Get your Layers together.

Jonathan Pimento
May 18, 2017 · 5 min read

Working with the layer panel in Adobe XD

Back in 2016, Adobe Experience Design CC (Beta) also known as Adobe XD shipped one of the most anticipated features on Mac — Layers. Over the last few months the team has been focused on building new features and delivering Adobe XD for Windows. As a part of that journey, we are excited to bring the Next Generation Layers for Adobe XD on Windows 10 with the May 2017 update.

Layers in XD have been tailored for the screen design process. We leveraged some of the learnings and research from our family of design tools to reinvent how designers work with artboards and layers. I’ve put together an overview on how you can use Layers in Adobe XD to optimize and speed up your design process.


1. One Panel — Two Views

When you have nothing selected on the canvas, the Layers Panel displays a list of all the artboards in your document. If you select an object on the canvas, the panel switches focus to display layers contextual to that specific artboard. Thus allowing you to navigate between artboards and Layers easily.

TipIf you draw an object outside an artboard, the Layer panel lists it under Pasteboard.

2. Pan and Zoom an Artboard into Focus

Imagine you have over 30 artboards and you need to make changes to 1 specific artboard. Locate the artboard in the Layers panel and double click the artboard icon. When you double click the artboard icon, XD pans and zooms that specific artboard into focus.

Tip — After double clicking an artboard icon, clicking the back arrow in the panel will zoom and fit all the artboards into view.

3. Easily identify different Layers

Each object type in XD has a unique icon in the Layers panel. Apart from the basic shapes, easily identify which objects are symbols, repeat grids, masked groups and boolean operations in the Layer panel based on the icon.

Tip — If an icon has a solid fill, it means it can be expanded further to see the child layers within it. If you see an line icon, it indicates that it’s not a nested object.

4. Working with Groups — Context Edit

When you select a layer inside a group or nested element aka special groups, like a Boolean groups, notice the white highlight in the panel. The white highlight helps you identify layers that belong to that specific group or nested object, which helps you focus.

Tip — When you select an nested object in the layer panel, the canvas decoration highlights that object as well as the group with a bounding box.

5. Hide & Lock

You can hover over a layer to reveal the hide and lock icons towards the right corner in each layer. Using this option you can easily hide/unhide or lock/unlock a layer using the panel.

Tip — You can perform these same actions on the canvas using the shortcuts CMD+L (Mac) & CTRL+L (Win)to lock and CMD ; (Mac) & CTRL ; (Win)to hide layers.

5. Renaming Layers & Artboards

Naming layers and artboards is a tedious process. With XD, you can double click a layer / artboard label to rename it. Use Tab to commit the name and jump to the next layer/artboard. Using the Tab key you can quickly rename your layers. Shift Tab cycles the rename workflow in the opposite direction.

Tip — You can copy paste emoticons to organize and co-ordinate your layers. Warning: This can be very addictive.

6. Contextual Operations

Apart from the basic operations like copy/paste and duplicate, you can use the context menu to easily export layer(s) or convert them into Symbols.

Tip — Multi-select layers and hit export to batch export several layers in a single click which is very handy while generating assets for production or hand off.

7. Mark For Export

Hover over the desired layer and click on the export icon to mark it for batch export. You can then use the File > Export > Batch option to export all marked layers in your document.

Tip — This is very handy while trying to export specific assets to share with a developer. You can mark individual layers or groups that needs to be exported.


Search or Export to Desktop?

We want your feedback! What would you like to see next in the Layer panel? The ability to search and filter layers? or the ability to drag a layer to the desktop to export as PNG?

Your feedback has helped shaped layers. Please take a minute to either submit your feature request or vote for one:

  1. Search & filter in layers
  2. Export on drag to desktop

Few of the many awesome folks behind Layers! — 🍺

Jonathan Pimento

Written by

Dropping pixels, fixing breakpoints & building roadmaps. Designer turned Product Manager on @AdobeXD ⚡️ www.jonathanpimento.com

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