How to Recover Layers in Photoshop After a File Has Been Saved
By Elizabeth Mott
Updated September 28, 2017
After you flatten a layered Adobe Photoshop document and unintentionally save it over itself, you experience the moment of panic every Photoshop user feels when this happens. It's the price you pay for learning and using keyboard shortcuts to speed your workflow, getting ahead of yourself and letting your fingers take over. Before Photoshop gained its "History" palette in version 5.0, your only hope was to rebuild your file from scratch. If you haven't closed your document yet, however, you still have a chance to reclaim your layers.
Open the "Window" menu and choose "History" to display the History panel. Locate the "Flatten Image" step in the list of history states.
Click on the history state just before "Flatten Image" in the History panel. Undoing the flattening process brings back your layered composition..
Press "F7" or open the "Window" menu and choose "Layers" to open the Layers panel by pressing "F7" or choosing "Layers" from the "Window" menu. Verify that your document contains the layers you expect. If necessary, step back farther in the file's history to reach the point at which you want to reclaim your document.
Open the "File" menu and choose "Save As." Change the name of your document and save the file.
If you flattened your document and then performed enough additional steps on it that you no longer can go back far enough in your history to reach the point at which your document still had layers, you can click on the history snapshot at the top of the "History" panel to return to the state in which you first opened your file. Before you save a file during a long editing session, consider creating a history snapshot of your full layered document.
Don't choose "Revert" from the "File" menu to try to go back to your layered state. Because you saved the file after you flattened it, "Revert" will reload the flattened file you don't want and deprive you of the history states that can help you reclaim your layers.
Information in this article applies to Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Photoshop CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.
Elizabeth Mott has been a writer since 1983. Mott has extensive experience writing advertising copy for everything from kitchen appliances and financial services to education and tourism. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from Indiana State University.