Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with multiple layers, part of Photoshop CS4: Image Compositing for Photographers.
In the last chapter, I showed you several ways to combine images when you're making a composite and in those examples, I've used files that had only one layer in them in order to keep things simple. But there may be times when you have a file that has multiple layers in it and you want to bring more than one layer from one image into another as you're building a composite. So here, for example, I have this image of models in which I have lots of layers. I have several content layers. I'll show you a few of those. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click on the anne layer so you can see that it contains just this photo, and here is the marie layer, the juliette layer, and the terri layer and then I'll Option+Click or Alt+Click again on the terri layer to bring back all the other layers visibility.
I also have some non-content layers here. I have a Vibrance adjustment layer that's increasing the saturation of the images on all the layers below and then I have a Color Fill layer that I filled with yellow and I've tweaked the Blend mode and the Opacity of this layer to control the way the yellow is interacting with the images on the layers below. So, I want to bring into the second image that I have opened multiple layers from modles.psd. Let's take a quick look at this other image. It's called frames.psd.
I'll click on its tab so that you can see that this is an image of some Polaroids on a wall. It has just a single layer on it and I've added a Layer Mask to that layer, which I'll show you now by holding the Option or Alt key and clicking on the Layer Mask. On this Layer Mask, I just selected four separate areas, the insides of the Polaroids and fill those with black on the Layer Mask to hide the black of the Polaroids. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click on the Layer Mask again and you can see that where there is black on the Layer Mask, I can see down through the Polaroids to what's below them.
Right now, there's nothing below them and so I see this gray and white checkerboard that represents transparency in Photoshop. And let me just show you how the image looks without that Layer Mask by holding the Shift key and clicking on the Layer Mask making the Layer Mask temporarily invisible. So there is the original image with the insides of the Polaroids being part of the photograph. I'll Shift+Click again on that Layer Mask thumbnail and now I'm going to go back to the models image clicking on its document tab and the way that I'm going to bring in multiple layers to frames.psd is simply to select multiple layers here in models.psd and then drag them on top of the frame's tab.
So I'm going to start with the top layer, the Color Fill layer selected. I'm going to hold down the Shift key and I'm going to click on the bottommost of the layers that I want to include in this selection and that's the anne layer. If I wanted to select layers that were not contiguous to one another, then I would hold down the Command key on the Mac, the Ctrl key on the PC to select the layers that I want to copy into frames.psd. Notice that I haven't included this white background layer. I really don't need it in my composite. Now, I can't do what I've seen many people trying to do, which is to now click on the layers themselves and try to drag them from the Layers panel into frames.psd.
That won't work. But with those layers selected in the Layers panel and with the Move tool selected in the toolbar, I can click anywhere inside this image and drag and hover over the tab for frames.psd until the document window shows me frames.psd. I still have my mouse held down, I'm just going to move into the image and release and that brings in all six of the layers that I had selected in models.psd, including the Vibrance adjustment layer and the Color Fill layer. Now those six layers retain their layer names and they remain selected here in frames.psd.
So, with them all selected, I can click and drag with the Move tool to move them into place where I want them over the Polaroids in frames.psd. Now, what I want to do is to change the stacking order of the layers in frames.psd. I'm going to click off of all the layers into the blank area, which deselects all layers, and then I'm going to click on the frames layer. I would like to change the position of the frames layer in the stacking order of layers here, so I'm going to click and drag the frames layer up to the top of the layer stack and when I see a dark line at the top of the layer stack, I'll release my mouse.
Now the frames layer is at the top of the stack. And what's happening is that where I have filled the Layer Mask on the frames layers with black, I'm able to see down through, to the content of the layers below and that includes the Color Fill layer. I'll turn that on and off so you can see how this would look without the Color Fill layer and that includes the Vibrance layer. Here is how the composite would look without that, slightly less vibrant and then on each of the remaining layers I have one of the models. So that's a quick look at how to bring multiple layers from one document into another when I'm building a composite and that includes not only content layers but also special layer types like Color Fill layers, Adjustment layers and more.
- Preparing photos in Adobe Camera Raw
- Customizing color settings for compositing
- Compositing with selections and masks
- Extending depth of field with compositing
- Creating panoramas and photo montages
- Incorporating text in photo composites