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Layer arrangement
Written by Ryan Allan
Updated over a week ago

Layer arrangement

Layers in digital art software can be likened to transparent sheets arranged in a spatial sequence. The configuration of these layers determines which elements appear at the front, commanding immediate attention, and which are relegated to the back, partially or completely concealed.

In digital art creation, the terms 'front' and 'back' are often favored to describe the positioning of layers because they relate to the artist's perspective as if they're painting on a canvas in a three-dimensional space. While some software applications might use 'top' and 'bottom' to refer to the order of layers, reminiscent of stacking papers on a desk, creative programs adopt a more spatial approach. This helps artists to visualize the composition as it would appear in a real-world setting, with each layer contributing to the depth and dimensionality of the final piece, much like elements of a stage set where the most important features stand at the front and supporting details fall to the back.

Here are the four primary arrangement options:

1. Bring to Front

  • What it does: This option moves the selected layer to the top of the layer stack, making it the uppermost element.

  • When to use it: Use this feature when you want to prioritize an element over all others, such as a character in a digital illustration that should be in front of the background elements.

2. Bring Forward

  • What it does: Moves the selected layer one position up in the stack.

  • When to use it: Ideal for making incremental adjustments when you're fine-tuning the overlap of several elements, like adjusting the overlap of clothing and hair on a character.

3. Send to Back

  • What it does: This sends the selected layer to the very bottom of the stack.

  • When to use it: Use this when you need to place an element behind all others, such as setting a background layer in a complex composition.

4. Send Backward

  • What it does: Moves the selected layer down one position in the stack.

  • When to use it: Useful for small adjustments where an element only needs to go behind one or a few objects, like moving a piece of scenery behind a character.

Methods of Rearranging Layers

Here's how you can rearrange layers:

Through Drag & Drop

This method involves clicking on a layer and dragging it to a new position within the stack.

It gives you a clear view of the layer's new position in relation to others and is ideal for those who prefer a hands-on approach.

Using Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts provide a quick way to rearrange layers without breaking your creative flow.

  • Default shortcuts:

    • Bring to Front:

      • Windows: Ctrl + Shift + ]

      • macOS: Cmd + Shift + ]

    • Bring Forward:

      • Windows: Ctrl + ]

      • macOS: Cmd + ]

    • Send Backward:

      • Windows: Ctrl + [

      • macOS: Cmd + [

    • Send to Back:

      • Windows: Ctrl + Shift + [

      • macOS: Cmd + Shift + [

  • Customization: Magma allows you to customize these shortcuts through the Edit menu (Edit/Application Settings/Shortcuts/Layers) by clicking "+" and pressing any key combination.

Via Dropdown Menu

The dropdown menu offers a more visual approach for beginners or those who prefer using a mouse over keyboard shortcuts.

You can find these options in the layers panel by right-clicking on a layer.

Edit Menu

You can access layer arrangement options through the Edit.

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