Articles, Blog

Photoshop: Understanding Layers

November 4, 2019

Layers are one of the most important features
in Photoshop, so it’s important that you understand how they work. Basically, layers let you combine
different things in your image, whether it’s text, shapes, or other objects that overlap.
They can also be used to adjust the image in ways that you may not have realized. Why
don’t we take a closer look? This image actually has 4 layers. It might
help to think of them as transparent panes of glass. When they’re stacked on top of each
other, they appear to be flat. But if you pull them apart… you can see that they’re
all working together to create the final image. There are many types of layers in Photoshop,
but they fall into two main categories: content layers and adjustment layers. Content layers
are pretty self explanatory—they contain some type of object, like text, a graphic
or a shape, or even your main image. Adjustment layers are a little different.
Instead of containing an object, they have an effect on the layers below. In this example,
we have a levels adjustment layer, which is making the cake image just a tiny bit brighter.
Adjustment layers are a type of non-destructive editing, meaning they don’t actually change
anything about the original image; they just sit on top. So you may be wondering, why even use layers?
Wouldn’t it be easier to just work with everything in your image at once? The truth is, layers
are useful because you can work with them independently—that gives you a lot more
flexibility and control. Once you get more comfortable with them, you’ll use them in
your projects all the time. To get started, make sure the layers panel
is visible—it’s usually found in the bottom right corner. If you don’t have it, you can
go to the Window menu to turn it on. If you’ve never used layers before, we recommend
trying an adjustment layer first. Remember, these don’t contain any kind of object; they
just let you adjust some aspect of your image. That makes them really easy to add and play
around with. First, select the layer below where you want
the adjustment to appear—in this example, we’ll select the cake layer. Next, click the
adjustment button at the bottom of the panel (it’s the one that looks like a half-filled
circle). Here, you’ll find lots of options to choose
from depending on what you need. For instance, you could add an effect like Posterize…
or change the image’s Color Balance. In this case, we’re going to choose Hue/Saturation
to see if we can make the colors a little more vibrant. Once you make your selection, a layer will
be added to your document… and the properties panel will appear. Here you can make your
adjustment and see the effect it has on the image in real time. See how it works? The properties panel might seem confusing
at first, but don’t worry—you’ll learn more about it as you get more experience with Photoshop.
For now, it’s OK to experiment. When you’re done, you can leave this panel open, but in
my case, I’m going to close it, so we can see the entire image again. There are some other features you should know
about that will make working with layers a whole lot easier. For instance, using the
buttons at the bottom of the panel, you can delete your current layer… or create a new
one from scratch. There’s also a way to duplicate layers, which
is similar to using copy & paste. To do this, you can right-click the layer you want…
then choose Duplicate from the menu… or you can simply drag & drop the layer to the
new layer button here. This will create a copy automatically. I don’t really need this,
though, so I’m going to go ahead and delete it. Now, one of the best things about layers is
how flexible they can be. You can hide them or change the order that they’re in, all without
making any permanent changes to the image. Hiding a layer can be useful if you want to
get it out of the way; for example, so you can edit some other part of the image. All
you have to do is click the eye icon next to the layer you want. As you can see, this
works for adjustment layers too—now we’re looking at the original photo without any
alterations. To turn the layers back on, just click the icons again. The order of your layers also plays an important
role in the final image. As you might have gathered, layers at the top of the list always
appear in front of layers at the bottom. To change the order of a layer, select the one
you want… then drag & drop it into place. Just be mindful of any content that overlaps
with the layers below. You might end up covering parts of your image by mistake. Let’s go back to the original order, with
the cake layer in the background… and the levels layer down here. The last thing I’d like to show you is how
to edit the contents of your layers. You can do this using the options in the tools panel
and also the filter menu. Every layer is different, so not all tools
and filters will work for the layer you have in mind. Still, there are some basic tasks
that you can learn that’ll definitely come in handy. To get started, select the layer you want
to work with (otherwise, you might end up editing the wrong layer by mistake). Next,
click the tool you want to use—we’ll choose the Move tool. Now watch what happens when I click & drag
on the document. It moves the text layer only, because that’s the one we have selected. We
can do the same with the rings layer… there we go, that looks good. What if you have an adjustment layer, and
you want to re-visit the adjustments you’ve already made? All you have to do is select
the layer, and the properties panel should appear. Now, in my case, I actually closed
the panel earlier, so I’ll need to double-click the layer icon to re-open it. Now we can make
whatever changes we want. I’m just going to adjust the hue again… and try reducing the
saturation instead. The process for editing text is just as easy.
All you have to do is double-click the layer icon. This lets you edit the text directly
in the document area. When you’re done, press ESC on your keyboard… and that’s it. There are lots of different ways to use layers
in Photoshop, which is something you’ll get a better feel for over time. For now, you
know everything you need to get started, including what layers are for, and how to work with
them in your documents.


  • Reply Panda Bete February 24, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    Thank you

  • Reply Automotive Vault October 4, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you! đŸ™‚

  • Reply Michael slang January 31, 2019 at 7:44 am

    This was helpful. Thanks.

  • Reply Ashutosh July 16, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the lesson!

  • Leave a Reply