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Layers are arguably the most important feature in the Full Edit Workspace, because layers give you the freedom to treat individual pieces of artwork separately. You might think of layers like panes of glass stacked one on top of the other, each pane of glass with some separate artwork on it. Where a layer has no artwork, it's transparent and so you can see down through it to the layer below, or in this analogy to the pane of glass below. Let's see how that works on this file. I am going to go to the Layers panel, here in the column on the right, which is the place from which you'll manage your layers.
I am going to click the tab on the Layers panel and drag it out so that you can see it better. And then, I'll make the Layers panel longer by clicking in its bottom-right corner and dragging down. In the Layers panel you can see that this particular image is a composite photograph that has three separate layers each with different pieces of artwork. Each of the bars in the layers panel represents a different layer. I can make layers temporarily invisible by turning off the Eye icons to the left of the layers. To see what's on the background layer only, I am going to hold down the Option key and click on the Eye icon to the left of the background layer.
And now in the document window, I see only the photograph that fills the entire background layer. Now to see what's on the Palm Tree layer, I am going to hold down the Option key, and click in the Visibility field to the left of the Palm Tree layer. Here on this layer is just this photograph of a palm tree. I've selected everything else, and deleted it from that layer. The gray and white checkerboard pattern here represents transparency or the area of the Palm Tree layer through which you can see down to the image on the background layer below. I am going to turn on just the Sign layer now, so you can see what's on it, by holding the Option key, and clicking in the visibility field to the left of the Sign layer.
This layer contains these rocks and this sign and this flag. Everything else has been selected and deleted leaving transparent pixels through which you can see down to the content on the layers below, the Palm Tree and the Background. Now I'll turn all the layers back on by holding the Option key, and clicking on the Eye icon to the left of the Sign layer again. So what's the reason to use multiple layers in a composition? It's so that you can work on the content of one layer without disturbing the content of the rest of the image.
To work on the content of a layer, you first have to select that layer in the Layers panel. I would like to move the Content of the Palm Tree layer. So I'm going to click in a blank area of the Palm Tree layer in the Layers panel to select that layer, and you can see that it turns light blue like this. To move the content of the Palm Tree layer without disturbing the content of the other layers in the file, all I have to do is have the Palm Tree layer selected and then I'll get the Move tool from the toolbox, which adds a bounding box around the content of the Palm Tree layer.
I'll click inside that bounding box, and I'll drag to the right, and as you can see the palm tree moves, but nothing on the Sign layer or on the Background layer is disturbed. And moving the content of a layer isn't the only thing that you can do to a layer. You can paint on a layer. You can add graphics to a layer. You can add effects and layer styles to a layer, all without disturbing the content of other layers. So you can imagine how useful layers can be when you're creating a complex photo composition using various pieces of artwork.
Layers give you the freedom to be a true digital artist in Photoshop Elements. Stay tuned for the rest of the movies in this chapter where I'll cover the important subject of layers in more detail.
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