Layers were introduced 21 years ago in Photoshop 3.0 and revolutionized the way designers and photographers work. They can help you edit a photo without destroying the original image or create a complex image that you can use as a template for creating other images.
Today’s Photoshop lesson will introduce you to the Layers panel and show you how to work with layers in Photoshop.
What are Layers?
Think of layers as stacked sheets of paper or cellophane that can be used together to create a complex image. The transparent layers let you see the layers below, and you can use them to cover parts of the bottom layer or add text without writing directly on it.
Types of Layers
There are many types of layers and each layer has its own purpose:
- Image Layers: also called pixel layers are the basic Photoshop layers. Opening a photograph or creating a blank layer and filling it with color will create an Image Layer.
- Adjustment Layers: these layers come in handy when you want to edit a photograph without destroying the original image. You can use them to change brightness and contrast, color, saturation. You can also use them to apply the same effect to different images by dragging them from one document to another.
- Fill Layers: let you add a layer of solid color, gradient, or pattern on top of an image.
- Shape Layers: these are automatically created when you use the Shape Tools or Pen Tool. Unlike most layers, these are vector based, which means they are created using paths and points and you can resize them without losing quality.
- Type Layers: they let you add text to an image using the Type Tool. Text in Photoshop isn’t created from pixels so you can modify the font anytime you want on this special layer.
There other types of layers, but these are the most important and the ones you will probably work with the most.
The Layers panel
If you look at the Layers panel, you can view which layer is active because it’s highlighted in blue. Change the active layer by clicking on another one. All Photoshop effects and commands affect only the active layer and that’s why it’s always important to change the active layers.
You can select all layers from Select/All (Ctrl+A) or select only a few layers by holding down Ctrl (Command) while clicking on them.
Now let’s take a look at the Layer’s panel. You will find it in the bottom right corner of your screen or if it’s not visible, you can activate it from Window/Layers.
- Layer filter: it’s very useful when you are working with many layers because it lets you hide certain layers and find the layers you want to edit.
- Blending modes: these commands will let you change the way the selected layer blends with the layer underneath it.
- Visibility: the eye icon on the left side of your layers will make the selected layer visible or invisible.
- Fill and Opacity: making the opacity 0 will make your layer completely transparent. Changing the Fill of opacity will adjust the transparency of the pixels without affecting the layer styles.
- Link layer: the selected layers will be linked together so if you move one layer, all of them will move.
- Layer effects: will add special effects to the selected layer. You can add multiple effects on a layer.
- Add layer mask: adding a layer mask will allow you to paint or erase the selected part of an image without changing the whole image.
- Create a new group: creates a folder that lets you add layers inside it by dragging them. Any change made to the group layer will affect all layers.
- Create a new layer: helps you create a new layer.
- Delete layer: deletes the selected layer.
- Lock: if you see the lock icon on a layer, the layer will be protected from any edits. Double click on it to unlock it.
Right-clicking on a layer will open another menu that lets you make a copy of the layer or add some effects.
Open Photoshop, create a new document and go through all the options in the Layers panel to see how they work. Learning how to use all these commands will make your work much easier.