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In this chapter, we are going to be taking a look at layers. Layers offer an amazing degree of flexibility. It's like working on acetate sheets, and you can isolate various parts of your imagery on multiple sheets. You can also save these images to retrieve them later on for further editing. You also have tools like layer masks and transparency to blend various image elements together. Layers are an important component of digital painting and they enable a wide range of creativity that's not possible otherwise.
Let's take a look at layers. To begin, we are going to look at the Layers palette and I'm going to go over to the right-side of the screen here. In my palette stack I have the Layers palette opened and this is where you are going to manage layers, create layers, delete layers. So this is really kind of home base for working with layers. And the first thing we want to do is create a new layer. Like many things, you have more than one way to do it. I'm typically an icon oriented person, so I'll go down here and use the little icon which represents a new layer, I can click on that, and that will create a new layer, but if I undo here, Command +Z or Ctrl+Z, I can also go up to the Layers palette and I can say New Layer here.
So you have the menu command, but you then have the third option of also using the keyboard command, Shift+Command+N, Shift+Ctrl+N. So depending on your way of working, you have multiple methods to create a new layer. Now, once we've created a new layer, I can start to do a variety of things and I'm going to go through the process here of creating three different layers. So I'm going to number this one, number 1, I'm going to create a new layer again, this time I'm using the little icon at the bottom.
Let's change color and this will be Layer 2, and then we'll go create a third layer and give this another color, and this will be Layer 3. So I've got three different layers here, and I'm going to now go over, and get the other kind of a half of the Layer palette, again it's a situation where these are almost like two sides of a coin, I'm going to get the Layer Adjuster tool. What I'm going to show you is whenever layer is active, I can pick that up and move it. If I want to select another layer, I'd have to go down here, and select Layer 1 and then I can move it.
I don't like working this way. I find this is to me rather indirect method of picking up and moving layers. What's far better is to activate in the Property bar for the layer selector is Auto Select Layer. This way, I can just pick up each layer, and you do have to now touch a pixel in that layer. So if I do this nothing happens. But this is kind of point to do what I wanted to do, rather than going through this indirect method. So the idea of using Auto Select Layer, I find it to be very useful and you can see things coming in front of and behind here.
The next thing you're going to want to be able to do is adjust the order of these layers. How can I move layers back and forth in this layer order, or it's as simple as just clicking and then dragging the layer element, and that will bring it to that order in the layer stack. So this represents a top to bottom order as they appear above the canvas. So we've got here, basically a schematic representing the order of these layers. Another way you can do this is, you also in the Property bar have the ability here to move a layer.
The first pair of buttons allow me to move the layer element all the way to the top, or all the way to the bottom. The second pair of layer elements allow me to take a layer, like Layer 3 here, which is down at the bottom, and now I can move it up one layer at a time. So this gives me the ability to work one floor in the elevator at a time or this just pops me all the way to the top, or pops me all the way to the bottom. So I've got a couple of ways either through these icons, or through just moving them up and down in the list to adjust layer order.
Now I'm going to show you another feature that's rather important particularly in painted imagery. Let's go ahead and delete these and to do that, all I have to do is if I hold down my Shift key, I can select these multiple layers and I'll just click on the Trashcan and that removes them. I am going to select a new layer, and I want to paint and this is particularly important with regard to tools that Smear and Blend. So this brush has a smearing and blending component to it. I am now going to create a new layer, and let's take a very different color here, and I'm going to paint on it.
You can see how it's literally smearing these and it feels as you're painting as if it's just one flat area, but in reality this is actually a separate area, and when it's moved away from where it blended the colors underneath of it, it becomes rather nonsensical because, why is this transitioning from blue to red. Whereas when I undo and pop that back where it is, it for all the world appears as a flat painted canvas, and that is one of the major powers of layers is that as I continue to create new layer elements, I can go in and blend and smear as if they were single layer.
That enables me to do an amazing amount of isolated work, and yet still have the ability to go back and edit, turn on or turn off or decide what I do want to do with these various elements. But in fact that it acts visually as if it's a single flat canvas, and in reality, you've got elements on various layers is a very big conceptual leap from working flat to having these so called acetate sheets that enable the build up of imagery through multiple layers.
Now one of the reasons that this whole aspect of blending the various layers together is due to Pick Up Underlying Color, if this isn't enabled, you're going to get different effects. It just looks like flat paint, but when this is enabled, you are going to get the illusion that you're painting through it. So if you run into a situation, and it isn't behaving the way you believe it should, to blend with the colors underneath of it, that's because Pick Up Underlying Color is not enabled. It is by default and normally it's on, but you may have inadvertently turned this off at one time or another, and that's why it's important to understand what the Pick Up Underlying Color does.
It's the key to enabling this blending of imagery underneath of it. Another key tool in the Layers palette is the Transparency slider. You'll see here as I adjust this, I can control the amount or degree of Opacity of a particular layer. So this is another very powerful way to start to manipulate how layers are interacting or working with one another. And finally, you can even get into compositing methods or in Photoshop it known as Blend Layers. That's where I can go in and start to alter what the pixels think they are suppose to do in that layer with the imagery underneath of it, and we'll get into this in a little more detail later on, but basically this is yet another way in which you can use the power of layers to modify how various layer elements are interacting with the other layer elements.
So there is a few pieces of the puzzle to learn here, but once you understand how these puzzle pieces fit together, it provides you with an amazing place to do things that you otherwise couldn't do. Another thing is what I've just done here, this in effect could be a safety net. If I get rid of that layer well, I just try something out, and if I decided I didn't like it, the fact that I did around the layer, gives you the power to try things out. So layers are just really I can't emphasize enough how important it is to start to get into, and understand how layers work, particularly with regard to digital painting because it opens up doors, and if you otherwise we'll just not have access to.
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