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Introducing layers

From: Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 12

Video: Introducing layers

Layers are among the most important features in the Expert Edit Workspace. Because they give you the flexibility to work with different pieces of content independently of one another. And that's true whether you're building a composite of multiple photographs like this one. Whether you are using the Healing Brush tools on a portrait, or whether you are making adjustments to a photo, using adjustment layers. When you are working with layers, make sure to have the Layers panel open. You'll open that by clicking the Layers button in the Task panel at the bottom of the ExpertEdit workspace. When you do have multiple layers in a file, you can see the content of just one layer at a time by holding down the Alt key.

Introducing layers

Layers are among the most important features in the Expert Edit Workspace. Because they give you the flexibility to work with different pieces of content independently of one another. And that's true whether you're building a composite of multiple photographs like this one. Whether you are using the Healing Brush tools on a portrait, or whether you are making adjustments to a photo, using adjustment layers. When you are working with layers, make sure to have the Layers panel open. You'll open that by clicking the Layers button in the Task panel at the bottom of the ExpertEdit workspace. When you do have multiple layers in a file, you can see the content of just one layer at a time by holding down the Alt key.

That's the Option key on the Mac and clicking the eye icon to the left of that layer. Now we're looking at just the content of the boat layer in this image, without the content of the background layer. Notice that there's a grey and white checkerboard around the photograph of the boat on this layer. That checkerboard represents transparent pixels. And where our layer is transparent like this, you can see down through that area to the content of any layers below. So if I go back over to the Layers panel, hold down the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac, and click the eye icon on the boat layer again, that will turn the other layers back on.

In this case there's just one other layer, the background layer. And we can see down through the transparent pixels on the boat layer, to the background layer below. You may be wondering how I got this photograph of the boat into the same layered image as the background photograph. To show you how that works, I have another photograph open here, this photograph of the map, which I'd like to bring into the layered image I'm building. One way to do that is to display both images at the same time, by going down to the Layout menu in the Task pane, clicking there, and choosing any of these active icons.

I'll click on All Grid. And now I see a grid that contains the image of the map on the right, and my layered image on the left. I'll go to the toolbar and I'm going to select the Move tool. And then, I'll go to the map image and click on it to select it. And then, I'll click and drag the map into the layered image. And then, I'll close the map by clicking the X icon on its tab. Now we see the map on top of the background and on top of the boat. And over in the Layers panel, you can see that there's a brand new layer, that was made automatically.

It's called Layer One by default, but I like my layers to have meaningful names. So I'm going to double-click the Layer name and I'm going to call this layer Map, instead. You can change the stacking order of the layers in the Layers panel, and that will change the back to front order of the content in the image. Right now, the map is hiding the boat. I'd like the boat to be on top of the map instead. So, with the Map Layer selected, I'm going to click on the Map Layer and drag it down beneath the Boat Layer. And when I see the order underneath the Boat Layer get dark like this, I'll release my mouse.

And now the map layer is beneath the boat layer in the Layers panel, and the boat appears on top of the map in the image. You can resize the content of any layer by using the Move tool. So with the map layer selected, and the Move tool selected in the tool bar, I'm going to click on any of the corner anchor points around the content of the map layer, and drag toward the center, and that makes the map smaller. And then if I want to change the location of the map in the image, I'll click inside of the bounding box and drag wherever I want it in the image.

I can also rotate this content by clicking on the handle at the bottom of the bounding box, and dragging. And when I'm done I'll click the screen check mark. So that's an example of how you can work with the content of individual layers independently, and that's the big advantage of using layers in your images. By the way, if I wanted to work with the content of both the map layer and the boat layer, I could do that by selecting those two layers. So if I hold down the Control key, and click on the boat layer, that's the Command key on the Mac, that selects both layers and now when I click and drag with the Move tool, the content of both layers moves with me.

I'll click Off onto the background layer to deselect those two layers. So far we've been working with layers that contain photographs. There are other kinds of layers, too. If you want to make a blank layer on which you could draw with any of the drawing tools, then go to the top of the Layers panel. And click on the Create New Layer icon, and that makes a blank layer that's called Layer One by default. Now if I were to get a drawing tool, like the Brush tool. I could click and drag to draw on that Layer one. If you have a layer that you no longer want, perhaps I don't like that Drawing layer, then I can delete that layer by selecting it in the Layers panel, and clicking the Trash icon, and then clicking Yes.

Another very useful kind of layer is an Adjustment layer, which you'll use when you want to make an adjustment to the tonal qualities or the color qualities of a photograph. So here I have a photograph on the Background layer, let's say I want that to be darker, I'll select the Background layer. And then, I'll go to the top of the Layers panel. I'll click this icon to create a new Adjustment layer. And in the menu that appears, I have different kinds of Adjustment layers to choose from. Levels, brightness, contrast, hue saturation and so forth. I'm going to go with a simple brightness contrast adjustment layer.

I'll select that, and that creates a new Adjustment layer above my Background layer. And it opens an Adjustment panel that's set to the brightness, contrast adjustments. So here, I could drag brightness to the left and if you keep your eye on the image, you'll see that just the Background layer is getting darker. When I'm done, I'll close the panel with the brightness contrast sliders. Now, I could have selected the photo on the Background layer and gone up to my Enhance menu and chosen to directly adjust the lighting of that background layer.

But I think its a better idea to use an Adjustment layer for that purpose, as I just did. Because you can always go back and edit that Adjustment layer. So, let say I think the background is too dark now. If I want to edit that Adjustment layer, I'll just double click the Layer thumbnail on the left side of that Adjustment layer. And that opens up my brightness contrast sliders again, and I can tweak them. And then close that panel again. And do keep in mind that an Adjustment layer will adjust all of the layers beneath it in the layers stack. So, if I drag the brightness contrast Adjustment layer above the map layer, now it's effecting not only the photo on the background, but also the photo on the Map layer.

So that's an overview of layers, a look at the Layers panel, and a suggestion of some of the important things that you can do using layers in the Expert Edit Workspace.

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Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 12

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