Digital Digest
  • About the Guides
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  • Basics you MUST Learn!
  • Toolbar Basics
  • Selections (pt 1-4)
  • Layers, Layers, Layers!
  • Using Filters
  • Drawing Lines & Shapes
  • General Basics
  • Setting Colour & Resolution
  • Preferences
  • Using Text
  • Resizing & Distorting
  • Adjustment Layers
  • Using Channels & Masks
  • Advanced Techniques
  • Colour Correction
  • Photographic Retouch etc...
  • Art & Design Theory
  • Colour & Harmony Theory
  • Light, Shadow & Texture
  • Perspective
  • Drawing Technique
  • Glossary
  • Glossary

    Layers, Layers, Layers

    I'm guessing that when many of you first start using Photoshop you will curse the holy layer! But later, as you begin to see the light, you will not be able to understand how anyone could get along with out using layers - they are that useful!

    Layers can be imagined like the transparent plastic sheets (cell's) used to make cartoons. There is no animation of course, but an image can be built up from many of these plastic, transparent layers. The picture below demonstrates the general idea.

    Every time you cut and paste any image, instead of sticking it onto the picture, Photoshop will make it a new transparent plastic layer and stick it onto that. Let's do that now with our balloon picture. Select the small yellow baloon:

    Then go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste.


    Photoshop automatically pastes the image at exactly the same position you copied it from so it looks like nothing happened. But lets look at the Layers palette for a second in the picture below. Notice that we now have two layers. The original bottom layer is called 'background' and the layer you just pasted on top of the background is called 'Layer 1'.

    In the layers pallete the bottom layer will always be the bottom layer on your picture and the top layer will always be above it. Now lets move the top layer about shall we. Select the Move Tool from the toolbox:

    And use the left mouse button to drag the newly pasted balloon about the screen, like this:

    Notice that the cut out balloon we pasted looks like it is stuck on a transparent piece of plastic. It doesn't matter how we move this sheet about, the only important thing is that moving this layer moves the image. You can cut and paste as many layers as you want this way, so you don't have to be stingy with them.



    Now that you have two layers, Photoshop will only paint on the layer you have selected at the time. To select a layer to paint on just click on it until it turns blue. In the example below I have 'Layer 1' selected. Notice also that on the layer you select a paintbrush icon will apear on the left of it; this just confirms that this is the layer you will be painting on or editing.

    Since we often need to work with lots of layers it makes life easier if we can rename each layer (we can have something like 8,000 layers in a picture). For example, if we are Photo retouching a face we might have one layer with a cut out of the eye, nose, mouth and so on. It makes sence to rename these layers to eye or nose or whatever. That way when we want to edit the eye we can just click on the eye layer.

    Renaming any layer is easy, just select the layer you wish to rename and right-click the mouse button. Up will pop the following options:

    Select Layer Properties and rename the Layer name to anything you like. You can also label a layer by a certain colour too.

    Right-clicking on any layer will usualy bring up all the options that can be applied to it. It's an easy and quick way do things. For example, you can right-click and delete any layer. Or you can right-click and duplicate a layer too. This is useful if you want to edit certain parts of a picture but want to keep the original untouched. For example, copying a face and deleting everything but the eyes, nose and mouth. If you do this it is possible to sharpen these features without sharpenintg the smooth skintones around them. Just remember, if you can't remember how to do something try right-clicking it.


    Making Layers Invisible

    When you start working with lots of layers sometimes it helps to be able to make them temporarily invisible. To do this we click on the eye icon to the left of the layer. Let's do that now. Click on the eye icon on the background layer so it dissapears, like this:

    You will then be presented with the following picture:

    The background has not been deleted it has just been made invisible. The selection we pasted over the background is now on its own. The checkered squares behind it mean there is no background and the picture is completely transparent. Whenever there is nothing behind a layer the checkerd effect appears. The checker effect will not appear on your final picture it is only there so you know that around the graphic is transparent!


    Reordering Layers

    Okay just so the idea of layers really hits home lets reorder a few. Start a new blank picture in Photoshop and go to the Layers Palette.

    Notice at the bottom of the layers palette there are a bunch of icons designed to add or remove new layers. Click on the add new layer pallete twice (encircled in red). This should create two blank layers. So you should now have the white background plus Layer 1 and Layer 2 as shown in the picture above.

    Now select Layer 1, choose any paintbrush, select any colour (I've chosen red) and scribble over layer 1. It will look like this:

    Next select Layer 2 and draw a blue squiggle over the top of it, like this:

    Now's the smart bit. Go to the Layers Palette and drag Layer 1 above Layer two, like this:

    From this: to this:

    Notice how the red squiggle is now in front of the blue squiggle.

    From this:to this:

    Ready to learn more, then click continue to the Layers guide Part 2.



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