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Photoshop's ability to work with layers is definitely one of my favorite features. So let's take a look at how we can master the Layers panel in order to create a composite. I am going to start by selecting these three images in Bridge and then I'll choose File>Open or we could double-click in order to open all three images. I know that all three images are open because I can see the tabs across the top, clicking on any of these tabs will display that image. I want to combine all three of these images into a single document and there is a variety of different ways that we can do that.
I think the easiest way would be to click on say the Snow file. I have got my Move tool selected and I'll click anywhere in the image area and drag on top of the other file that I want to drop this one into. As soon as I position my cursor on the tab for the Clouds file, you notice that it popped forward. Now I can release my cursor anywhere in this area to drop the file, but the thing is, is that the file is now off centered. So I am going to quickly undo that, return back to the Snow layer by clicking the Tab and this time, when I drag and drop I am going to hold down the Shift key and that will center the layer that I'm dropping right on top of the file that I'm dropping it into.
Now I no longer need the Snow layer, so we can close that. And let's take a look at the Water layer. If you don't like dragging and dropping using the tabs another way to do this would be to show all of your open documents. So I will use Window>Arrange and then Tile All Vertically. Now in a previous lesson, I assigned keyboard shortcuts not only to Tile All Vertically which is Command+Shift+T or Ctrl+Shift+T, I also assigned a keyboard shortcut to consolidate All to Tabs which is Command+Shift+R in the Mac or Ctrl+Shift+R on Windows.
And the reason that I did that is the often times when I'm creating a composite and I don't know which images I'm going to use, I want to open a lot of images and then go back and forth between seeing the composite image and whatever else I have opened to see what other images, I can bring in to add to the composite. For now, we'll just choose to tile them all vertically so that I can see both of my open documents. Now, I can either click in the image area with the Move tool and drag it on top of the Clouds file or if I didn't have the Move tool selected and I didn't want to take the time to select it, I can drag from my Background layer and drop it onto my composite image.
In this case, I'll hold down the Shift key again in order to center that. Now I no longer need the Water file open, so I will target it and then click on the Close icon. Now we can see in the Layers panel, that I have all three layers in a single document. I have got the Water file, it's stacked on top because it's the last layer that I brought in. If I want to hide this layer, I can click on the eye icon to toggle the Transparency. Now we can see the Snow layer underneath. If I want to hide that, I can click on the eye icon and now we can see the background.
I can even hide the Background layer and then we will see transparency below it. Now let's take a minute and talk about the Background layer because it's a unique layer. There are at least three things that you can't do to a background layer that you can do to any other layer, the first thing is you can't reposition the background layer. Now you want to be careful, just because the Background layer is visible does not mean that that's the targeted layer. In fact, right now layer 2 is the targeted layer and I know that because it's highlighted.
If I want to target the Background layer I need to click on it. Now if I wanted to reposition the Background layer and I have my Move tool and I click and drag, when I let go, Photoshop is going to tell me that it cannot use the Move tool because the layer is locked. So by default your Background layers are going to be locked. So any time you open up a photograph, either a JPEG file from Bridge or a RAW file through Adobe Camera Raw, it's going to come in the Photoshop as a flattened file, as this background file.
So you cannot reposition it. The other thing that you can't do is you can't change the stacking order so if I wanted to put the Cloud image above these other two images, you'll notice that in a Layers panel, I can't drag and drop it. And the third thing that's unique about a background is that it cannot have transparency. So let me click on Layer 1 for a moment, and make it visible. I am going to hide the Background layer just to show you that when I select the Eraser tool and I start erasing on this layer I'm actually erasing to transparency and we can see that checkerboard behind the image.
Now I will undo that, I will hide that layer, we will return back to the Background and make it visible. And watch what happens when I use the eraser here, instead of a erasing to transparency, Photoshop erases to your background color. So again let's go ahead and undo that. So now you know kind of the three key differences between a background layer and just a regular layer. You can't move it because it's locked, you can't reposition it and you can't erase to transparency.
But it's so easy to convert the background into a regular layer. Most people think that a layered document in Photoshop has to have a background layer when in fact it does not. If I choose Layer>New>Layer from Background, Photoshop will convert the Background layer into a regular layer. The other quicker way to do this is to simply double-click on the Background layer. I prefer this method because when you double- click, you get an option to name the layer.
So I will go ahead and name this Cloud and click OK. Now that this is a regular layer, if I use the Eraser tool you can see that I can erase to transparency. Let's undo that using Cmd+ or Ctrl+Z. I can also reposition this by dragging it to the top of my layer stack so now it's above the other two layers and I could also grab my Move tool and reposition this if I wanted to. For now I will undo that as well. Let's go ahead and take the time right now to name these other two layers just to keep our Layers panel tidy.
The way I would do that is just double- click on the layer name itself, I will call this one Water. And then I will double-click on the bottommost layer now and we will call this one Snow. And I'm just happy in the Return key or the Enter key in order to commit that rename. Alright let's also toggle on the visibility of the Water layer and the Snow layer. I know that in my final image, I'm going to want the Cloud layer smaller so I will target that on my Layers panel. But I'm not quite sure how small I'm going to eventually end up making this layer.
So before I start transforming it I am going to choose Layer>Smart Objects and I am going to convert this to a Smart Object. That way if I transfer it too small and later change my mind and when I transform it larger, I am not going to loose any image quality. Now I will select Edit and then Free Transform. If I hold down the Shift key, I will maintain the proportions of the image and if I hold down the Option or the Alt key, I can scale this image from the center. So let's make it about that size, I also want to reposition it, so I will position my cursor inside of the Free Transform handles and just scoot it over and then tap Enter or Return to apply that transformation.
Now I brought in two options for this background, either the Water layer or the Snow layer. Let's hide the Water layer for a minute and look at the Snow layer. I think between the two of these, probably the Water layer looks a lot better than the Snow layer because this line going straight across my image is quite distracting. So in order to delete a layer, you want to make sure that you have that layer targeted in your Layers panel. And then just tap the Delete key. You could drag it down to the Trash to throw it away, but it will really save time to just know that Delete will delete that layer.
Now let's' toggle on the visibility of the Water layer. I think that looks good, but I want to decrease the Opacity of this layer. You will see in the Layers panel, there's an Opacity slider, I can either enter in a numeric value by swiping here and just typing in maybe 50% or I can click and use the slider to change the Opacity of the layer or I can position my cursor on top of the word Opacity and I get my scrubby sliders where I can click and drag left or right to change the Opacity.
So there's a lot of different ways to change the opacity of the layer on the Layers panel. Now it's difficult to see exactly what this is going to look like if I were to print it because the checkerboard here is very distracting. So I am going to turn that off by going under the Photoshop menu to Preferences and then Transparency and Gamut. You might have already turned this off in a previous lesson, but I'm going to select None right now and click OK. Now what we are seeing when we've hidden that transparency is a version of the file almost as if it's previewing like it's a flattened file and printed on white paper.
Alright, one other way that we can change the Opacity of the layer is by using the numbers across the top of our keyboard. But you have to be a little bit careful because right now, certainly I can tap like the 5 key and the Opacity for the layer change to 50%, if tap the 7 key we get 70%, you can type quickly like you could type 88, and then get 88%. If you want 100% you type 0 and that will bring you up to 100%. Now the reason that the numeric keys are changing the Opacity on the Layers panel is because I have the Move tool selected, you do need to be a little bit careful because if you don't have one of the top six tools selected and instead maybe you have the paintbrush then when you tap the 5 key the Opacity for the paintbrush changes not the Opacity for the Layers panel.
So I will just tap 0 in order to reset the Opacity for the paintbrush and then tap the V key in order to select the Move tool. Now at this point we've done enough work on this image that I would want to save it. Because there are multiple layers in it, if I choose File and then Save, we're not going to save over the original JPEG file that Clouds JPEG file, the name that we can see right here because a JPEG file can't have multiple layers.
So you could do a Save here, we could also choose Save As either way. That will ask me to rename the file, so I'll call this WindowSeat and I'll save it into my layers folder and I want to make sure that for my format, it's going to be a Photoshop format and then I keep all of my layers because I didn't want to flatten this file otherwise if I want to make a change to it later it's going to be much more difficult. So I'll click Save, click OK and if I scoot over to Bridge we can now see our new file right there in our layers folder.
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