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Photoshop Tutorial: Introduction to Layers

design-finalThis beginner’s tutorial explains the concept of layers in Photoshop. Layers are a very powerful tool for image editing, and are a fundamental tool in Photoshop for creating complex images.

What are layers?

The easiest way to explain layers is with an example. The following image shows a Photoshop document containing two layers, a background layer and a text layer:

Stonehenge

If you like, you can download this .psd file so you can play around with it for yourself.

Each layer can be manipulated, drawn on, and moved around independently of any other layer. Imagine that each layer is actually a physical sheet of clear plastic, with the graphic imprinted on the plastic:

Layers concept

Layers are controlled through the Layers palette in Photoshop Tutorials. In this palette, you can see each layer along with a thumbnail showing the contents of the layer.

At the bottom of the palette you’ll see a little “New” icon. Click on this icon to add a layer to your document:

You can now draw on your new layer, and it will not affect the layers below it, just as if it was a separate sheet of plastic on top of the image. Design Training?

Before working on a layer, make sure you click on the layer you want to work with in the Layers palette first, so that it becomes active. The currently active layer is shown highlighted in blue above (Layer 1).

Naming layers

“Layer 1” isn’t a very memorable name, but luckily you can change the name of your new layer easily! Double-click on the Layer 1 layer in the Layers palette and you will see the Layer Options dialog appear. You can then enter a new name for your layer in the “Name:” box, and click OK to rename the layer.

Moving layers around

Just like a real sheet of plastic, you can “slide” your layer around on the page. To do this, select the Move tool (the arrow with the crosshair next to it, at the top of the Tools palette), or press the V key. Select the layer you want to work with in the Layers palette (e.g. the “Stonehenge” layer in our example), then you can move the layer around by clicking with the mouse in the document window and dragging:

A nice shortcut is to just hold down the Control key and drag to move your layer around. This has the advantage that you don’t have to switch to the Move tool and back again – the current tool remains active while you move the layer.

You can also move layers above or below other layers in the document. To do this, click on the layer in the Layers palette and drag it so that it’s where you want it to be:

Dragging a layer in the Layers palette

Another quick shortcut here is to use the Control + [ key and Control + ] key to move the current layer down and up respectively.

Often it’s useful to be able to hide a layer so you can work on the layers underneath it, or hide all other layers so you can concentrate on the current layer. You can do all this using the little “eye” icons next to each layer in the Layers palette:

To hide a layer, click once on the eye Free Icon. The eye will disappear and the layer will become invisible.

To show the layer again, click again on the eye icon. The layer will reappear.

To hide all layers except one, Alt+click on the eye icon for the layer you want to keep. Alt+click on the eye again to reveal all the layers.

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April 2, 2009 - Posted by | Design Training, Web Design | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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