How to unlock layers in Adobe Photoshop

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • Adobe Photoshop is an industry-leading software when it comes with image editing and composition.
  • Photoshop has the ability to protect certain layers from being edited with the Lock option. You can manually unlock layers if you want to.
  • To become a master at Photoshop takes years of practice, but if you wish to accelerate your journey, have a look at our Photoshop Hub.
  • For more guides and fixes on digital art and image editing tools, we recommend you check out our dedicated Digital Photo Page

Adobe Photoshop is an industry standard when it comes with image editing and manipulation software for the Windows platform. In order to protect your work, Photoshop automatically locks the background, and if you wish to unlock the layer you will have to manually tell Photoshop to allow you.

However, some users have reported that they are not unable to work with any images due to a Not a PNG file error. If the user clicks on OK, the image doesn’t load into the Work area.

Locked layers ensure that you don’t accidentally make changes to original images or sections of your work. This is why any image you open up is locked from the get-go, labelled a background layer.

Photoshop does not want you to accidentally ruin the original photo. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to adjust locked layers, however.

How to unlock layers in Adobe Photoshop?

1. Update the Photoshop to the latest version

adobe photoshop

Keep in mind that if you wish to benefit from the latest security patches, bug-fixes and the latest features, you will need to update Photoshop regularly. Adobe has added many features with each update Photoshop becomes better with each version.

It is important to download your software from official sources whenever possible. This way you protect yourself from malware attacks and ensure that your software is running smoothly.

Here are some of the features which were recently added to Photoshop, which you can use if you update for free to the latest version:

  • Support for mobile devices, including iPad
  • State of the art content-aware fill
  • Adobe Fresco is now included in your membership
  • Automatic update of fonts from Adobe Fonts
  • Improved blur effects

=> Download Adobe Photoshop for free

2. Unlock the background layer

how to unlock layers in Photoshop


  1. To convert the background to a new layer that isn’t locked:
  2. Select Layer > New > Layer from Background.
  3. Give the layer a name and select OK.
  4. The new, unlocked layer will replace the background layer in the palette.

3. Unlock other layers

how to unlock layers in photoshop

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Make sure that the Layers panel is visible by clicking Windows at the top of the screen and checking for the checkmark to the left of the Layers option. If the checkmark is there, then the Layers panel is visible. If the checkmark is not there, then select the Layers option.
  3. Select the locked layer by clicking it in the Layers panel.
  4. Click the lock icon to the right of the layer name, then drag it to the trash can at the bottom of the Layers panel.
  5. You will notice that the lock icon is now gone from the layer, allowing you to freely edit the contents of that layer.

3. Rasterize or edit smart objects

unlock smart objects in photoshop

  1. Right-click on the smart object
  2. Select Rasterize Layer

If you don’t wish to rasterize the smart object, then you can double-click and open it separately. Here you can make adjustments to it and when you save it, it will update in the main document.

Smart objects are extremely useful tools in Photoshop. They allow you to create a document within a document and add multiple effects and composites to a specific item rather than the entire document.

Those are some of the resolutions that might fix the program error for Photoshop users. Then users can print the photos they need to from Photoshop again.

FAQ: Locking layers in Photoshop

  • Why are layers important in Photoshop?

Layers are important in Photoshop because they allow you to isolate different elements of your composition. You can add effects, text and other images as well as masks and highlights on different layers and then edit them individually. If you wish to add effects to a number of layers simultaneously, then you can group or flatten them.

  • Why is my layer locked in Photoshop?

Photoshop automatically blocks the background layer as it is encouraged to work nondestructively. You can unlock the background along with any other layers by following the steps above.

  • How do you unlock a locked layer in Photoshop?

You can unlock the layer from the Layers Panel, as shown above (to toggle the Layers Panel on and off, go to Window > Layers or pressF7) or by pressing the shortcut key /.