Layer Mistakes + How to Fix Them

Everybody Makes Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes when they’re getting started with Affinity Photo. Fortunately, a lot of problems you encounter can be solved by double checking your layers. 🙂

In addition to this article, you can also watch our video on the top 10 layer mistakes made in Affinity Photo.



Mistake 1: Selecting the Wrong Layer

By far the most common layer mistake I see with Affinity users is having the wrong layer selected. Here are two examples of how this might happen to you. 

Urkel GIF

Let’s say you are trying to select the flowers, but have the car layer selected. Now when you try to make a selection, it doesn’t work quite right.

Car layer selected, try selecting flowers


But if you have the right layer selected, in this case the flower layer, then the selection will work like a charm.

Flower layer selected


Alternatively, you could check on All Layers from the Context Toolbar, which allows you to make selections from any layer, regardless of which layer you have selected.

Check All Layers


The other common version of this mistake is having an image selected, instead of its mask.

Say I wanted to mask out part of this photo, and I have a mask applied to the tiger. Now I just need to select the tiger and start painting in black, right?

Mask and Paint


Not quite. That just puts black paint onto the tiger layer.

Tiger selected paint


We need to select the mask, not the photo, and then begin painting.

Selecting the wrong layer is the most common mistake, but luckily, it’s a very simple fix!

Select Mask, then paint



Mistake 2: Working Destructively

Working destructively is when you apply changes directly to your photo, taking away your ability to go back and make changes later.

One common example of this is applying filters directly to a picture. Say you have a nice selection of the background of an image, and want to blur it.

Select background


You could come to the top of the screen, press Filters, then Blur, then apply a Gaussian Blur Filter.

Blur Filter


But after you’ve applied the filter, you have no way of changing it!

Apply, can't change


A better way to do this is to have your selection, and then come to the Live Filters icon, and apply a blur.

Live Filters icon


This applies the filter as a separate layer that can be turned on and off, or adjusted at any time.

Turn off, adjust filter



Mistake 3: Unorganized Layers

Oops GIF

As an example, say I was working on this photo, saved it, and then came back to it a week later. With my layers looking like this, I would have no idea what each layer is doing.

Unorganized layers


A simple fix for this is to double click a layer’s name, and then name it something more useful.

Double click and name


I could do the same for all the other layers. 

Name all layers


Now I can easily tell what each layer is doing.

To make my organization even better, I could group my layers. To do this, just select a few layers while holding down Command (Mac) or Control (PC).

Select with Shift


Then, press Command G (Mac) or Control G (PC) to group them. I can even give my groups names, to be extra organized.

Group layers


Now our layers are looking much better!

Organized layers



Mistake 4: Current Layer and Below

If I wanted to remove some of these leaves from the photo, I would first make a new Pixel Layer (so I can work non-destructively).

New pixel layers


But then, if I start using the Inpainting Brush Tool, nothing happens! That’s because there is no information on this blank Pixel Layer for Affinity to sample from.

Inpaint, nothing happens


I need to turn on Current Layer & Below so Affinity can use the information from the photo layer underneath my blank pixel layer. By turning this on, the Inpainting Brush Tool will work as expected.



Mistake 5: Healing Above Adjustments

Miss GIF

With the photo we used in the last example, let’s say I first applied a Black & White Adjustment to it, and then made a new Pixel Layer to do my inpainting.

Black and White, pixel layer


While inpainting, everything looks like it’s working fine. All of the leaves are disappearing.

Inpaint removes leaf


After a while though, I decide I don’t want the Black & White Adjustment. But when I turn it off, I see that the Inpainting Brush Tool used the Black & White Adjustment as a reference point, not the original photo!

Turn off Black and White


To avoid this problem, I should have inpainted on a pixel layer that was placed BENEATH the adjustment layer.

Pixel layer beneath


Now I can turn the adjustment on and off whenever I want, and my inpainting will look perfectly fine, because it used the information from the original photo, and was not affected by the adjustment layer.



Mistake 6: Adjustment Beneath Layer

If I want to change the Hue of my photo, but have my HSL Adjustment at the bottom of my layers, it’s not going to affect my picture.

HSL below layers


But if I drag the HSL Adjustment to the top, now it can affect the other layers.

HSL above layers


Mistake 7: Forgetting Child Layers

If I wanted my HSL Adjustment to affect the flowers but not the car, I need to use a child layer.

To do this, drag the HSL Adjustment down and to the right of the flower layer. Now the HSL Adjustment is a child layer to the flower, making it so the flower is the only layer that the HSL Adjustment affects.

child layer



Mistake 8: Forgetting the Lock

By default, a photo layer is locked when you open it in Affinity, so if you try to move it with the Move Tool, you’ll quickly see that you’re not able to do so.


To fix this, just press on the Lock icon next to the layer to unlock it.

Can't move layer


Once unlocked, you can move and resize it freely.

Unlock layer


Another example of this mistake is not locking layers when you should. In this example, let’s say I wanted to move the white rectangle, but I accidentally move the text instead.

Move text


To prevent this, I could select the text layer, and then lock it by pressing on the Lock icon.

Lock layer


Now I can freely move the rectangle without worrying about moving the text box.

move rectangle



Mistake 9: Forgetting to Rasterize

Camera Oops GIF

When you place an image into an Affinity Photo file, it will open as an image layer. To do this, you would go to File, then Place.

File, Place


Then click and drag to insert the image.

Click and drag


This is important because you can’t use the Flood Select Tool on image layers. If I try to use the Flood Select Tool, you can see that nothing happens.


To fix this, we need to make the image layer a Pixel Layer. We do this by right clicking on the layer, and then pressing Rasterize.

Right click, rasterize


Now the Flood Select Tool works as expected.

Flood Tool works



Mistake 10: Forgetting to Rasterize When Cropping

By default, Affinity applies a non-destructive crop to our pictures.

Non-destructive crop


Even after you crop a photo, the parts you cropped out are actually still there, they’re just hidden. I usually really like this feature, but there are times when you really and truly want to delete those parts of the photo that you cropped.

Crop, still there


To do this, just right click on the layer, and press Rasterize and Trim.

Right click, rasterize and trim


Now anything that is not visible will be deleted.

Not visible, deleted


All of these mistakes are avoidable and easy to fix. But if you’ve ever made any of these mistakes, you know how frustrating it can be.

If you want more help learning Affinity Photo, you can check out our beginner’s guide to Affinity Photo, which will teach you everything you need to know to get up and running with all of your photo editing goals.

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