Book a Demo
Prev Next

Diagram Layers

Diagram Layers provide a way of creating and viewing segments of a diagram to represent any concept that is the basis for separating or grouping the elements on that diagram. The layers can be compared to transparencies laid on top of one another in a stack, as in paper-based encyclopedias where, for example, a base image of a human skeleton would have a transparent sheet showing the arteries laid on top, then one for veins and another for nerves. The analogous process with Enterprise Architect's Diagram Layers is to reveal parts of any diagram, including Business Process Models, Architecture diagrams, Kanban diagrams or Roadmap diagrams. The tool has the added flexibility of being able to selectively apply any subset of the layers, which can't, of course, be done with the encyclopedia transparencies. The tool also has the ability to bring a selected layer to the foreground while showing the other layers with reduced opacity. Diagram Layers will be a welcomed tool for people who need to present complex models to an audience, creating an easy-to-understand narrative built up in stages rather than confusing the audience with the complete diagram from the start.

Diagram Layers - like the related Diagram Filters - can be used to hide or expose parts of any diagram. Filters are applied using element metadata such as status or complexity, whereas Layers are applied using any ad hoc criterion for the separation of the elements; for example, items to be focused on in a workshop or elements of a particular architectural style. Layers can be used to separate elements in architecture diagrams to show strategic, tactical or implementation intent, or to show particular sequences of activations in a Sequence diagram, or to show a time-ordered sequence in a Business Process model, and much more.

An important difference between Filters and Layers is that Filters are defined at a meta-level and so can be applied to any diagram in the repository. So, for example, a Filter that hides all elements except critical requirements can work on a business level diagram in Project A and a technical level diagram in Project B. Layers, on the other hand, are intentionally defined on and for a specific diagram and cannot be applied to other diagrams. Advanced modelers might want to use Layers and Filters together to create visualizations of the underlying diagrams, remembering that the definitions of Filters apply at the level of the repository but their usage and application with Layers apply to a user's view of a diagram. Diagram legends can also be used in conjunction with both Layers and Filters to assist in improving the narrative of the diagram.



Layout > Tools > Filters & Layers > Layers   or

Explore > Portals > Windows > Diagram > Diagram Filters > Layers

Keyboard Shortcuts

A+1 > Diagram Layers > Layers


The icons in this table are described in order of use, not in order of display in the toolbar.



See also

Create New Layer

Simply click on this icon to display a selected checkbox and the text 'Layer n'.

Overtype the text with whatever name you want to apply to this layer of elements.

The checkbox is selected so that the elements in the layer are shown on the diagram. If you clear the checkbox the layer is not active and the elements within it are not shown.

You now select elements to add to the new layer.

Add elements to layer

On the diagram, select the element or elements to show or hide using a layer. Then click on the name of the layer, and on this icon. The icon is enabled when the elements and layer are selected.

If you now clear the layer checkbox, the elements assigned to it are hidden on the diagram. If you select the checkbox, those elements are shown again.

Filter by layer

With a layer checkbox selected, click on this icon to fade all elements NOT in the layer, leaving the selected layer displayed in clear. Click on the icon again to restore all elements to full display.

Remove selected elements from layer

In the diagram, select the elements that you no longer want to include in the layer. Then click on the layer name and click on this icon.

When you clear the checkbox against the layer name the selected elements are no longer hidden on the diagram, and when you select the layer and click on the Filter icon, those elements are faded.

Clear all elements from layer

Simply click on the layer name and click on this icon. All elements assigned to the layer are cleared from it. If the layer has no assigned elements, the icon is not enabled.

Delete layer

Click on the layer name and on this icon to remove the layer from the window. Any assigned elements display as normal.


Select this check box to set the filter state for all filters in the list.


Help icon.

Display this Help topic.


  • Layers operate on elements; connectors between elements are hidden or filtered in if the target and/or source element is assigned to the selected layer
  • If a diagram layer is selected, it will remain selected as you click out of and into the diagram
  • If a layer is hidden, the elements in it cannot be selected

Learn more