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Working with Layers

Lesson 21 from: Photoshop for Beginners: Essential Training

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

21. Working with Layers

Mark gives a hands-on demonstration of layers, the layers palette, opacity, and locking modes.
Next Lesson: Groovy 3 Exercise


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Introducing Photoshop


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How To Open Files


Using The Home Screen


Exploring The Interface


Getting Additional Help


Understanding Workspaces


Lesson Info

Working with Layers

let's talk about layers. And so to understand this, I have made a horrible graphic with some pieces of paper here. So when we think about layers, they are images that float on top and behind of each other and you can move those things around in layers, one on top of another. So the one that's in front will hide the one that's behind. And so you can move the order of those layers, you can move the position of those layers, you can change if they're transparent or not, you can even make layers that have holes in them, so you can have something like this, where you have something that goes through a layer and you can multiply those times. I don't know as many layers as you want and do all kinds of interesting things. So instead of me using pieces of paper to show you that we have something much better. So go to your class materials folder and open 123 layers dot PSD. So I already have this open in Photoshop here and we can use this to understand how layers work. Now the layers palette is ...

down here in the lower right hand corner, in the handout. In the workbook that comes with this workshop, we have these labels of what each of these different things are. So you might want to look at that to see what these are all called technically, but we're gonna go through some of the most important things that are here with layers. Okay, so the first thing we wanna understand is opacity. So something that is completely opaque, you can't see through it, something that is totally non opaque, you can see through it. So what we can do here is we can click on a layer and you know that you have a layer selected when there's a little white box around the thumbnail for that layer, so you can see here, I have selected this layer that has a three on it and if I go up here to this little opacity box, I can click this little triangle here and I get a slider and I can reduce the opacity so you can see through that layer to the layer below. I can make it where it's almost not visible at all, I can make it completely opaque, I can change how much you can see through a layer. We can also change the order that layers appear in just so I can take this three right here and I can click and drag it below the two and now the two is above the three. I can take the one, I can move it to the top of the stack and now the one is at the top of the layers, so I can change the layer order, I can change the contents of the layer, I can move those around and so what we're gonna do here is the very top of our toolbox over here, we have the move tool so I'm going to click on that and I'm gonna click on my one right here, I'm just gonna drag it and now you can see too, Then I'm going to drag the two over to the left now you can see the three underneath there so drag these around and you can see what's happening. Now one of the things that you'll notice, so notice I have the two selected, so the second layer and if I click over here on the lower right hand corner where it looks like I should be able to select the one and click it, nope I'm selecting the two because the two is the layer that I have selected and only affecting the second layer. Now what I can do is on the menu bar for the move tool at the very top, I can have it say auto select layer and then what will happen is Photoshop is going to be smart enough to know where I am. So if I click where the two is it's going to select the two. If I go down here and select the one it will select the one and if I select The three, the very bottom layer, it will select that. That can be useful if you know exactly where you want to move to different parts of a layer and you have something that looks like this which is really obvious for me, I leave that turned off because I don't want to accidentally move the wrong layer so if you take auto select and turn that off when you're moving the layers you have to first select it in the layers panel and then you can move it it doesn't matter where you click it's only going to move the layer that you have selected. So we can move these layers with the move tool. We can also be a little bit more accurate and move the layers with our keyboard. So we can use the arrow keys. So if I use the right arrow 123456 I am nudging that layer to the right One pixel at a time. I can use the left arrow key. 123. You can see that I'm only moving that one pixel at a time. Very very precise movements. If I hit shift and one of the arrow keys it's gonna move it 10 pixels at a time up or down. So I can do that if I really need to just get it into a very specific place. So that's another option for moving your layers around. Okay so the other thing we want to do is we want to be able to take these layers and make sure that we don't accidentally Edit them for some reason. And so you can see in the layers palette there is something that says lock and then there are different little icons next to that. And so these icons do specific things. So this first icon if I click that I'm locking transparent pixels and you can see over on the right hand side there's a little lock icon. It's telling us this layer is locked in some way. So what does this mean? So I'm gonna unlock it to start with and I'm gonna go over here and I'm going to get a brush and so I have a pretty big brush, I'm gonna change the brush size, something much smaller. Okay so that's good. Now what I can do is this is a blue color, I'm in a red color and I'm just painting away and you see I can paint anywhere On that layer I'm painting on the layer one. Um And so I'm going to undo that by using my my history palette there. If I click on lock transparent pixels. Now if I try to paint it's only going to paint inside the layer itself. Anything that's transparent is safe, it's not going to be painted at all. So that's the first one. Let me undo this. Okay so now what we're gonna do is we are going to unlock that. We're gonna do the second one. This one here says lock the image pixels. So if I lock that, what this is doing is now you see I've got a little uh no you can't do it icon. And so the reason for that is I have the brush selected and I'm on a locked layer and it's saying you can't paint on this at all the pixels are locked. You can't paint here. So that's what that is. I can still move this. So if I have the move tool I can move this layer around. I can do other things. I just can't paint on that. I can't change the pixels on that layer. Okay the next one is this guy right here and that locks the movement and so now I can't move this, nope you can't because it's locked. But what I can do is I can get a brush and I can paint all day long on that layer. So I've only locked the movement nothing else. And so I'll undo that. And the other thing that you can do here is you can combine different types of locks. So let's say I want to lock the movement and I want to lock all the pixels that are transparent but I wanted to be able to paint on the the numbers. So I've got the first one locked and the third one locked so we can paint so we've locked where it can paint. And if I change my tool to the move tool I can't so I can paint I just can't move. And when I do paint it only paints on the visible areas so you can mix and match different locks. The other locks that we have. We have this lock over here, this is for art boards and frames. So that's an advanced topic we're not going to talk about. But if you do use art boards and frames, this is how you lock things in and out. And then the last lock here, if you click that, that layer is totally locked, you can't do anything to it, You can't do anything, you can't paint, you can't change, it's locked in. And so if you want to make sure that you have a layer that nobody can touch. Just lock it all the way, click it again and now it's unlocked, which is really really easy. Okay, so the other thing we might want to do is we might want to turn layers on and off where you see them or don't see them. So for example, if I want this one to go away, there's a little eyeball to the left of the uh little thumbnail here. If I click that The layer vanishes, you don't see it anymore. They click the two that vanishes. I can click the one, I can click the two so you can turn layers on and off depending on what you want to do. The other thing you can do is you can use the modifier keys here. So if I hit the option button or alt button and click on the to it leaves the two visible and everything else it hides. If I hit option and two again, it turns on all the other layers. If I hit option and three leaves three visible but one and two are hidden and so you can turn on and off layers like that, you can drag your mouse over the layers to turn on and off the little eyeballs. So it's pretty intuitive on how you do that. And so as we go forward you might see a point where you have a layer and you're like I just don't think that's adding anything to the composition, you might want to turn it off or turn it on and so it allows you to create things and then hide them but later non destructively you can turn them back on to do some edits which is really really pretty darn cool. Okay so the other thing that we should probably talk about when it comes to layers is the background layer. And so let's refresh our memory here. When I go and click open and we're gonna open once again I wanna dot jpeg. If I open this file you can see that the very bottom layer here, it says background and it's locked by default when you create a new document or if you open a non Photoshop file, like a jpeg file, the layer that's there is called a background layer and it's totally locked, you can't do anything to it, you have to unlock that layer and to unlock that layer. Just click the lock and it converts it to a normal layer, it's called layer zero. Now you can paint and do all kinds of things to it. Just like a normal layer. The other thing you can do, let me go back to 123 layers. Let's say you have a layer that is always going to be your background. You don't want to do anything to it. Like this little three here, I can always go to layer and say new background from layer and it does the opposite. So I'll click that and now three changes from three to background and now it's locked and so that is a background layer. It's locked off and you can't do anything to it. It's pretty cool. The other thing to note is the layer names can change. So I created the layer names 123, I can just click on this layer. Double click it and you see it says two, I can type in something else, this is my layer and then enter and now I have a layer name, I can change it to whatever I want, I'll double click that and say this is too. And so it's a really good idea to name the layers as you're going forward because it helps you keep track of what's going on. You'll see in the future we might have 10 or 15 or 20 layers. And to keep track of all those things naming those layers, it's very very important. Okay, now that we know how layers sort of work. Let's put things into practice by making a groovy three.

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Ratings and Reviews


Mark did a great job at explaining things and going over them multiple times throughout the lessons. My only issue was that sometimes it went a little faster than I could keep up and I needed to rewind it a bit and start again. But from someone who has never worked in photoshop before I 100% recommend this class to anyone trying to learn.

Terri Schwartz

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