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by Wendi Elizabeth Martha Scarth


Understand Layers
Adobe Photoshop


Layers And The Layers Palette - Explained In Detail
Blending Modes Fully Explained Here!
 Suitable for Adobe Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, CS4, CS5, CS6 & CC
Skill Level - Beginners Plus

Photoshop CC's Layers Palette
Understand Layers Adobe Photosho
Understand Layers Adobe Photoshop
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Layer Blend Modes Explained In Detail Here!

As well as discovering all aspects of Layers, this comprehensive Adobe Photoshop tutorial will teach you how to build a simple five-layered image. To work along, you are welcome to download my Four Transparent Beer Glass Images HereUnzip the file and open the contents onto Photoshop’s workspace.

Understand The Workspace And Palettes

Photoshop CS4, CS5, CS6, & CC
To avoid opening the four Beer Glass Images as tabbed images - (Tabbed Images Screen Capture). First, disable the Tabbed Images setting, as demonstrated here. And then, from the top menu, choose File and then choose Open. Now, from the subsequent Open dialogue box, navigate to the folder where you have download the Beer Glass Images to; then press down your Keyboard’s Ctrl Key, then simultaneously left-click to highlight all Four Beer Glass Images: - then click the Open tab. As illustrated below.

Ctrl/Cmd+ Left-click To Highlight All Four Images:
             Then Click The Open Tab.

The four Beer Glass Images will then open onto Photoshop’s workspace, and as long as you have
Disabled Tabbed Image Browsing - (As Demonstrated Here - Photoshop CC Change Tabbed Images Screen Capture Here), your four Beer Glass Images won’t be tabbed together. After clicking Save in the General Preferences Panel, the tabbed image browsing will be disabled when you next open Photoshop.

Separate the Beer Glass Images by left-clicking over an image’s top Menu Bar, and dragging the image away.

Images Open On Photoshop CC's Workspace

Now, Link Here To Begin My Layer-The-Four-Beer-Glasses Tutorial.

Understanding Layers is fundamental to being able to produce sophisticated work within Photoshop. They are the most essential feature it offers, and once the basics are understood - getting started is quite straight forward. After you have worked with Layers a few times, the more advanced features - such as Layer Masks, Layer Groups and Adjustment Layers, will fall into place.

Once you take your first step, you will never look back!

Printing Note
You may find it helpful to print this tutorial, please read my
Printing Tips Here

Layer Notes
For most simple image retouches and corrections, you do not have to add any Layers; however, it is generally a good habit to simply duplicate the Layer (by right-clicking the Layer in the Layers palette and choosing Duplicate from the subsequent drop-down list), before applying actions such as the photograph correction commands. By applying any changes to the Duplicated Layer, you will always preserve the original image on its own Layer. And when you intend to do more complex work; such as add elements to the image - create photo compositions; or add text and other effects - it is good practise to utilise Layers for these tasks.

What Is A Layer?
When creating Layers, each Layer that you add begins as a transparent sheet over the Background Layer; as you add brush strokes, vector objects or text - you cover up parts of the Background Layer. Transparent parts allow you to see through to underlying Layers.  You can stack up multiple Layers to create whatever effect you like - such as artistic compositions, collages - or complex illustrations.

The following Vector Illustration Of My Dog Sacha Has Over 800 Layers

Table Of Contents
The Fill Tab - Beginner
The Lock Tab - Beginner
Linking Layers - Beginner
Deleting Layers - Beginner
Rasterise Layers - Beginner
A Layers Lesson - Beginner
Renaming Layers - Beginner
Unlocking Layers - Beginner
Duplicating Layers - Beginner
Masking Layers - Intermediate
Reveal Layer Effects - Beginner
Applying Pattern Fills - Beginner
Toggle Layer Visibility - Beginner
Creating A New Layer - Beginner
Changing Layer Orders - Beginner
Lowering Layer Opacities - Beginner
Applying Solid Colour Fills - Beginner
Expand The Layers Palette - Beginner
Create A New Layer Group - Beginner
Accessing The Layers Palette - Beginner
Changing Layer Blending Modes - Beginner
Layer Compositions (Comps) - Intermediate
Merge (Visible) - Or Flatten Layers - Beginner
Quickly Scroll/Change Blending Modes - Beginner
Identify Layers By Changing Their Colour - Beginner
Blend Modes Explained - And Lessons Here! - Beginner
Applying Layer Styles - For Example Drop Shadows - Beginner
The Advanced Blending Mode Dialogue Box (Blend If) - Intermediate
Create New Fill Or Adjustment (Non-destructive) Layers - Intermediate
Clipping Masks and Clipping Adjustment Layers Explained - Intermediate

Undo and Navigation Steps
Two ways of undoing steps are from the top menu, Edit then Step Backwards. Alternatively, click a previous snapshot in the History Palette.

Navigate (zoom in and pan) your image using the Navigator Palette,

or the Zoom Tool.

Activate The Hand Tool by tapping the Spacebar, keeping the Spacebar pressed, pan your image in the usual way.

Layers Palette
If you cannot see your Layers palette; from the top menu, choose Window, then click a tick before Layers - alternatively, tap your F7 key. Your Layers palette will now be displayed, and will resemble the following. I am working with Photoshop CS3; however, the Layers palette for all CS versions, are almost identical. The only difference (that I can see), is the Add a layer style f icon (at the bottom of the Layers palette), has been changed from f to fx in later versions.



Layer Palette - The Basics
When you open a photograph onto Photoshop’s workspace the image has a single layer; and the layer is normally named Background. The tiny padlock (illustrated below), indicates the layer is locked, and a locked layer means you cannot remove its background, or apply certain commands, such as the Free Transform Command. To unlock the layer, double-left-click it, and reply OK to the subsequent New layer dialogue box - there is no need to name this new layer. An alternative way to unlock a layer is, from the top menu, choose Layer then choose New then choose Layer from backgroundTip: To quickly unlock a locked layer, press and hold the Alt key, and simultaneously double-left-click the Background layer. The layer will immediately change from Background to Layer 0. Note: It is not necessary to unlock the layers in this lesson. 

For most simple image retouches and corrections, you do not have to add any layers. However, it is generally good practise to duplicate the layer by left-clicking and dragging it over the following Create a new layer icon - or by right-clicking the Layer and selecting Duplicate Layer. By applying changes to the duplicated layer, you will preserve the original image - on its own layer - this is known as Non Destructive Layer Editing. If you intend to do complex work, such as add elements to the image; create photo compositions, or add text and other effects - it is much better in the long run, to utilise layers for those tasks.

Each new layer begins as a transparent sheet over the background. As you add brush strokes, vector/raster objects, or text - you cover up parts of the Background layer. Transparent parts allow you to see through to underlying layers, and transparency is represented by the following chessboard effect. 

You can stack multiple layers to create whatever effect you like - such as artistic compositions, photographic collages, or complex illustrations. 

Layers Tutorial for Beginners
In the following tutorial, I demonstrate how to a create a five-layered image; I then show how easy it is to drag the layers, thereby creating different stacking orders. Amongst other edits, I demonstrate how to alter the layer’s Opacity and Blending Modes, then how to apply Layer Styles - for example, Drop Shadows and Bevels.

Utilising Layers (Beer Glasses Tutorial)
Open the Start Images onto Photoshop’s workspace - as demonstrated earlier, here. Then separate them with the Move Tool if necessary.

Photoshop CC's (Essentials) Workspace

Then with the Move Tool, carefully drag your four beer glasses to one side - and from the top menu, choose File then choose New. In the subsequent New dialogue, enter the following settings, then click OK. Ctrl/Cmd then N.

Now, from the toolbar, activate the Move Tool.
Then left-click and hold, and (consecutively), drag the four beer glasses onto the transparent image. After they have been transferred, (to save PC resources), delete the original beer glasses.

Expand the New document’s grey workspace by dragging its top menu bar, upwards and to the right.

You will notice your Layers palette now displays four beer glass layers, and the transparent document’s layer. If you cannot see all layers, left-click, then drag the bottom-right corner of the Layers palette, horizontally - towards the bottom-right.

You will notice the transparent layer, Layer 1, is at the foot of the layers stack. Being at the foot of the layers stack means Layer 1, and whatever it may contain, will display below (or behind), the rest of the layers. To demonstrate this, left-click to highlight Layer 1. Note: Highlighting the layer makes it the active layer, and subsequent filters or commands will be applied to just that Layer. 

Now, press your Keyboard’s D Key to set the default Foreground and Background Colour Swatches - (Black and White). 

Then press, and hold your Alt key. Now, tap your Backspace key. (Layer then New Fill Layer then Solid Colour). You have just filled Layer 1 with your Foreground colour, and because Layer 1 is at the bottom of the layers stack, the black appears behind the glass layers.

6/ Drag to Reposition Layers
Now, in the Layers palette, left-click and hold over the Solid Black Layer 1. Then drag it above the layer above it, and release your mouse button.

Congratulations, you have just repositioned Layer 1 (the Solid Black Layer).

And you will notice the glass on the layer below it has disappeared. This is because the glass layer is now below the solid black filled layer, and as a consequence, it can no longer be seen.

If you left-click and drag the black filled layer to the top of the layers stack - the black filled layer will be above the rest of the layers - consequently preventing all layers beneath it, from being viewed - as illustrated below.

8/ Opacity
To display the layers beneath the black filled layer, (still working on the black filled layer) left-click and grab the layer’s Opacity slider, then drag it to the left. You are looking to reduce the Opacity, so revealing the beer glass layers beneath it; - play with the slider to see the different levels of Opacity. You can set the Opacity anywhere from 0% to 100%, I lowered mine to 67%.

Change The Opacity Using The Arrow Keys Tip
To quickly change the Opacity setting, first, click over the Opacity slider, and ensure it is highlighted, as illustrated below.

Then, whilst the Opacity setting remains highlighted; immediately tap your Keyboard’s Upwards-facing or Downwards-facing Arrow Key.

Lesson Continued.

Return the Black Layer’s Opacity to 100%.

9/ Blending Modes -
Blend Modes Explained & Exercises HereBlend Modes Photoshop
To the left of the Opacity slider you will see a tab named Normal. This is referring to your layer’s Blending Modes. Click the tiny arrow next to Normal, (as illustrated below), to reveal a drop-down list. The drop-down list displays your choice of Blending Modes; Normal has no effect whatsoever. Normal is therefore the default Blending Mode.

What are Blending Modes?

A Complete List of Blending Modes - And Their Effects, Plus Two Exercises Can Be Found Here!

Blending Modes alter an image’s pixels depending on the Blending Mode and the image beneath it. For an example, activate the black filled image’s layer, then click open the list of Blending Modes. Now, click to change the Blending Mode from Normal to Saturation. Saturation changes the black filled image to the following.

Experiment with different Blending Modes to see how they alter your image, Blending Modes can be excellent when applied in conjunction with Layer Masks, and other blending/background removal tools and commands. Additionally, reducing the layer’s Opacity further changes your layer’s appearance.

10/ Delete Layers
-click the black layer, and from the subsequent drop-down list, click Delete Layer.
Alternatively, left-click, and hold, then drag your layer over the following Delete Layer rubbish bin icon. (Or, ensure the correct layer is active, then left-click the rubbish bin icon).

Ensure the very top layer is active: then click the Create a new layer icon located at the foot of the Layers palette. This creates a transparent layer at the top of the layers stack.

Transparent layers are always created above an active layer.

Then from the top menu, choose Edit then choose Fill. From the subsequent Fill dialogue
box, set the following attributes; scroll the Custom Pattern thumbnails, and
double-left-click to set the pattern of your choice - then click OK.

Now, experiment with different Blending Modes to see how the pattern reacts with the beer glass layers beneath it. For the following effect, where the grass pattern appears to blend with the beer glasses, I changed my Blending Mode to Overlay, and left the Opacity unchanged.

Now, activate the Move Tool; then click the corresponding (beer glass) layer in the Layers palette. And (working on the image on your workspace), left-click and drag each beer glass (one by one) to a different position.  

For example, the vivid orange beer glass lies behind the half pint (handled) glass; however, if I were to drag the orange glass’s layer above the half pint glass, the orange glass will display in front of it.

Play with different layer positions to see how you can effect the placement of your
beer glasses.

After you have repositioned your glasses, and have set a Blending Mode of your choice, you are ready for the next step. Note: I have changed the top layer’s Blending Mode to Soft Light, If I had not, the grass pattern would completely hide the beer glass layers.

To deactivate an active layer, left-click over the layered-image’s grey workspace.

                                                                         Blending Mode

                                                                            Blending Mode

15/ Rename Layers
To rename a layer, double-left-click the oblong tab highlighted in red below-left. After its present name has been highlighted; clear it, then type in Grass. To complete the name change, press your Enter/Return Key


When you have successfully highlighted and renamed all layers, you have completed the renaming step.

16/ Apply Layer Styles
To apply a Drop Shadow to a beer glass layer: first left-click to highlight (activate), the layer. Then from the foot of the Layers palette - click the tiny black arrow next to the f (or fx icon for CS3/4), and click Drop Shadow from the drop-down list.

From the subsequent Layer Style dialogue box, accept the default settings, or experiment with the Drop Shadow Structure. When you are happy with the result, click another Style from the left-side Style menu - perhaps Bevel and Emboss, then click OK. There is no limit to the number of styles you can apply to your layer. 

Now, activate each glass layer, consecutively - and apply identical Drop Shadows to them.

18/ Merge Visible - or Flatten - Layers
Prior to merging, or flattening your layers, you have the option of saving your image with its layers intact - this is important if you wish to edit your layers at a later date. To save your layered document as a .psd file, from the top menu, choose File then choose Save as, as demonstrated in my on-line tutorial

Only after you are completely happy with your layered work: from the top menu, choose Layer then choose Merge Visible. Your layers will then be merged together, and they will no longer be editable. Choosing Flatten Image crunches all layers into one Background layer. Flattening, or Merging Visible your layers results in smaller file sizes, subsequently saving precious PC resources. If you have Merged Visible your layers, your Layers palette will resemble the following.

If you have selected Flatten Image, your Layers palette will resemble the following.

Additional Commands
On the top-right corner of the Layers palette you will notice the following tiny black triangle: if you click it, you will see the following drop-down list, that includes commands that can further edit your layers. You will display similar command lists if you right-click a layer - or a layer effect/style.

19/ Reveal Layer Effects
After you have applied a Layer Style, click the following black arrow next to f (or fx for CS3/4), and you will notice the Effects and Drop Shadow have been applied as sub-layers - and as such, they can be edited, and their visibility can be hidden - just as usual layers

     CS3 CS and CS2

20 Toggle Layer Visibility
There will be times when you need to hide your layer’s visibility; if you want to see another layer clearly, for example. To do this, click the following Indicates layer visibility eye, and the contents of that layer will be hidden. To return the layer’s visibility, click back the eye icon


21/ Linking Layers
To apply an effect, or filter to more than one layer, press Ctrl and hold. Then left-click to highlight two or more layers. Now, release your mouse button, and click the following chain link icon.

Your layers have now been linked together; linked layers are represented by the following chain link icons. 

22/ Create a New (Layer) Group
To create a New Layer Group, click the following Create a new group icon. You would create a New layer Group if you wanted to apply identical effects, filters, or commands, to a group of layers - whilst leaving the rest of the layers unaffected.

23/ (Non-destructive) - New Fill or Adjustment Layers
An Adjustment Layer applies colour and tonal adjustments to your image without permanently changing pixel values. For example, rather than making a Levels or Curves adjustment directly to your image, you can create a Levels or Curves adjustment layer. The colour and tone adjustments are stored in the adjustment layer and apply to all layers below it. You can discard your changes and restore the original image at any time. To create an Adjustment or Fill layer, click the following icon, and click your choice from the
drop-down menu.


24/ The Lock Tab

The Lock tab consists of the following commands: Lock Transparent Pixels - Confines editing to the opaque portions of the layer. This option is equivalent to the Preserve Transparency option in earlier versions of Photoshop. Lock Image Pixels: Prevents modification of the layer’s pixels using the painting tools. Lock Position: Prevents the Layer’s pixels from being removed. Lock All: Locks all pixels on that layer.

25/ The Fill Tab
On a filled layer, you can adjust the fill’s Opacity by moving the Fill’s slider.

Unless you have applied a Fill layer, the Fill tab will be greyed out.


26/ The Advanced Blending Mode Dialogue Box
To display the following Blending Options Custom dialogue box, double-left-click the layers thumbnail, highlighted below, and the following (advanced) blending dialogue box will display. You can further effect the layer by tweaking the Blending OptionsAn alternative way of accessing this dialogue box is to click the f (fx for CS3/4/5/6) icon at the foot of the Layers palette, and click Blending Options from the drop-down list.

27/ Layer Compositions (Comps)
Layer Compositions
let you record multiple compositions of a page layout. Using layer comps lets you create, manage, and view multiple versions of a layout in a single Photoshop file. To view your Layer Compositions palette, from the Window tab, click a tick before Layer Comps. You can export layer comps to separate files, to a single PDF, or to a web photo gallery. To create a layer composition, click the following Create a New Layer Comp button.

In the subsequent new layer comp dialogue box, enter a Name, and a Comment, then click OK. Note: The new composition reflects the state of your current layers.

28/ Mask Layers 
When you select part of an image, the area that is not selected is “masked” or protected from editing. Consequently, when you create a mask, you isolate and protect areas of an image as you apply colour changes, filters, or other effects to the rest of the image. You can also use masks for complex image editing such as gradually applying colour or filter effects to an image. To add a mask layer to your layer, click the Add layer mask button - below left. You will notice your layer now has an oblong mask channel, indicated below right. 

My Comprehensive Lesson Here Explains/Demonstrates Masks In Detail


Painting Masks
Press your keyboard’s D key to set the default Foreground and Background Colour Swatches, Black and White; then activate the Brush Tool, and begin painting a mask onto your image. The golden rule for masking is, Painting with Black removes pixels, and painting with White, brings them back.

29/ Quickly Scroll Through The Blending Mode Choices
To quickly change Blending Modes, first click open the Blending Modes list. Then
left-click (and release) anywhere over the drop-down list. Now, immediately tap the upwards, or downwards arrows of your keyboard, and you will notice, that as you tap, your Blending Modes will alter, instantly changing your image.

30/ Identify Layers
To identify a layer, right-click over the eye icon area, shown below-left. Then click a colour of your choice. To remove the colour, right-click and choose No Colour.


31/ Clipping Masks Explained

Please Note, a Clipping Mask is not the same as a Clipping Path

A clipping mask lets you use the content of a layer to mask the layers above it. The masking is determined by the content of the bottom, or base layer. The non-transparent content of the base layer clips (reveals), the content of the layers above it in the clipping mask. All other content in the clipped layers is masked out. You can use multiple layers in a clipping mask, but they must be successive layers. The name of the bottom layer in the mask is underlined, and the thumbnails for the overlying layers are indented. The overlying layers display a clipping mask icon.

There are different ways of creating Clipping Masks; one way is to press Ctrl, then
left-click to highlight two successive layers. Now, right-click and choose Create Clipping Mask from the drop-down list - illustrated below left. Your layers will then display the following clipping mask arrow - shown below-right. Note: To release a Clipping Mask, right-click and choose Release Clipping Mask.


An alternative way of creating a Clipping Mask is to arrange the layers so your bottom layer is below the layer you wish to mask. Now, hold down your Alt key and position your cursor over the line that divides the base layer and the layer above it; and when the cursor changes to a symbol of two overlapping circles, left-click.

When you are happy with your layers,
from the top menu, choose Layer then choose Flatten Image, then save your work.

33/ Rasterise A Vector Layer
Before applying effects or commands to Vector Text or Objects, the Text or Object needs to be Rasterised first. To Rasterise a Layer, right-click the Layer, and from the subsequent drop-down list, choose Rasterise Text/Layer.

Now you are familiar with Photoshop’s Layers, there’s nothing stopping you from expanding your creativeness and producing any type of work: from simple Layered Images to sophisticated multi-imaged artwork and designs.

Wendi E M Scarth.
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