Create Pixel Stamps to Keep Your Layers

how to make a pixel stamp in photoshop elements

Why Layers Matter

The beauty of layers (in Photoshop and PSE) is the flexibility and control they allow you to have over your image. By editing in layers, you can access and manipulate the changes made at steps you took during the edit. Eyes too bright? Go to that layer and lower the opacity. Vignette darkened an area too much? Go to the layer and use black brush to conceal over troubled area.

Totally confused by layers? My All About Layers webinar may be just what you need!

What Flattening Does

Flattening takes all the edit layers you have used and squishes them down into a new background. When you flatten, you lose access to layers you used earlier in the edit. For example if you edit an image then right at the end you realize you whitened their teeth or eyes too much. The only way to get back to that layer is to use the history panel and go back to that layer, losing all the changes you made after that step.

Most of the time I edit with adjustment layers, but every so often I do need a pixel layer. When is that? Anytime I want to sharpen or smooth, I need those pixels. Typically you would save your layers up to that point as a .psd file, then flatten and do the last few things that require pixels.

A way around flattening is to create “pixel stamps” which has a flattening effect but keeps your layers open. The layer is like a “stamp in time,” capturing the edits made already and creating a new pixel layer with all those changes.

How to Create a Pixel Stamp

Making a stamp is very easy, and it is identical for both Photoshop CS6 (and older) and Photoshop Elements 11 (and older).

  • Click on the top, active layer in the Layers panel/palette
  • Press ‘shift’ + ‘control’ + ‘alt’ + ‘e’ (Mac’s press ‘shift’ +  ‘command’ + ‘option’ + ‘e’)

You can edit on the pixel stamp just like you would on a duplicate pixel layer. You can run a blur filter to smooth skin, you can sharpen with Unsharp Mask or High Pass filter, etc.

Important Note to Remember

Once you have created the pixel stamp, any changes made to the layers below it will not show through because the stamp is blocking them. However, if you run a filter on it (like to blur or sharpen), and reduce the opacity, changes made to layers below may show through.

pixel stamp

Pixel Stamp Action

In the video below, you will see me using an action called Make Stamp, which is part of the update to Everyday Essentials workflow set. If you purchased Everyday Essentials already, you will receive an email in the next day or two letting you know how to get your free update.

Video Tutorial

Below is a video showing why pixel stamps are handy, how to make them and what to avoid. If you are reading in a blog reader or email, you need to click over to the post to watch the video.

About Amanda

I am passionate about helping others learn how to use their DSLR cameras and editing programs. More information about me can be found at my About page, or by visiting my personal blog.


  1. Awesome website, but I wanted to let you know I tried to click on your “+” sign to add you to my blog roll on bloglovin’ and it doesn’t work.

    I’ll do it the old fashioned way, but I thought you’d like to know. Enjoy your week!

  2. Thanks for this useful tutorial. I believe I have your workflow set installed.

  3. Thank you for this! I wish I knew this trick a looong time ago! Very helpful – no more flattening for me!

  4. Lucille Matte says:

    I am self-taught up to this point so this will explain why I’m the dummy here, but how are you saving this file, as a psd? I always have to flatten layers to save as a jpeg. I was hoping you’d save the file so I could see what the extension would be. Thanks!

    • Great question, Lucille! If you want your layers open, to be able to access them again later, save the file as a .psd file. Once you’re edit is all finished, and you’ve saved the .psd, you can flatten and save as a .jpg for printing.

      Does that make sense?

      • Lucille Matte says:

        Yes, thanks!!! (better late than never to respond right)? I have learned much from you and really appreciate all your time and dedication to teaching others your perfected skills.


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