Im currently running Adobe Photoshop version 11.0.2 on my mac, and I have taken a screenshot of logo in png format. When I open it in Photoshop I would like it to have separate layers.

Is there any way to do this? I have already tried to change it into a PNG format but the image remains the same when I open it up in Photoshop.

  • @andrea Please keep edits more substantial. Thanks. – slhck Feb 27 '14 at 12:27

PNG files don't work that way. There are no layers in a PNG screenshot. Everything you're expecting to have layers is flat. (At least for the general public. If you want to get technical about the non-flatness of the windowing system, see Aaron's answer.)

A flat image like PNG or JPG has no support for multiple layers. They are only two-dimensional. Multiple layers are only possible in specialized image formats like PSD (Photoshop), PDN (Paint.NET) and TIFF.

When you open a flat image in Photoshop, you can manually use the select tools to draw selections and cut them into separate layers in Photoshop. But that's manual work. There's no "magic" spell for it (although the magic wand tool might be helpful).

Once you're done, save your work as a PSD file (Photoshop's native format). You can export a copy into PNG, JPG, etc to get a flat file for use in websites, documents, etc. But never save your original layered work in any flat format like PNG because Photoshop will flatten it, and so you won't be able to edit it as layers anymore.


Everything you're expecting to have layers is flat.

Actually, the windowing system is not flat - internally everything is represented basically as layers and rendered separately. Whatever is behind this web browser window exists separately and has been rendered on it's own by the windowing system. OS X uses a compositor, this rasterizes everything together to be sent off to the framebuffer only at at the very end of the process. Consider that you can take a screenshot of an individual window with the built-in screenshot features of OS X and the alpha-transparent parts of a window and the windows' shadows are preserved in the PNG and magically do not hint of anything behind what was captured.

Considering that it's possible on OS X to capture screenshots of individual windows, it's possible to create layered screenshots.

Tools are able to grab the surface of each window separately and then assemble these together as layers into an exact representation of the entire screen with each layer containing the full window contents and with accurate alphatransparency. Acorn has a feature built-in to do this which is quite nice.

You're able to just delete windows you didn't want to have there, move stuff around, even change out the desktop background behind the desktop icons.

A tool that's free on the Mac App Store is Screenshot PSD, which produces layered PSDs you can open up in Photoshop. There are others.

Regarding extracting layers when you are looking at a "logo" - well, if you took a screenshot with a logo on a website visible with the above utility there would be "layers" in the screenshot but one of them would be the the full web browser window. You could try a utility like Page Layers which would break a websites' elements up into a PSD file with each of them as a layer. But you'd extract a logo file from that just as easily manually by pulling up a web inspector or doing a "save as" on the image.

To get layers that are actually useful for you would require explaining the nature of what you want and what you are dealing with - there are a lot of cool tools but at the end of the day information can't be retrieved if it doesn't exist.

  • Would you get a layered version of a logo using this software as OP asked about? – Ouroborus Mar 7 '16 at 17:49
  • There's not enough information to tell. If the logo was actually in a software program that was using the compositor, or was looking at website rendered in webkit, then screenshot utilities exist that would be able to pick out whatever information was there. – Aaron Gyes Mar 7 '16 at 17:55
  • That is a very interesting read! "at the end of the day information can't be retrieved if it doesn't exist." Totally agreed. I suspect the OP saw some cool logo on a website (obviously a flat image) and wanted to magically get a layered version of it just by taking a screenshot. If only things were that easy... – ADTC Mar 8 '16 at 15:56
  • Likely. I suspect it's something along those lines, or a case of someone having a screenshot of something from when it was being worked on in Photoshop, really really wanting what was only in the PSD but not quite yet understanding. Could be trying to do data recovery after a crash, or one could speculate as to what situations would result in being emailed a screenshot of your own logo in Photoshop but not being given a PSD... – Aaron Gyes Mar 9 '16 at 17:28

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