Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Introducing the Layers panel and Layers menu, part of Photoshop CS4: Layers in Depth.
The Layers panel is your command center for working with layers. It's the place to go to access the major layer- related features in Photoshop, and it also serves as a diagram of the layers that make up whatever document is active at the moment. I'd like to take you on a tour of the Layers panel and of the related Layers menu to show you what those features offer. I will be introducing a lot of layer- related features in this movie, and I'll just be covering them briefly here. But I'll be going back to cover each one in-depth in later movies in this course. I happened to be working in the Layers workspace, which is a custom workspace that I showed you how to make in the first movie in this chapter. If you were following along with that movie you can switch over to the Layers workspace, so that there is lots of room to see the Layers panel.
If you weren't following along with that movie, you may want to just collapse any other panel groups that are on your screen. By going to the light-gray bar on any panel group and clicking there to collapse the entire group. And that will give you more room for the Layers panel. By the way if your Layers panel isn't open, you can always open it by going to the Window menu at the top of the screen and choosing Layers. Or you can press this keyboard shortcut, which is the Function key F7 on your keyboard. The main attraction in the Layers panel is of course the layers. Let's take a look at the structure of layers. Each one of the bars here represents a separate layer in this image, and on each bar there is a small thumbnail. The thumbnails identify the type of layer, and in the case of layers that are made of pixels like the chocolate top layer, the chocolate center layer, the chocolate bottom layer, the Layer 1 and the pool layer. You can see a little picture of the content of the layer in its thumbnail. You can also see in the thumbnails on pixel-based layers, any transparent pixels on that layer represented by the gray-and -white checkerboard here.
There are other types of layers other than pixel-based layers. And a layer thumbnail helps identify the type of layer. So for example I know that this is a special editable type layer because it has this T icon on it. And I know that this is a special shape layer even if I change the name of the layer because it has this thumbnail, which represents the color of the shape, which in fact is this rounded rectangle here. And it has another thumbnail that represents a vector outline of the shape. And I know that this layer is a special adjustment layer, in fact it's a Vibrance adjustment layer because it has an adjustment layer icon here, and it has the special layer mask that comes with every adjustment layer.
I'll be covering the special layer types in much more detail in other chapters. But for now I just wanted to introduce the concept of the different kinds of thumbnails on different kinds of layers. Right now all of these thumbnails are pretty small. You can make them bigger. So you can see their content better, by holding down the Ctrl key on a Mac as you click on any one of the layer thumbnails. That's right-click on the layer thumbnail on a PC. And from the contextual menu, you could choose to switch from Small Thumbnails to Medium or Large Thumbnails. I'll choose Medium Thumbnails. The other thing I can change from that menu is what's showing in the thumbnails on the pixel-based layers.
So rather than show the entire boundaries of the document in a layer thumbnail, I can show just the content of a thumbnail on a pixel-based layer like this. On my Mac, I'll Ctrl-click on one of the layer thumbnails. On a PC I'll right-click on one of them. And from the menu, I'm going to switch to Clip Thumbnails to Layer Bounds. And now in each one of the pixel-based thumbnails, I can see just the content of the layer. I think the most important thing to know about the layers in the Layers panel is that if you want to work on the content of a particular layer, that layer has to be selected first.
So it's just one example let's say that I wanted to move the model in this image. First I have to make sure that her layer is selected. So I'll take a look at the thumbnails in the Layers panel, and I can see that the model is located here on Layer 1. To select Layer 1, I'm just going to click in the blank area of this layer and the layer is now highlighted in blue meaning it's the active layer. I happened to have the Move tool selected in the toolbox. So now if I click-and-drag I'm affecting the content of Layer 1. To the left of each layer there is another icon the eye icon. And the eye icon controls whether a layer is visible or not.
So let's say I wanted to turn off the content of this chocolate top layer. So that I could work on some content on a layer below. To do that I would just click the eye icon on the chocolate top layer, and the content goes away, and if I wanted to bring that content back, I would go back to the eye icon spot on the chocolate top layer and click there. Layer Visibility is another topic that I'll be covering in more depth later in this chapter. Now let's look at the controls on the face of the Layers panel. Up at the top of the Layers panel let's start with the Blend Mode menu. The blend mode changes the way that the colors on a selected layer blend with the colors on the layers below. So right now I have Layer 1 selected that contains the model and I have the pool below that. If I go to the Blend Mode menu and I choose a different blend mode say Multiply that changes the way that the colors in the model are blending with the colors in the pool below it.
So I'm going to go back and change that to Normal again. Next is the Opacity slider. Opacity controls how much you can see through the content and any layer effects on a selected layer. To show you this I'm going to select the Shape 1 layer. I can see on the right of the Shape 1 layer this notation, fx, and that tells me that there is a layer effect on this layer. If I click the arrow to the right of fx I can see that there is indeed a sub-layer with an Outer Glow. If you look in the image you can see that the content of this layer is this rounded rectangle, and the Outer Glow is this brown stroke around the rectangle.
So now I'm going to show you Opacity. If I go up to the Opacity slider at the top of Layers panel and I click on the arrow to the right of that slider. I can change the Opacity from 60% to which it's currently set, all the way up to 100% by dragging the slider to the right, and at 100%, you can no longer see through this white shape or the brown glow around it. If I go back the other way both the shape and the glow become more-and- more transparent. May be I'll put that at about 70 for now. And then I'll click in this blank area to close the slider.
The Fill slider right beneath the Opacity slider is similar, except that it only affects the opacity of layer content, not the opacity of any layer effects on a layer. So in this case if I click the arrow to the right of the Fill field, and I drag to the left, I'm lowering the opacity of that white rectangle but I'm not changing the opacity of the brown Outer Glow around the rectangle. So I'll click back in the blank area to close that slider. Next step are the four layer locks located right here. I'm going to select the chocolate top layer to show you this. Each of these locks locks down different properties of the selected layer. I'll go through each of these in another movie but just to give you a taste if I click on the Full Lock right here I now can do nothing to the chocolate top layer. I can't move it with the Move tool.
I can't paint on it with a Paint Brush. I can't even delete the layer. So I might use this complete lock when I was very satisfied with the complicated layer and I wanted to be sure to keep it intact. To unlock the layer I'll go back and click on that Lock symbol again. Down at the bottom of the Layers panel are yet more controls. There is a Trash Can that's used to delete a layer. So if I wanted to delete the chocolate top layer with that layer selected, I can click the Trash Can. Photoshop asks if I really want to delete the layer and if click Yes I have now lost the content of that layer. I cannot open the Trash Can to get it back. Like I might do with the Trash Can on a Mac operating system or the Recycle Bin on a Windows Operating system, there is no way to open that Trash Can to take that deleted layer out of the trash. The only way to get that layer back would be to undo using the one of Undo commands like Command+Z on a Mac or Ctrl+Z on a PC. Or to open the History panel and go up through the layers of History until I got that piece of chocolate back on screen. But if I saved and closed the image it would be gone forever.
The next icon down here is the Create New Layer icon. If I click that icon a new blank pixel-based layer is created above whichever layer had been selected when I click the icon. The next icon is the Make New Group icon. If I click that icon I get a new empty group, and I could drag related layers into that group to organize them. So I'll take the chocolate center layer and I'll drag it up, and release on top of Group 1. And then I'll take the chocolate bottom layer and I'll drag that one up and release on top of Group 1. And now they are both inside that group which I could collapse by clicking this arrow or expand by clicking the arrow again.
The next icon down here can be used to add a special adjustment layer or a special Fill layer. I actually like another method of adding adjustment layers, which is the new Adjustments panel. I'll be telling you more about that in future movies as well. The next icon is the Layer Mask icon. If I click that a layer mask would be added to whichever layer is currently selected. I happened to have a layer here already which has a layer mask on it, and that's this chocolate bottom layer. I'm going to make that layer mask temporarily invisible, by holding the Shift key and clicking on the mask. So that you can see the original content of this layer, which included all this blue background area. When I added a layer mask the black areas of the mask are hiding all of this blue that's on the layer.
And the only thing that shows on this layer is what's under that little white part of the layer mask, which is the bottom piece of chocolate. This reddish piece of chocolate. I'm going to Shift- click back on that layer mask to enable it again. And I'll be telling you much more about layer masks in movies to come. I am going select Layer 1 to show you the next icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, which is the Effects icon. If I click here, I can choose anyone of these layer effects like a Drop Shadow. I then get the great big Layer Style dialog box, which we'll be investigating in detail. I'm just going to click OK right now to close that. And now you can see that there is a Drop Shadow along the edges of the content of Layer 1.
And finally there is a Link icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This is yet another way to join two related layers together, so that you can move them together or transform them together. So if for example instead of a group, I wanted to link together these two chocolate layers. I would click on one, and I would hold down the Command key and click on another to select them both, and then I would click the Link icon and they are now linked together and so when I get my Move tool and drag both pieces of chocolate go together. So those are the controls on the face of the Layers panel. There are also some menus that contain layer-related commands. One of those menus is located here in the Layer panel menu. If I click this small icon on the top right of the Layers panel I get this menu that contains lots of layer-related commands, everything from Duplicate Layers down to Merge Layers and Flatten.
In addition, if I right-click on a PC or Ctrl-click on a Mac on any layer I get a contextual menu with commands relevant to the selected layers. So here I could delete the two selected layers, I could unlink them, I could merge them and so on. There is one other important place where you can find layer commands, and that is Layer menu up in the menu Bar at the top of the screen. I'm going to select just one layer now, the Layer 1 layer to go up to the Layer menu at the top of the screen and open it so that you can see all of the many commands here. There are a few commands here that you won't find in any of the other menus. So sometimes you'll have to come up to the Layer menu.
As you've seen there are lots of layer- related features packed into the Layers panel and the Layers menu. As with any interface elements, the best way to remember what's here and where everything is, is to practice. If you do that here in the this course and with your own images pretty soon locating the various layer-related controls that I've just shown will become second nature.
- Creating, selecting, and organizing layers
- Controlling layer visibility, opacity, and stacking order
- Working with type and shape layers
- Practical uses for layer blend modes
- Adding dimension with layer effects and layer styles
- Using clipping layers to shape content
- Merging and saving layers
- Introducing 3D layers, video layers, and Smart Object layers