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Creating Photoshop Images in Layers

In this sample chapter from Special Edition Using Adobe Photoshop 6, author Richard Lynch teaches you how to create and manage layers, create images in layers, troubleshoot, and create layer effects.
In This Chapter
  • Creating Images in Layers

  • Creating and Managing Layers

  • Troubleshooting

  • Photoshop at Work: Creating Layer Effects

Creating Images in Layers

The basic layer is like a transparency, or a clear sheet, which you lay over your image so you can add image elements without affecting other layers (such as the background). Each sheet can be filled completely or partially, and it can be of varying opacity, effectively allowing the user to combine image elements in the stack, where the topmost layers obscure what is below (depending on the content and opacity). Layers allow you abundant flexibility in creating and arranging independent image elements in a single image. This is invaluable for image corrections and combining elements from different images, or essentially for use with any image alteration you might be considering.

Background Layers

Background layers are somewhat different from other layers in that they are completely opaque and cannot be reordered in the image. There is also only one background in any image, and it can only be the layer at the bottom of the stack. In a way, it can be considered the solid canvas behind the transparent layers that lie above. Backgrounds can be converted into layers, images can have no background, and backgrounds can be re-established. To convert the background into a layer, simply double-click it and it will convert to a layer (the default name is layer 0), and the New Layer dialog box will open to allow you to choose options. To restore a background if you have converted the background to a layer, either flatten the image or select New Background from the Layers menu.

Layers have functions that help you work with and blend the elements you are using for an image, and they are integral to creating complex images. These functions include

  • Layer Modes

  • Opacity

  • Blend If

  • Clipping Groups (or Layer Groups)

  • Layer Masks

  • Layer Styles

  • Layer Sets

All can be used in different ways and combinations to accomplish specific layer-oriented tasks. Layers can be grouped in Sets, locked in place, and Layer Styles can be stored so that settings you use often for layers can be recalled and applied to layers in other images. The sum of all these parts is an almost limitless control over the means of combining and altering content. Each of these elements will be discussed in context as we progress through this chapter.

Implementation and control of layers are mostly handled via the Layers palette (see Figure 3.1) and the Layer menu. Details for the functions are summarized in Table 3.1.

Figure 3.1
The Layers palette is one of the most used and useful palettes, neatly containing quite a store of functions and information at a glance, yet it is remarkably tidy considering all that is on it. Be sure it is placed in an easily accessible spot in your workspace.

Table 3.1 Layers Palette Features

Layers Palette Features

What It Does

View On/Off

Turns visibility for the layer on or off. Layers must be visible (On) to work on the content.


Indicates the layer that will be affected by painting applications.

Layer Thumbnail

Shows the content of the individual layer.


Can show a linking between layers (when it appears in the palette column where the paintbrush icon for the active layer is located), or linking between a layer and its mask or clipping path (when it appears between the thumbnail and Mask or Path).


Allows the user to make a selection for the layer blending.

Apply Effects Menu

Allows the user to choose specific predefined effects that are applied across the content of the layer. Opens the appropriate Layer Effect dialog box when the Effect is selected.

Layer Set Folder

Provides a means for grouping layers so they can be arranged in the image or transferred between images. Might be in expanded and condensed views so the content of the set is either visible or hidden.

Create Layer Set

Creates a Layer Set folder that can be populated with layers.

Adjustment Layer Menu

Creates an Adjustment layer as per the selection made on the list. Opens the appropriate dialog box when the selection is made.

New Layer

Creates a new layer or duplicates a layer dragged to it with copy appended to the original layer name. The new layer is created above the old.

Delete Layer

Removes the Active layer from the image.

Layer Mask

Acts as a mask, blacking out areas of the layer from view. Affects the image only when linked to the layer content.

Layer Effects

Indicates that Effects have been applied to the layer. If in expanded view, the Effects are listed below the layer.

Toggle Expand/Compress View

An arrow that when clicked will change state from expanded (pointing down) to condensed (pointing right) and vice versa.

Lock All

When checked, this locks the layer, and keeps the user from either moving the content of the layer or changing layer information.

Lock Movement

When checked, keeps the user from moving or repositioning content of the layer.

Lock image pixels

Keeps layer pixel information from changing.

Lock Transparency

Keeps layer transparency intact.


Changes the opacity of the layer.

Resize Palette to Fit Content

Resizes the Palette to an optimal size for the current content of the Palette.

Layers Palette Pop-Up

Opens the Layers Palette Pop-Up menu, which contains additional layer functions.

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