Planet Photoshop

Unlocking The Background Layer

Can’t move the Background layer? That’s because back in Photoshop 6.0, Adobe locked the Background layer from movement. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that if you look at the top of the Layers palette, you can see that “Yup, the checkbox to lock movement is turned on,” but the frustrating part is that it’s also grayed out, so you can’t simply uncheck it to unlock it. The only way around this is to double-click on the Background, which brings up the New Layer dialog. Click OK, and your Background layer becomes Layer 0 and is unlocked. Now you can move it.

Posted by Corey Barker

Corey is a education and curriculum developer for KelbyOne. He is a graduate of the Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, Fl, with a degree in Illustration. Over the years, Corey has worked as a graphic artist in a variety of disciplines such as illustration, commercial design, large format printing, motion graphics, web design and photography. His expertise in Photoshop and Illustrator have earned him numerous awards in illustration, graphic design and photography. Using Photoshop since Version 2, his expertise and creativity have evolved exponentially with every new version, which makes Corey an invaluable addition to the KelbyOne team.

29 comments on “Unlocking The Background Layer

  1. Or better yet, you can simply hold Alt and double-click the background layer in the Layers palette. It saves a couple clicks…

    • :: THE BEST SOLUTION ::
      just click ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+K and than go to LAYERS menu.
      Click the BACKGROUD, and type your shortcut. (I gave it CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+B)
      and than ACCEPT and OK.
      now return to photoshop and try. Open a jpeg file and u ll see only the backgroud layer that is locked.
      now type your shortcut, and it ll be unlocked!

  2. Nice! I’ve always wondered how to unlock it. My workaround has been to just make a duplicate layer from the background and edit that. That actually works just fine and ensures that the background layer – my original – doesn’t get screwed up. That’s probably why Adobe locked it in the first place.

  3. Great tip Corey. I also use ‘alt + double-click’ to do it too. This just unlocks it without giving you the dialogue box to rename it. If, however, you do want to rename the background layer, then just plain double-clicking will be the faster option.

  4. Rory-thanks for the Alt double-click workaround. I’m doing a post for beginners tomorrow where unlocking the background is the first step so I’ve added that as an option.

  5. I have just installed cs4 and I cannot unlock background layer using alt double click. I scanned an image and want to free transform it but the option to do so is grayed out so I tried unlocking the background and nada. very frustrating… any other solutions.?

  6. Elaine, I’m having the same problem. The Alt double click won’t work for me either. I have CS4. It IS frustrating..

  7. I had the same problem and fin ally figured it out. The first thing you want to do is this:
    1. Make sure your workspace is set to RGB… go to Image>Mode>RGB Color
    2. Double click the layer in the layer window… it will pop up a box that says new layer Layer 0… Blah blah blah
    3. Hit OK and now the image will be editable.
    Hope this helps.

  8. Lol me too i have the same problem but i can unlock it but i can not seem to use any tool…only somethime i can use tools and if i can after some time i cant anymore…there only a hand there…

  9. Yes this is a real pain to have to make a new layer to work in!! I don’t understand why adobe did this and is there a way to turn off the permanent locked background layer??

    Another problem for me in CS4 is when you open two images you cannot see both of them on your desktop at the same time. Is there a preference or a control where I can chage that?

  10. The comments were very helpful. Alt double click is definitely a quicker way to unlock background than simply double clicking. Thanks for your insights!

  11. I recently installed CS4. My background layer is always black. I have tried to edit layer 0 (the background layer) and it won’t work. Note, when I move the layer window around the workspace by clicking (and holding) on the top task bar of the layer window, the background color changes to white, however when I release the click it returns to a black background, Its frustrating am I missing something here?

  12. Ok. So here is my problem. When i am creating things in photoshop and i have a bunch of layers (text, pictures, symbols, whatever) and i save it, it automatically locks all the layers into one layer, so that the next time i open it, it is just one background layer. I tried unlocking that layer, but it still wont let me see or edit the other layers.

    I figured out how to save it so that all the layers are there, but how do i get the layers back for all of the ones that i saved before, and have one locked layer?

  13. Does anyone out there have Adobe Illustrator? I am looking for a program with some ready made templates that can be easily changed. I am not a graphic designer and need some help getting started with making some flyers.

  14. This was very helpful. I’d been struggling with trying to unlock all layers including the background layer. I needed to for my project to be put back at a horizontal view.
    Thank you so very much. I feel like you just saved my life! lol

  15. so i ran into this problem, this is what I did to solve it for me.

    image > mode > change from 32-bits/channel to 16-bits

    hope this helps…

  16. please answer this question!!!!!! I have Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 and the answer provided is not working for me. I’m at my wits end!

    PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION POSTED BY KRISTIN

    Ok. So here is my problem. When i am creating things in photoshop and i have a bunch of layers (text, pictures, symbols, whatever) and i save it, it automatically locks all the layers into one layer, so that the next time i open it, it is just one background layer. I tried unlocking that layer, but it still wont let me see or edit the other layers.

    I figured out how to save it so that all the layers are there, but how do i get the layers back for all of the ones that i saved before, and have one locked layer?

    • Sounds like you are saving it in a format that does not support layers. You have to save as a psd file to keep the layers.
      Assuming this is the case, I am afraid the layers on those other files are gone. There is no way to retrieve them unless you have
      duplicate files elsewhere.

  17. Hi:
    I have a problem that when I create a new file now the layer is locked and I have tried to double click it to have it change but it is not working. There is something different on my background layer. There is like a mask there, it has like a paint brush in it. I am not sure why its doing this. It also won’t let me do a place. Earlier I was working on letters and making them look steel like and I think that thumbnail came up and now it is up all the time.

    What do I need to do? Photoshop just does not seem to be working right now. When you put a background on the layer it does not even let you adjust it. Is this because it is saying its locked?

    Do I need to restore all preferences in the default setting?

    Is it something I did when I was using the effects to make the steel looking letters. At one point I was supposed to use a Lens Flare to create a glint and it seemed to be under the Plug Ins and a note came up and seem to say it was copyrighted and would not work. I wondered if that is what caused it.

    Anyway if you could help I would appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    Betty

  18. I just got some files from another designer and they are labled (partially locked) and I can’t figure out how to unlock them. double clicking and trying to re-name is not working and clicking on window to workspace to layers is also not giving me the option???
    HELP!

  19. i had the problem with unlocking, i followed me yeah suggoestion, that was work out for me, thank u verymuch…

  20. i try to unlock my layer when i want to put my picture on background i double click on layer as they show me on short video but it cant it tell me that it could not complish my work coz my layer is locked

  21. CS4… Image -> Mode -> RGB Color… This worked for me and instantly unlocks the layer without having to double click anything. It was on the “Indexed Color” option. When you change it to RGB, it automatically makes the background editable. Hope this helps.

  22. I used Fluid Mask 3 to cut out an image from its background and saved it as a tiff or photoshop file but when I want to move the image into another background it says that it cant be done because the layer is locked. How do I unlock the layer?