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Working with layers

From: Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11

Video: Working with layers

If I had to choose one feature that I think is the most important in the Editor workspace, I'd say that's layers, and layers are accessible only in the Expert Edit workspace. Here I have a file that I prepared in advance that has layers in it. Let's open that into the Expert Edit workspace to see what layers are, and how to work with them. I'll select the file and I'll click Editor. Here's the image opened in the Expert Edit workspace and the Panel Bin is filled with the Layers panel. If you don't see your Layers panel in the Panel Bin, then click the Layers icon here in the Taskbar at the bottom of this workspace.

Working with layers

If I had to choose one feature that I think is the most important in the Editor workspace, I'd say that's layers, and layers are accessible only in the Expert Edit workspace. Here I have a file that I prepared in advance that has layers in it. Let's open that into the Expert Edit workspace to see what layers are, and how to work with them. I'll select the file and I'll click Editor. Here's the image opened in the Expert Edit workspace and the Panel Bin is filled with the Layers panel. If you don't see your Layers panel in the Panel Bin, then click the Layers icon here in the Taskbar at the bottom of this workspace.

The Layers panel controls the layers in a file. Before we see what we can do here in the Layers panel, let's talk about what a layer is. You might think of each layer as a separate flat panel that's transparent by nature, like the glass in a picture frame. These transparent panels are stacked one on top of the other as they are represented here in the Layers panel. Each layer has separate content, maybe part of a photo that you've cut out with the Selection tool or maybe some text that you've added with the Type tool. That content will block your view of what's on the layers below.

But you'll still be able to see down through the transparent areas of a layer to whatever is on the layers below. Now, why would you want to have different pieces of artwork or type on separate layers? Well, the reason is that when you build an image with layers you will be able to work on the content of one layer without affecting the content on the other layers, so you have a lot more flexibility when you have layers in an image. When I first open a file that has layers I like to remind myself what's on each layer, and to do that, I'm going to use the Eye icons, which control the visibility of each layer.

So if I want to see what's on this pantheon layer, I'll hold down the Alt key. That's the Option key on the Mac, and I'll click the Eye icon to the left of the pantheon layer. And now I can see that this layer contains a small photo of the Pantheon in Paris surrounded by a gray-and-white checkerboard. The gray-and-white checkerboard means that this area of this layer is transparent. There is nothing on it. So we can see down through this area of this layer to what's on the layers below. I'll just go through the layers doing the same thing, holding the Alt or Option key and clicking on the Eye icon.

So there is the content of the luxembourg layer, the content of the street layer, the louvre layer, the paris layer--which is this rather-hard to-see text, that says Paris in white--and finally, the bottom layer, the vintage photo layer. Even this layer has some transparent pixels around the edges. Now to turn on all the layers, one more time I'll hold the Alt or Option key and I'll click on the same Eye icon next to the vintage photo layer. If that doesn't work for you, just click each Eye icon to turn it back on.

One of the things that you can do in the Layers panel is to change the stacking order of the layers and when you do that, that changes the way the layered content lines up in the image. So right now, the photo of the Pantheon is on top in the Layers panel. If I click on the pantheon layer to select it and then click and hold and drag that layer down in the stack, I'll put it beneath the louvre layer--and I'll release my mouse when I see this bar beneath the louvre layer-- you can see a corresponding change in the image. So now the photo of the Pantheon is behind the photos of the Luxembourg Gardens, of the street scene, and of the Louvre in the document.

I'll do that again with the street scene, selecting the street layer and I'll drag it beneath the pantheon layer. And I could continue to do this, getting just the arrangement that I like in the document. Now let's say I want to add some new content to this image. Maybe I'd like to have a background behind the vintage photo layer. How do you add a brand-new layer to an image? That's done at the top of the Layers panel, using the Create a new layer icon in the Layer Panel bar. I'll click that icon, and that creates a new blank layer above whichever layer was selected at the moment, in this case above the street layer.

The first thing I do when I make a new layer is to name the layer so that later when I have lots of layers, I can identify each one by their names. To name a layer, I'll double-click its name and then I'll type a name. I'm going to call this one bg for background, and then I'll press Enter or Return on the keyboard. Now I want this layer to be at the bottom of the stack so that it's behind the vintage photo in the image. So I'll click and hold on the bg layer and drag down beneath the vintage photo layer. I won't release my mouse until I see this bar at the bottom of the vintage photo layer, and then I'll release, and my new layer is now at the bottom of the stack.

Now I want to add some paint to this layer. So I'll make sure this layer is selected, and I could get the paintbrush and paint on the layer or I could fill the layer with color. I don't have to do this, but I'm going to make all the other layers invisible for just a moment by holding the Alt key or the Option key and clicking the Eye icon next to the new bg layer. And as you can see, it's completely transparent, as represented by this gray-and-white checkerboard. I'm going to go up to the Edit menu at the top of the screen and choose Fill Layer, and in this dialog box I'll choose a color with which to fill this layer.

I could use whatever color is in the foreground or background color box, I could open a big color picker and choose the color, or I could just go with black, gray, or white. I'll go with white and I'll click OK. Now that background layer is filled with white and when I Alt+Click or Option+Click on its Eye icon again to turn all the other layers back on, you can see just the edge of that background white layer peeking through around the vintage photo layer. So that's how to add a layer. How do you delete a layer? Let's say I don't want to have this photo of the Luxembourg Garden in this image.

I'll select the luxembourg garden layer and then I'll click the trashcan in the bar at the top of the Layers panel. Elements checks on whether I really want to delete this layer. I'll click Yes, and the layer is now gone. If I need to get it back, I could undo by going down to this Undo button and clicking, but I'm going to leave that layer gone for now. Now the beauty of layers is that I can do whatever I want to a particular layer without affecting the other layers. So for example, let's say, I want to move the pantheon layer.

All I have to do is select the pantheon layer by clicking on it in the Layers panel, and then I'll go over to the toolbar and I'll select the Move tool. Now I'm going to go down to the options for the Move tool. Notice that by default this option, Auto Select Layer, is checked. What this will do is automatically select any layer when I click on content in the image from that layer. So for example, if I click here on the street scene, that selects the street layer. Or if I click back on the pantheon layer, that selects the pantheon layer.

I prefer to select layers in the Layers panel manually, so I'm going to uncheck Auto Select Layer here. Now I have the pantheon layer still selected, so when I click and drag anywhere in the image, that moves just the content of the pantheon layer without affecting anything else in this image. If I drew on this layer with the Brush tool, that wouldn't affect the rest of the image. If I added a filter to this layer, that wouldn't affect the rest of the image, and so forth. There are a couple more layer-related features that I want to point out to you, and those are located up here at the top of the Layers panel.

With the pantheon layer selected, if I go to the Opacity label and I click and drag to the left, I can make the content of the pantheon layer more see-through, or less opaque, and that can add some nice effects. I'm actually going to go back to the Move tool options and uncheck Show Bounding Box to remove that bounding box from around the content of this layer. And now I can see the opacity of the layer better. So I'm going to put that around 50%. I also can change the Blend Mode of a layer. So if I select the louvre layer, which contains this small image, and I go to the Blend Mode menu, I can cycle through these various modes, which change the way that the colors in the content of the louvre layer are interacting with the colors on the layers below.

And you can get some really nice effects with these different blend modes. The blend modes look different on different images, but in general, the blend modes in this area give you a dark effect; the blend modes in this area, a light effect; the blend modes in this area change the contrast; down here you get some really wild effects; and down here you can work with the properties of the layer--Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity. So that's an overview of what layers are, why you would want to use them, and some of the layer features that are available here in the Expert Edit workspace.

Feel free to play with the layers in this file to experiment with what layers can do for you.

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This video is part of

Image for Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11
Up and Running with Photoshop Elements 11

39 video lessons · 6292 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 9m 19s
    1. Welcome
      58s
    2. What is Elements?
      2m 36s
    3. Getting acquainted with Elements workspaces
      5m 45s
  2. 19m 37s
    1. Working with catalogs
      4m 22s
    2. Importing and using the exercise files
      3m 41s
    3. Importing photos from your computer
      2m 49s
    4. Importing photos from your camera
      4m 50s
    5. Importing photos from iPhoto (Mac only)
      3m 55s
  3. 11m 9s
    1. Cropping in Photo Fix
      4m 52s
    2. Applying one-click adjustments in Photo Fix
      4m 27s
    3. Fixing red-eye in Photo Fix
      1m 50s
  4. 27m 6s
    1. Working in Quick Edit
      6m 8s
    2. Adjusting lighting
      3m 41s
    3. Adjusting color
      4m 4s
    4. Making selective adjustments
      4m 33s
    5. Retouching with the Healing Brush tools
      4m 53s
    6. Saving edited images
      3m 47s
  5. 8m 46s
    1. Working in Guided Edit
      2m 56s
    2. Correcting skin tones in Guided Edit
      2m 44s
    3. Applying a vignette in Guided Edit
      3m 6s
  6. 32m 46s
    1. Touring the Expert Edit interface
      4m 49s
    2. Working with layers
      8m 55s
    3. Working with selections
      6m 18s
    4. Improving photos with adjustment layers
      5m 37s
    5. Editing automatically with actions
      2m 34s
    6. Adding text
      4m 33s
  7. 36m 37s
    1. Touring the Organizer
      4m 30s
    2. Managing files and folders
      4m 35s
    3. Organizing using People
      8m 43s
    4. Organizing using Places
      5m 1s
    5. Organizing using Events
      3m 28s
    6. Keyword tagging
      4m 12s
    7. Grouping photos into albums
      6m 8s
  8. 10m 1s
    1. Making a photo creation
      7m 39s
    2. Outputting a photo creation
      2m 22s
  9. 11m 6s
    1. Sending photos by email
      4m 49s
    2. Sharing photos to Facebook
      3m 9s
    3. Exporting photos
      3m 8s
  10. 21s
    1. Goodbye
      21s

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