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What are layers, and why are they so great? Layers are an essential part of Photoshop and arguably its most useful and powerful feature. Although they can be confusing to those new to the program, layers need to be understood and utilized before you can ever hope to master Photoshop. Luckily, layers aren't terribly difficult once you understand them. So why should you use layers? With layers you can work nondestructively. You can make adjustments and keep your original image intact, on top of it. For instance, if you want to add let's say a fill layer, you can create a new blank layer and then fill it from your color picker with your foreground, your background, or you can choose another color.
In this case, we will use the set foreground color, which is black. Keyboard shortcut Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete. Then you can go to your layer blend modes and choose one of those if you like, say Soft Light, to darken the image a little. You can change the opacity, see how you like that. And then on top of that, you could add say an adjustment layer, such as Curves. You can either your eyedropper or move your histogram, make it lighter or darker. And then if you decide, you don't like one or the other, you can either turn them off, or you can select them and delete them all, and you still would have your background image intact.
You don't have to go back and do Ctrl+Z or Command+Z. Working with layers allows you to find the best possible methods of restoration without affecting the original background layer of the image at all. Since their inception in version 3.0 of Photoshop, they've made countless lives easier. Before layers, if you wanted to change something you have done to an image, you had to start over from the beginning or go back with your Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to the point that you needed. Layers are a way of nondestructively editing your work and gauging your progress step by step.
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