Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
Every file that you open in the editor contains one or more layers. In the Full Photo Edit workspace, you have direct access to those layers in the Layers panel, which is here in the Task Pane on the right side of the Full Photo Edit workspace. You can use these layers to work on parts of an image independently without affecting the rest of the image. So what are layers? Well a common metaphor is that each layer is like a transparent pane of glass that you'll partially or completely fill with content like photos, graphics, or text.
A straight photograph starts out as a single layer, but you can add other layers above it or below it in a stack which is represented by this stack of bars here in the Layers panel. Each layer in the stack contains separate content. And if the content on a layer doesn't completely cover that layer, you'll be able to see down through that layer, like this purple flower layer, for example, to the content on the layers below. So what's the purpose of layers? They allow you to work on different pieces of content individually without affecting the rest of the image.
To see how that works, I have an image here with five layers. Each layer as I said is represented in the Layers panel by a bar and the bar contains the name of the layer and a small thumbnail that displays the content of that layer. The bottommost layer here is completely filled with a photograph of a green plant, as you can see on the photo thumbnail. The next layer, the red flower layer, is only partially filled with content. It contains a small photograph of a red flower at the bottom right corner, but the rest of this layer is empty or transparent and so you can see down through it to the green plant on the layer below.
And the gray and white checkerboard on the layer thumbnail of the red flower layer, the orange flower layer, and the purple flower layer represent the transparent parts of those layers. If you ever want to see what's on a particular layer, you can hold down the Alt key on a PC or the Option key on a Mac and click the Eye icon just to the left of that layer. And that will show you in the document window a larger view of what you can see on the photo thumbnail. So in this case you can see where there is content on the purple flower layer and where the rest of that layer is transparent.
I'm going to Alt+click or Option+click again on that Eye icon to make all of the other layers visible again too. I've included one special layer here, the topmost layer, which is a special type layer and you can see that it has a different kind of a layer thumbnail than the other layers. We'll be looking at type layers in more detail later in the course, but I did want you to know that there are special kinds of layers like type layers or like adjustment layers that contain instructions about how to change the appearance of photos on layers below.
And we'll be looking at adjustment layers later in the course too. But as I said, the purpose of layers is to allow you to work on some pieces of content individually without affecting the rest of the image. So for example, let's say that I want to move the orange flower here over to the other side of this image. To do that, I'll click on the orange flower layer. Notice that I'm clicking on a blank part of this layer in the Layers panel, not on the name of the layer or on the layer thumbnail. So I'll click on the layer to select it, and then I'm going to go over to the toolbar and I'll make sure that I have the Move tool selected there.
And then I'll click on the orange flower in the image and drag, and that will move just the orange flower without affecting any of these other pieces of content which are on other layers in this file. I can select multiple layers at a time and move those together without affecting other layers. So in the Layers panel, I could click on the purple flower layer, and then I'm going to hold down the Ctrl key on the PC, or the Command key on the Mac, which is a way to select nonadjacent layers in the Layers panel, and I'll click on the red flower layer.
In the image you can see that there's now a bounding box around the content of those two layers. And if I click and drag on one of the flowers, the other one goes with it, and I'll move those over to the left too. I'm going to go back to the Layers panel and I'll click on this Background layer to deselect all the flower layers, because I want to show you how you can select multiple layers that are next to one another. So say that I want to select all three flower layers. I can click on the red flower layer and then hold the Shift key and click on the purple flower layer, and that will select all layers in between.
And now I could move these three flowers together, or I can do something else to them. You can't make pixel-level changes to multiple layers, like painting on multiple layers, but there are other things you can do to multiple layers like aligning and distributing them. So with these three layers selected and with the Move tool selected in the toolbar, I'll go up to the Tool Options Bar for the Move tool and I'm going to go to this Align menu, click the arrow to the left of it, and I'll choose to align the content of the three selected layers by the left edges.
And these three flowers are now aligned nicely by their left edges. And if I want to distribute them evenly but just the same amount of space between each flower, I still have the three layers selected, I'll go up to the Distribute menu in the Options Bar, and I'll choose to distribute by the vertical centers, and now there's automatically the same amount of space between the three flowers. To deselect layers, you can just click on a different layer in the Layers panel. I'll click on the Spring Fling type layer and that deselects the three flower layers.
Another thing to know about layers is that the order of the layers in the Layers panel from top to bottom controls the order in which the content of those layers appears in the image from front to back. So the Spring Fling text is now on top of the two flowers and on top of the green plant. And that's because in the Layers panel, the Spring Fling type layer is above all those other layers. You can change the order of layers by dragging a layer to a different position in the Layers panel.
So I'm going to drag the Spring Fling layer underneath the purple flower layer. And when this bar beneath the purple flower layer turns bold, I'll release my mouse. Keep your eye on the content in the image as I do this. Notice that the Spring Fling text is now behind the purple flower. If I drag the Spring Fling type layer even further down in the stack beneath the orange flower layer and release my mouse when the border beneath the orange flower layer turns bold, the text is now behind both the purple flower and the orange flower.
To finish up, I'm going to move the Spring Fling text over to the right so we can read it. With the Move tool and the Spring Fling type layer still selected, I'll just click and drag to the right. What I hope you'll take from this movie is a basic understanding of what layers are and the benefit that they offer, which is to give you a way to act on individual pieces of content without affecting other content. In the next movie, I'll get into more detail about working with layers in the Layers panel.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
180 Video lessons · 59989 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 88412 Viewers
148 Video lessons · 94967 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 57350 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.