-drop to drop zones above/below current parent (desktop only).

Duplicate and copy

The Layers Panel also now lets you duplicate a layer or object by dragging it ‘in-panel’ to a target position with the Alt key pressed.

One final, and very cool, Affinity Desktop timesaver, is the ability to copy layer effects (FX) from one object to another by dragging the FX icon to a new object.

Making life easier…

This overview covers some workflow enhancements that users have been requesting to make the Layers Panel even better. Be sure to try them out and adopt them in your own workflows where possible.