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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.
All right. I'm excited because I get to show you one of my all-time favorite features inside Photoshop and it's called layer comps. Now what the heck is a layer comp? A layer comp is a way to save out a different version or to include different versions of a document within that same document, instead of having to do Save As and end up with a bunch of different files. So, let's kind of think about this in a real-life scenario. Here's my little postcard we've been working on and there is an optional background image. Let's go ahead and turn on that layer, the Option02 layer. You can see in this particular image the location of those thumbnails isn't really ideal.
It's covering up the center of that pink flower. It might actually work better to have these four thumbnails over on the right and then to move the logo into a different position as well. The problem though is if I start moving these layers around then when I turn off the Option02 layer, they are going to be in the wrong position again for this particular layer. So, this is what I'm talking about. You want to have the flexibility of playing around with different compositions, thus the name layer comps. So, before I even start moving stuff around, let's go ahead and bring open the Layer Comps panel. Under the Window menu I am going to choose Layer Comps and there's a little icon for it.
And right now, there is no additional comp being saved in this particular document. What I want to do is capture the document as it looks right now, as something called a new layer comp that I can then give a name. So I am going to go ahead and click the New button on the bottom of the Layer Comps panel. It says, "Great! You are going to create a new comp. What do you want to call it?" Well, I am going to call it Option 1 because that's the particular image that I have visible at the very bottom of the layer stack here, Option 1. I want the layer comp to pay attention now to the visibility of the particular layers, their position, and their appearance if I'm using layer styles.
Now in this particular example I haven't used layer styles yet, but that becomes really powerful later on when you actually start adding effects like a Drop Shadow or a Glow or a Stroke. You may want to play with different appearances of those. You might want the stroke to be black in one comp or white in a different comp. So this gives you that flexibility. I am going to go ahead and click OK. And what's happened now is that Photoshop has remembered, taken a snapshot if you will of the current state of the Layers panel as it exists right now and has saved that as an option, and we called it Option 01. At this point now I can go freely move and change the position of these layers, turn layers on and off, add layer styles, and I'll never override this Option 1 layer comp.
I can always get back to it with a single click, and we'll do that in just a second. For now, what we are going to do is we are going to create that second option. So I am going to collapse the Layer Comps panel by clicking on its icon. I am going to turn the Option 02 layer on. And the minute I've done any change like this, if I go back to the Layer Comps panel and re-expand it, you'll see it does not have the indicator to the left of the name of the layer comp Option 01. Right now, it's showing me the last document state as the active comp. If I were to click on the column to the left of the name of the comp, I'll go and click there, you'll see it instantly restores the document back to the state that document was in when I saved Option 01 in that Layer Comps panel.
We will come back to this in a minute. We'll go ahead and close the Layer Comps panel again. Let's turn that Option 02 layer back on. Now to help me out, I've already got some guides created in this document. And I am going to turn them on by going to the View menu, down to Show and show Guides. So, now I want to start moving these four thumbnails to a different location. I am going to go ahead and select all four of them. I can just actually click on the whole group by clicking on the name of the group in the Layers panel, and with my Move tool I am going to simply drag those four thumbnails over here to the other side of the document window here. And I might want to move the logo as well, so I am going to click on the Logo group in the Layers panel and I am going to re-position that as well.
I am going to hold down the Shift key so it only moves horizontally, and let's say I want to move the logo right about there. So, you can see I've got a completely different composition now based on a different background layer. Let's go ahead and turn off the guides again. I'll just use the keyboard shortcut for that, Command+Semicolon, and you can see it's got a different look-and- feel, but the basics are the same. Let's go back to our Layer Comps panel. We'll re-expand it by clicking on the icon. And you might have already guessed we are going to create a new version, a new comp, by clicking the Create New Layer Comp button. And this time we are going to go ahead and name it Option 02.
Go ahead and click OK. And now at any time, I can go back and click back-and-forth between the two different options all contained within the same file without having to do a File > Save As and have different files to manage. The problem with that technique is that you quickly get out of sync. But if you add a new layer to one document, it doesn't exist in the other document. So, this lets you do it all within one particular file. And when it comes time to print or save or export a PDF or whatever it is you're going to do to this particular file when it's done, you just make sure that you have the version that you want to save out or print active on the screen by going to your Layer Comps panel and just targeting the one you want to want to work with.
So, if I go to Option 2, if I were to go to Print Now or do a Save As and save as a JPEG or whatever I'm only going to see the visible area in my current screen and that will be what gets saved out. So, we will go ahead and collapse the Layer Comps panel back down. And just in summary, layer comps are really a designer's best friend. They really give you that flexibility to play around and experiment without having to commit to a particular direction, and then quickly go back and forth and synchronize any change that you want to happen across all the different layer comps.
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