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If you ask me to pick the most important feature in the Full Edit workspace, I would have to say that's layers. layers give me the freedom to work independently on one piece of content without disturbing the rest of the image. You might think of layers like panes of transparent glass stacked one on top of the other. Where there is no content on a particular pane of glass, you can see down through that pane to the content on the panes of glass below and layers work the same way. Let's take a look at the layers in this simple composite image.
If you turn your attention to the layers panel over here, and if your layers panel isn't open, go up to the Window menu and down to layers to open it. The layers panel is like command central for layers. Each layer in a file is represented by a bar here in the layers panel. To the left of each bar there is an eye icon. When I turn the eye icon next to a layer off, it temporarily hides that layer from view. I'm going to turn off all the layers in this file, except for the Background layer by holding down the Alt key on a PC or the Option key on a Mac, and clicking on the eye icon to the left of the Background layer, because I want you to see what's on the Background layer.
This layer is completely filled with this blurry photograph of a forest. Now let's take a look at the next layer up; the side mirror layer. I'll hold down the Alt key on the PC, the Option key on the Mac and I'll click in the blank space to the left of the side mirror layer, and that makes the side mirror layer visible and the other two layers invisible. So you can see that what's on this layer is just this photograph of a side mirror on an old truck. The gray-and-white checkerboard represents the transparent part of this layer. I've selected everything except for the side mirror and deleted it from this layer, and that's why this area is transparent.
And where this area of the side mirror layer is transparent, if I turn on the Background layer by clicking in the eye icon space to the left of the Background layer, you can see down through the side mirror layer to the background on the layer below. Now let's take a look at what's on the round mirror layer. I'll hold the Alt or Option key and I'll click in the space to the left of the round mirror layer and here you can see that there is another mirror; a round mirror, reflecting me taking a photograph next to that old truck. I've selected everything outside of the round mirror and deleted it, so the rest of the round mirror layer is transparent.
Now to turn the other layers back on, I'll click in the empty visibility fields to the left of the other layers. Because, I have put these separate items of content on separate layers, I can work on each item separately, and that's the beauty of layers. So let's say that I want to move that round mirror, the first step is to select the round mirror layer. You have to select a layer before you do anything to its content. To select the round mirror layer, I'll click in the gray area of the bar. I try not to click on the name, because that will allow me to rename the file.
It's important to click on a blank area rather than on the name or the thumbnail or the eye icon, because all of those things do something else. So I am clicking on the blank area of the round mirror layer to select to that layer, and the layer turns dark indicating that it is now the targeted layer. Now I am going to select the Move tool; the first tool in the top-left of the toolbar. By default, when I do that, I see this bounding box around the content of the round mirror layer. If I click inside that bounding box and drag, I can move the content of the round mirror layer without disturbing anything on any other layer.
Now what if I want to move two layers together? I can do that too. First, I have to select the two layers that I want to work on. I have the round mirror layer selected already, so I am going to hold down the Ctrl key on a PC or the Command key on a Mac and click on the side mirror layer too. And now they are both selected, and you can tell because they are both dark gray. Now if I come in the image and I click and drag, both the round mirror and the side mirror move. And moving layers isn't the only thing that I can do to them.
I can use the various tools on the layer, I can add filters to a layer, I can add effects to a layer, I can add photo corrections to a layer, all without disturbing the rest of the content of the image. There are a couple of things I call gotchas that are associated with layers. I call them gotchas because they are things that trip up lots of people. One of those things is that there is a special kind of layer called a Background layer, and often when you bring a photo in from a digital camera, it will have a single layer and that will be the Background layer. You can see a Background layer here in this image.
The Background layer is always the layer at the bottom of the layer stack, and it has a lock on it. That lock prevents you from doing certain things to a Background layer that you can do to regular layers, like these other two layers in this file. For example, you can't move a Background layer because it's locked in place. And you can't change the stacking order of a Background layer here in the layers panel, like you can to other layers. If you are working on a Background layer and you are prevented from doing something you need to do, you can change a Background layer into a regular layer by just clicking on its lock icon and dragging that lock icon down to the Trashcan at the bottom- right of the layers panel.
That changes the layer into a regular layer called layer 0. And now, I could move that layer, I could restack it in the layers panel and otherwise, treat it like a regular layer. Another gotcha associated with layers has to do with the Move tool. When I have the Move tool selected, by default in the options bar, there is a check mark next to Auto Select layer. With that option checked, if I come into the image and I click on a particular object in the image, like the round mirror, keep your eye on the layers panel and you'll see that that automatically selects the layer on which that object is located.
So although, I may have thought I was working on layer 0, I am actually now working on the round mirror layer. To avoid that problem, I like to turn off the Auto Select layer option for the Move tool by clicking in the check box to remove the check mark. And now no matter where I click in the image, I am now automatically switched to another layer. One more gotcha about layers and that has to do with saving a layered file. I'm going to go up to the File menu and choose Save As. Here in this dialog box, I want to be sure to choose a format that respects layers if I want to keep the layers in the file.
As I explained in an earlier movie, one of those formats is the Photoshop document format. So I like to select that when I want to save a layered file, and I'll also make sure that there is a check mark next to Save layers, here in this dialog box. If you decide to save a file in the JPEG format, like this, notice that you can no longer save it with layers. The JPEG format does not respect layers, it flattens all the layers in the file into a single layer, and you won't be able to access the individual layers later when you reopen the file.
I'm just going to cancel out of here for now. To remind you how useful layers can be, so whenever you can, I suggest that you put separate items of content on separate layers, and I will be showing you how you can do that later in this chapter.
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