How to Work with Layers in Krita [Complete Guide]


Layer is an important tool every Krita user must learn if they want to create digital art easily. With a layer, you can adjust and edit the elements of your artwork without permanently altering the original image.

In this article, I will explain everything you need to know about layers in Krita so you can work with it and start creating digital art with Krita efficiently.

Understanding the Layer Dockers

The layer dockers are the place where you can modify the layer in Krita. In the default setting, the layer docker will be shown on the right of the canvas.

Opening layers dockers menu

If you can’t find the layer docker, maybe the docker is disabled. So you need to enable layer docker by clicking Settings > Dockers > Layers menu.

On the docker layer, you will find the Opacity slider, a list of currently used layers, and some quick shortcut keys. 

Now, let’s start using layers on canvas. I will show you an example for each step.

Selecting Layer

To select a layer, simply left-click the layer. The selected layer will be highlighted in blue within the layers docker.

Any drawing, masking, or effect will be applied only to the selected layer, while unselected layers will remain unchanged.

You should not select the background layer unless you want to change the background. If you’re going to create a sketch for your drawing, always select the first layer above the background layer. 

Always make sure which layers are currently selected. Sometimes, I accidentally draw on the wrong layer.

Adding a New Layer 

Add a new layer

To Add a Layer in Krita, you only need to press the + or plus button. This allows you to add a new layer above the currently selected layer.

After adding a new layer, you can select it to make active changes.

The new layer is usually named Paint Layer 2.

Wait, Paint layer? Yes, there are multiple types of layers in Krita. If you click the dropdown next to the plus button, you can see the option of layer you can use in Krita.

Type of Layer in Krita

  • Add Paint Layer: It’s a standard layer where you can paint or draw as you would on the main canvas.
  • Add Group Layer: The newly added layer will grouped together with the currently selected layer.
  • Add Clone Layer: This layer is a live copy of another layer. You can’t draw on it directly, but you can apply effects and masks to it, which will reflect on the clone layer in real time.
  • Add Vector Layer: Use this layer to add vector graphics. It’s designed exclusively for vector elements,
  • Add Filter Layer: Quickly a filter mask layer to the selected layer 
  • Add Fill Layer: Creates a layer with a solid background color
  • Add File Layer: Transform an image file from your computer into a layer in Krita

How many layers is too much?

Don’t carelessly add a new layer in Krita. Every new layer will consume additional memory on your system resources. Using too many layers will cause lags when you’re drawing in Krita.

The maximum number of layers depends on the resolution of the canvas and the amount of system memory you have

The Efficient Layer workflow

Let me outline my workflow for you. Remember, the top item on this list corresponds to the lowest layer in Krita’s Docker, so you’ll need to invert the order when applying it.

  1. Background: This is your canvas’s initial layer. Do not make changes to this layer.
  2. Early Sketching: This is the first layer above the background layer. You start sketching out your rough ideas.
  3. Final Sketching: Usually, over my early sketches, I refine it to make the sketch look clean
  4. Line Art: On top of your final sketch, I will create a clean line art layer using a specific brush.
  5. Base Color: Above the line art layer, I add flat colors as preparation for the next layer
  6. Shading and Shadow: Then, you can introduce depth by adding shading and shadows above the base color layer.
  7. Final Details: The last layer is reserved for final details if needed

Using this seven-layer workflow, you can manage most digital art projects in Krita efficiently.

Of course, I don’t only use seven layers. Sometimes, I use up to 15 layers, depending on how complicated the artwork is.

Layer Organization in Krita

There are many ways to organize layers in Krita.

Rearrange the order of Layers

If you want to rearrange the order of a layer, simply select it. Drag the layer by left-clicking and holding it, then position it above or below another layer.

Move layer upward

Besides dragging the layer, you can use shortcuts to move the layer. Click the Up arrow icon next to the plus icon in the Docker to move the layer upward. Click the Down arrow icon to move the layer downward.

Rearranging the order of layers is essential for grouping them. It’s also important if you accidentally draw on the wrong layer. Instead of undoing and redrawing, you can switch the affected layer to the correct position.

Rename a Layer

Layers in Krita are named numerically in the order they are created, but these default names may not indicate their content. This can lead to confusion if you cannot remember the purpose of each layer.

So, it’s important to rename it so you can quickly differentiate what each layer represents while you’re painting in Krita.

Name of layer in Krita

Select the layer you wish to rename. Right-click and choose the “Properties…” option.

A dialog box will appear. In the Name field, type the new name and click ‘OK’ to save the changes. The renamed layer will then be updated in the docker.

Delete a Layer 

If you want to delete a layer in Krita, then follow these steps:

Remove layer

First, select a layer you want to delete. Right-click the layer and choose the “Remove layer” option

Your layer will be deleted. You can also use this method to delete an applied filter mask.

Duplicating a Layer

In Krita, you can duplicate a layer using one of two methods:

First, right-click on the layer you wish to duplicate and select the “Copy Layer” option. Next, right-click on the target where you want the duplicate to appear and choose “Paste Layer.”

This action will paste the duplicated layer directly above the selected layer.

Duplicate layer or mask in Krita shortcut

The second method involves clicking the double square icon, instantly creating a copy of the selected layer.

Merging Layers

To merge two layers together, select the top layer, right-click it, and choose the “Merge with Layer Below” option.

Merge with layer below in Krita

To merge multiple layers, hold Control (on Windows) or Command (on Mac) while left-clicking to select the layers you wish to combine, then select the “Merge with Layer Below” option.

The resulting layer will be merged and renamed to “Layer 1 merged”.

Adjusting Layer Opacity

You can adjust the opacity of a layer; this is helpful when progressing to the next step while you’re drawing in Krita. For example, after finishing the sketch layer, I reduced the opacity to make it easier to create line art in one stroke.

Adjust opacity in Krita

To do this, select the layer. At the top of the docker, move the opacity slider to the desired value. I set it to 42%. Typically, an opacity of 30-50% for the sketch layer is enough, based on my experience.

Locking a Layer to Prevent Changes

Locking a layer prevents any modifications to it. This includes renaming, reordering, merging, applying filters, or even deleting the layer.

To lock a layer, select it and click the lock icon next to the layer’s name. The icon will change to indicate that the layer is now locked.

To unlock it, simply click the lock icon once more.

Adding a Mask to a Layer in Krita

To add a mask to a layer in Krita, right-click the desired layer, move the cursor to ‘Add,’ and choose the type of mask you want to apply from the submenu.

Here is the list of masks available for layers in Krita:

List of masks
  • Add Transparency Mask
  • Add Filter Mask
  • Add Colorize Mask
  • Add Transform Mask
  • Add Local Selection
  • Add Clone Layer
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Author
Kenny Houle
Hi, I’m Kenny. I’m a digital artist who began learning art at the age of 21. I enjoy drawing cartoons and fan art.

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