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- Arranging the panels and interface
- Cropping and resizing photos
- Creating new layers
- Refining selections
- Hiding content with a layer mask
- Using adjustment layers
- Correcting color, lighting, and contrast
- Converting a color photo to black and white
- Creating a panorama from multiple photos
- Retouching blemishes and wrinkles
- Making adjustments in Camera Raw
Skill Level Beginner
Let's talk about some of the basics of working with layers in the Layers panel. The order of the layers as they appear in the Layers panel controls the order of overlapping content in the image. If you want to change the order of content from front to back in the image, then go to the Layers panel and select a layer whose content you want to move. Let's say I want this little photo of the wedding cake to appear behind the photo of the couple where the two photos overlap. I'll click on the cake layer in the Layers panel, and then I'll click and drag down beneath the layer labeled couple, and I'll release my mouse when the border beneath the couple layer becomes bold like this.
And that moves the content in the Layers panel too. I'll click off the cake layer so you can see that better. And if I want the rose photo to be above the photo of the couple in the image, I'll click on the rose layer in the Layers panel and I'll drag up to the top of the layer stack, and when the border at the top of the stack becomes bold I'll release my mouse and that brings the photo of the rose in front of the photo of the couple in the image. In the last movie I showed you that you can select multiple layers at the same time and then you can perform certain acts on them, like moving them around together or aligning them.
But as soon as you click on another layer, the multiply selected layers are no longer joined together. Well sometimes, you may want to keep layers together. For example, I like the relationship of these three small photos now, each one is on a separate layer. To keep them in this relationship, I'm going to link those three layers together. And then, if I move any one of those layers the three layers will stay in the same relationship and move together. To link multiple layers, I'll select one of the layers I want to link. In this case, I'll click on the rose layer in the Layers panel.
And then I'll click the Link icon to the left of the other layers that I want to group with or link to the rose layer. So now those three layers are linked. With the Move tool selected, if I click on the rose layer and drag, the other layers go with it in the same relationship that they were a moment ago. If I want to unlink one of the layers from this group, I'll just click its link icon; and if I want to unlink others, I'll click there link icons as well. If I want layers to be permanently joined, I can merge them all together onto a single layer.
To do that, I'll select the layers that I want to merge. I have the rose layer selected, so I'm going to hold down the Shift key and select the cake layer too, and that selects the couple layer in between. Then I'm going to go up to the small list icon in the top right of the layers panel. I'll click there to see a number of commands related to layers, including down here, Merge Layers. If I choose that, that will merge just the selected layers. If I were to choose Flatten Image, that would merge all the layers in the file. So you want to be careful before you choose flatten Image.
And I'll choose Merge Layers, which will merge together only the selected layers. And now, all three of those small photos are in the single layer called rose. I can rename the layer by double-clicking the name, and I'll call this small photos. Now I've lost the ability to treat each of these photos individually, but if you do have a lot of layers in your Layers panel and you're trying to simplify things, sometimes merging layers can be most efficient. Now I want to say one thing about this layer, the Background layer. When you first open a photo, it will have a layer called background, and a Background layer acts a little bit differently than regular layers.
Notice that the Background layer comes with a lock on it; that lock prevents you from changing the Background layer in the stacking order. So if I were to click on the Background layer and try to drag it above the small photos layer, it just won't go. I'll get this No icon. So I'm going to release my mouse. Another thing I can't do with the Background layer is move it. I have the Move tool selected; if I click and drag on the Background layer nothing is happening. If I want to move the background layer or change it in the stacking order, then I need to change it from a special background layer into a regular layer.
One way to do that is just to double- click on the name of the layer Background. That opens the new layer dialog box where I could give the layer a new name, or just leave everything as it is and click OK. And that converts the Background layer into a regular layer without a lock on it. So now I could drag this above the small photos layer. Of course in that case, I won't see my small photos anymore. So I'm going to drag it back down to the bottom of the stack. And with the Move tool, I can move the content of that layer around in the document window. So I might move it over here, and then I might add a new solid color layer behind it.
In the very next movie I will show you how to create a new layer.