How to Separate Layers in Adobe Illustrator

If you’re a Photoshop user, you should already know that any new object you create will create a new layer. It doesn’t work the same way in Adobe Illustrator. If you want to keep objects in different layers, you should create new layers manually. 

I know, sometimes we forget about that. It happened to me so many times that I forgot to organize the objects in layers. It can be a trouble when you need to separate colors for print or want to export individual layers.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to separate objects into their own layers in Adobe Illustrator. Follow the steps below and see how it works! 

Note: the screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

Separating Objects into Their Own Layers

What does it mean to separate objects into their own layers? Let’s see an example here. 

For example, there are four versions of the vector in four different artboards but they are all in the same layer. 

See, that’s what happened to me often when I forgot to create a new layer for each version. 

When you click on the layer menu, you’ll see that the four objects (in different artboards) are shown as four groups. 

If you don’t have the Layers panel open already, you can quickly open it from Window > Layers

There are really just two steps to separate layers in Adobe Illustrator. 

Step 1: Select the layer (in this example, Layer 1), click on the layer menu, and choose Release to Layers (Sequence)

As you can see, the groups became layers. 

Step 2: Select the separated layers and drag them above Layer 1, meaning, outside the Layer 1 submenu. 

That’s it. You should see now there are all separate layers and don’t belong to Layer 1 anymore. Which means the layers are separated. 

You can select Layer 1 and delete the layer because it’s basically an empty layer now. 

More About Layers

Other questions about how to use layers in Adobe Illustrator? See if you can find the answers below. 

How do you ungroup layers in Illustrator?

You can ungroup the layers by separating the layers using the same method in this tutorial. If you want to ungroup objects on a layer, simply select the grouped object, right-click, and choose Ungroup

How to group layers in Illustrator? 

There isn’t a group layer option in Adobe Illustrator but you can group layers by merging them. Choose the layers you want to group/merge, click on the folded menu on the Layers panel, and choose Merge Selected

How do I export layers separately in Illustrator?

You wouldn’t find export layer options from File > Export. But you can select the layer on the artboard, right-click, and choose Export Selection

What’s the benefit of having layers in Illustrator?

Working on layers keeps your work organized and prevents you from editing the wrong objects. It’d also be convenient whenever you need to export individual elements of your design. 


Separating layers basically means ungrouping layers in Adobe Illustrator. All you have to do is ungroup (release) them, but ungrouping doesn’t separate them just yet. So don’t forget to drag the released layers out of the layer group. 

Now you know that if you forget to create layers, there’s a solution 🙂 

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