Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring the Layers palette, part of GIMP Essential Training (2012).
Before we get started with the ins and outs of working with layers, I think it's important for us to understand what the Layers panel actually is, and what it does here inside of GIMP, so in this movie, we're going to be taking a brief tour of the Layers panel. The Layers panel is located over here on your right-hand side, most likely, and you can actually click and drag to bring it out, just by clicking and dragging the tab, like so. I'm also going to resize it a little bit, so we can see it, and I'll move it right here. So let's start from the top, down. At the top here, you see it says Layers. You've got the Layers tab, indicating that's the current tab that you have opened. You've also got a menu item here that allows you to configure the tab, so you can actually go into the Layers menu from here, and select many different items.
You can add tabs to it, close tabs, lock this tab to a dock, and do all different kinds of things to customize the appearance of the Layers panel. But we also have the ability to do things like change blend modes. I'm going to explain to you exactly what blend modes are, and how they work in a future movie, so don't worry about those right now. You've also got Opacity controls. If you're not sure what layer opacity means, that's okay. We'll talk about that in a future movie as well. Directly underneath that, you have the Lock options where you can lock either the pixel values, or lock the transparency or alpha channel value.
Basically what this is saying is, if I click this, that means lock the pixels that are present in this layer. So for instance, I'm working on the type layer right now, so if I were to select this, I wouldn't be able to change anywhere that is currently being filled with pixel data, so anywhere like where it says LAYERS. If I were to click this button here, it would lock all of the transparent area, so all of the area around the type would then be locked, so I couldn't change it. I could do whatever I wanted to the inside of the type, but nothing outside of it would be affected. Directly underneath that you'll see a list of all of the current layers you have in your document.
Right now I currently have four layers. I have a Background layer, Window 1, Window 2, and a text layer that says LAYERS. You'll notice that image layers have a small thumbnail, indicating that they are an image layer, and giving you a preview of what that image actually looks like, while text layers are denoted by a small black T on top of a little piece of paper; that indicates that you are then working on a text layer. To select the layer, simply click on it with your mouse anywhere through this region here, and it will automatically select that layer. You are then in control of that layer, so right now I'm controlling Window 2, or this yellow wall layer here.
If I were to click on Window 1, which you cannot see, because it's behind Window 2, I'm now controlling that layer. Same if I were to click on the Background layer. Clicking on that automatically switches me to control that layer. Now anything that I do, I am now doing it to that Background layer. To the left-hand side, you're going to see little eyeballs. The eyeballs indicate visibility, so if I were to toggle the eyeball icon next to the text layer, it's going to turn that layer off. That layer is still there; it is just invisible at the moment. So if I were to tap it back on, it comes right back.
Same thing for Window 2; I can temporarily hide it, and turn it back on just by clicking those on and off. Window 1, same thing, although you are not seeing it. If I turn off Window 2, you'll notice both of those are now transparent, and I'm only seeing the Background layer. Turning off the Background layer, I see nothing but the text, and the transparent background. I can then refill everything back on by toggling the eyeballs. There is also this little item here; if I click on that, that is going to link items together. We'll talk about linking layers a little bit later on.
Directly underneath the layer list you will see different icons where you can create a new layer, create a new layer group, raise this layer one step, or take it down one step in the stacking order. You can also create a duplicate of the layer, and add it to the image you're working on. You can anchor a floating object, and also delete a layer as well. So the Layers panel is essentially like the control panel for your entire document. You want to get to know this really well, because this is where you're going to be rearranging things, gaining control of specific objects inside of your composition, and also controlling the visibility, opacity, and blend modes of all of the objects inside of your composition as well.
So if the tools over here on the left are your steering wheel, think of this as, like, your GPS navigation, or your instruments panel inside of your car, and in order to make anything work, you have to have both of those working in conjunction. So you've got to know your tools, and you've got to know how to work your instruments as well, and that's what the Layers panel is all about. So take some time, get yourself familiar with where everything is inside the Layers panel, and then you'll be ready to continue moving forward to learn about how to manipulate these layers, and change all the various types of settings and details about them as well.
- What is GIMP?
- Performing nondestructive edits with layers
- Exploring blend modes
- Adjusting transparency
- Making selections
- Creating layer masks
- Adjusting color and contrast with Curves, Levels, and other auto adjustments
- Sharpening images
- Using patterns and gradients in your images
- Fixing image flaws
- Enhancing photos with filters
- Automating your workflow
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 09/04/2014. What changed?
A: We added a movie that explains why you can't achieve some of the effects shown in these tutorials in the Windows version of GIMP. This is due to the fact some plugins have been removed since this course was recorded. Watch the "IMPORTANT: Before we get started" to learn more about how these changes will impact you.
Q: I don't have access to some of the tools and can't create some of effects shown in this course. What's wrong?
A: Unfortunately, some plugins have been removed from the Windows version of GIMP since this course was recorded. Watch the "IMPORTANT: Before we get started" to learn more about how these changes will impact you.