Layers as functionality for Photoshop was initially introduced in version 3.0 of the graphics editing program. It is one of the most important aspects of Photoshop and revolutionized the manner by which we use the graphics editing program. For the first time, we can now easily perform complicated compositions even if we don’t have the advanced skills required in the use of channels. In the past, even the seasoned Photoshop users got themselves in a serious bind when they needed to make some changes in their compositions or simple tasks like changing the font of the text. With the introduction of layers, this is no longer the case.
There are a lot of things that we have to learn about layers, and we need to spend some time before we can be considered a “layers guru.” However, it is not really difficult to learn the basics, and you can easily work your way through and gradually increase your level of competency on this particular Photoshop functionality.
In this Photoshop tutorial, you will learn the basic concept about layers and cover the main features of the Photoshop functionality. You will also get several important tips along the way so that you will be able to use the layers with ease.
Photoshop Layers – An Overview
The layers are basically transparencies that are stacked on top of each other. Imagine having a piece of paper that is painted in red and you place on top of it a transparency with a circle on the center painted in yellow. Now, take another transparency painted with some blue streaks and place the transparency on top of the first transparency. So far, you now have a red background and 2 layers in yellow and blue.
Even if you are confident that you are familiar with the important aspects of layers, this article is still a must read. You must also take note of the useful tips that are included in this article. You may be a bit hesitant to learn how to use layers in Photoshop, but once you get your feet wet, then you will discover the power and potential of this Photoshop functionality.
While layers can result in larger files, this Photoshop functionality allows you to separate various segments or parts of an image and make adjustments to specific portions while retaining the ability to revert back to the original image or prior state. This means that you can use layers to alter an image without doing any permanent change or modification to your original image.
Layer masks are applied to individual layers, and it is displayed as a thumbnail in the layers palette and linked to the thumbnail of the individual layers. This Photoshop functionality is used to establish the level of a particular layer that you want to be visible. If you don’t define the degree of visibility of an area or areas within that layer, then such areas become transparent.
The thumbnail of the layer mask in the layers palette is either pure black or pure white or any degree of combination of white and black. An area or areas within the layer that are pure white are 100 percent visible, while the area or areas that are pure black are 100 percent invisible.
There are times when you want to obtain various degrees of gray in specific areas of the mask layer. This means that such gray areas are not completely transparent or visible. In this particular case, such areas generally have a decreased level of opacity, and it is a condition that is characterized by lower opacity, but it is now limited to a specific area or areas of the layer.
You can access the layer mask from the Layers – Add Layer Mask – Hide All or Layers – Add Layer Mask – Reveal All. You get a pure white layer mask when you select “Reveal All,” and you get a pure black layer mask when you select “Hide All.” There is also a fast way to access and utilize the mask, and this is clicking the designated icon for Layer Mask at the bottom part of the Layers Palette.
If you are using any of the selection tools and you pick a particular area of a layer, that selected area will become pure white on the layer mask, and the other areas that have not been selected will become black. Additionally, you can also use the paint tool to paint white and black on the layer mask. However, you have to make sure that you are actually painting on the layer mask. When you use the paint tool to paint white or black, you are actually “erasing” the portion or area of the layer. You have to make sure that your paintbrush is on normal mode when “painting” on the layer mask. You can use paintbrushes with lower opacity or paintbrushes with soft edges if you want to obtain feathered edges within that layer.
The ability to do overlays of objects and images is one of the most potent Photoshop functionalities. In addition to this, you can also modify the opacity of any or all of the existing layers or make selective changes in the opacity of specific parts of a particular layer.
The opacity is a relatively straightforward Photoshop option and is located on the upper part of the right portion of the Layers palette. The opacity value ranges from a low 0 percent to as high as 100 percent opacity. This option is extremely useful when you are working with color adjustments, sharpness, etc.
The main objective is for you to make a duplicate copy of the Background and make the desired modifications and adjustments – blurring, sharpening, exposure, contrast and color. Layers are also used when you make any alteration or modification in the adjustment layer. Once you have completed the adjusted layer either through the adjustment layer or duplicated layer, then you should go several steps further. This means that you go several steps further than you should when it comes to the blurriness, sharpness, saturation and giving it more than you would actually need.
Now, you only need to go to the opacity of the layer that you are working on and make the appropriate adjustment, either down or up, and you will essentially be making the desired adjustment on that layer.