Photoshop: Using Layers
Photoshop Layers Are Fast, Easy, Powerful & Forgiving
By Damien Andrews
In my opinion, Photoshop Layers are the foundation of the real powers of Photoshop. It doesn't really matter what you are doing in Photoshop, Layers are (or should be) where your processes begin. It would take a beefy book to delve deeply into the literally countless applications for the uses of Photoshop Layers. Since this is not a book, I'll touch on some of the more amazing aspects of using Layers in the hope of getting you to start regularly including Layers in your Photoshop work flow.
A common problem in Photoshop Layers
Frequently, when you open a new document in Photoshop, a thumbnail of the photograph will appear in the Layers dialog box with the word Background (in italics) as the title, and a small padlock to the right of the name. This layer is locked, and as such you can't do many things to it. This is very frustrating to new Photoshop users. Here's the fix: drag the Background layer down to the Create a New Layer icon and release it – now you have a copy of background that is unlocked and can be fully manipulated.
Creating, customizing and editing with Photoshop Layers
Open any photograph in Photoshop. Duplicate the photograph in a new layer using the easy instructions above. Make sure the new layer is active. Now go to the Mode dropdown box at the top of the Photoshop Layers dialog box. It will say "Normal" by default. Click the word Normal and the box will open down. Click on the first option: Dissolve. Now take your hand off the mouse and look at your photograph – it likely did not change much at all. Now, while looking at your photograph, hit the down arrow key on your keyboard and the Mode will change to Darken. Keep hitting the down arrow key and watching your photograph to find the changes you like. You can also use the Opacity slider to boost or decrease the mode you most prefer. This is a fast fix for many problems with photographs.
Use Photoshop Layers to add artwork to photographs or photographs to artwork. When creating artwork, use lots of layers so that you can easily do your final tweaking. Adjusting the size or position of elements is eminently easier when only the one element is on a Layer.
Open a Photoshop Layer and change the tone of the photograph. Easily create sepia tones, blue tones, surrealistic tones, foggy scenes, rainy scenes or snowy scenes by filling the layer with a color and then adjusting the Mode and opacity. By using the gradient tool in the overlaying Layer, you can easily focus the viewer's attention to the area desired.
To quickly repeat and manage shapes, create the first shape in a new Photoshop Layer. Make sure it's perfect and then simply duplicate the layer (as explained above) as many times as required to get the number of elements desired. Once that's done, click the box next to the eye to Link all the artwork together. You can now use the Align and Distribute functions to get the artwork precisely where and how you want it. You can then Merge Linked to have all the art on one layer. You can now duplicate that layer, if desired, to rapidly create more of the perfectly sized, distributed and colored element. This is a great technique for LED display art, movie marquis, retro work – and more.
If you find that you have too many layers to manage effectively, use the Create a New Set icon at the bottom of the Photoshop Layers palette. Create a new file set, then drag the relative pieces of artwork or photographs into the file. Do this as many times as necessary to manage your project effectively.
Manage your Photoshop Layers by naming them appropriately. To name a Layer, simply double click directly on the existing name, such as Layer 3, and then type in the new name. Using short, logical names works best.
If you are creating a title over a photograph, change the mode of the type Layer to see some quick, easy effects. Using Multiply mode, for example, will make the text appear like it is written ON the element of the photograph that is underneath it. Ergo, if you use this process to place text on linen, the text will appear as though it is written on the linen, or concrete, or the side of a house, and so forth.
This simple title is provided to show how using Photoshop Layers can open new vistas to users. Note that the blue box is clearly present and attracts the eye, but does not actually cover up the photograph beneath it. It is on a Multiply Mode Layer