Creating a Layered Menu

Layered menus can provide greater flexibility in showing a button’s selected and activated states, compared to standard overlay menus. In addition to the background image (which may contain the buttons in their normal states), a layered menu has two separate layers for each button (or three, if the button’s normal states are not part of the background). For example, a menu with 12 buttons would need 24 layers just to show the selected and activated states of each button, plus 12 more if their normal state is not part of the background. (A Photoshop file can have up to 99 layers.)

There are several issues to be aware of when deciding whether to use layered menus:

Using the Photoshop Layers

When you configure a PSD file for use as a layered menu, you select the layer or layers that provide the menu’s background. The background can include all of the buttons’ normal state, but it doesn’t have to. If the background includes the normal state, the selected and activated states must be configured to take into account that the normal state is always present. If you want the button to change significantly when switching to the selected and activated states, you may need to have the normal state on its own layer so that it can be hidden when the other states appear.

Using PSD Files to Create Layered Menus

There are some issues to be aware of when using PSD files to create layered menus:

  • Each button’s active area is created the same way as it is when you work with overlays. This means you need to be able to draw a single box around each button’s elements. See Keeping Each Button’s Elements Together for more information.

  • In addition to the layered buttons, you can use overlay-based buttons. The overlay can be another layer in the PSD file or a separate file.