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Layers are a very important feature in the Editors Full Edit workspace because they give you the freedom to treat individual pieces of artwork separately. You might think of layers as if they were panes of glass, each of which can contain different pieces of artwork. And those panes of glass are stacked one on top of the other. So that where a layer has no artwork, it is transparent and you can see through it to the layer below. To show you how that works in a real file, let's take a look at the Layers panel over here on the right. This particular image has three layers and I can de-construct those layers to see what's on each like this.
Each layer is represented by a bar here in the Layers panel. I'm going to start with this top bar or top layer, the sign layer. To see just what's on that layer, I'm going to hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and click on this eye icon to the left of the sign layer. That makes the other two layers temporarily invisible, and you can see that their eye icons have disappeared. And in the document window you can see the content of just the sign layer. It contains this photograph of rocks and this sign as well as this flag. This gray and white checkerboard represents the transparent area of the sign layer.
The area where there is no content and in this area, I can see down to the content of the layers below when the other layers are visible. Now, I'm going to go back to the Layers panel, I'm going to hold down the Alt key and I'm going to click in the Visibility field to the left of the palm tree layer to show you what's on that layer. You can see in the document window that the palm tree layer contains part of a photograph of a palm tree surrounded by transparent pixels. I'll go back to the Layers panel again, and I'll hold down the Alt key as I click in the Visibility field to the left of the Background layer.
And you can see in the document window that this layer is completely filled with a photograph. To turn all of the layers back on, I'll go to that last layer, the Background layer, and one more time I'll hold the Alt key and click on the eye icon to the left of the Background layer. And now all of the layers have their eye icons and all are visible, one on top of the other in the document window. So what's the reason to use layers in your compositions? Well, layers give you the flexibility to make changes to individual pieces of artwork without affecting the rest of the composition.
So for example, one thing you can do with a layer is to move its content without affecting the rest of the image. Let's say that I'd like to move that palm tree. Because the palm tree is on a separate layer I can do that without moving anything else in this image. The first step is to select the palm tree layer in the Layers panel. To do that, I'm going to click on a blank area of the palm tree layer and that layer is highlighted in black. Then I'm going to get the tool from the toolbar with which I'm going to move the content of the palm tree layer and that's this tool here, the Move tool.
When I click on that tool, I see a bounding box showing me where the content is on the palm tree layer. With the Move tool I'll click inside that bounding box and I'm going to drag to the right and down a little bit to move the palm tree over to the right and I haven't affected anything else in this image. So that's one of many things that you can do to a layer without disturbing the rest of a composition. You can imagine how useful this can be when you're creating complex photo compositions with different pieces of artwork on different layers.
Layers really give you the freedom to be a true digital artist in Photoshop Elements.
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