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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Customizing Layers

Layers are Photoshop's most powerful feature, and if there's any one thing you need to learn about Photoshop, learn all about layers and especially how to customize them.

The technique for leveraging layers in your work is a topic covered in future chapters. For now, we're just going to show you how to manage them because, after all, this is the reference section of this book.

Photoshop is most decidedly "layer-centric"—if you're working efficiently (in other words, if you read this book!). You will find layers indispensable, and almost every editing move (or perhaps every other editing move) somehow involves using layers.

Take out the icons.psd image from the Examples\Chap03 folder on the companion CD. You're going to learn some tricks here and now!

Naming and Propagating Layer Content

  1. With the icons.psd image open, press F7 if the Layers palette isn't already open in your workspace. If it is, sit there for a moment.

  2. As you can see, the top layer containing the icon is labeled "Gluntwerp," a dumb and useless name for the purposes of this assignment. Double-click on the name and, surprise, fellow Photoshop users, Photoshop finally lets you rename a layer in place. Type icon in the space to rename the layer title, and then press Enter (Return) to apply the new name (see Figure 3.36).

  3. Click and hold the layer title on the Layers palette, and drag the layer title onto the Create a new layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Repeat this procedure two more times, as you can see in Figure 3.37. What is the lesson here? Well, there are two: First, a copy of a layer is always placed precisely over the original; so in this case, you cannot see that there are four images of that icon from looking at the image window. Second, because you duplicated the layers in this way, they are conveniently numbered for you on the Layers palette.

  4. Figure 3.36Figure 3.36 You can rename a layer (or channel or path) simply by double-clicking the current name and entering the new name in the text field.

    Figure 3.37Figure 3.37 Duplicated layers are numbered automatically if you drop the desired layer onto the Create a new layer icon.

  5. Press V to switch to the Move tool, and right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) on the image window. As you can see in Figure 3.38, any layer that has content (non-transparent pixels) is listed on the context menu. Note that this works only if you click directly on the desired image element. Now, because we have all these icons stacked up, let's separate them a little. Choose icon copy from the context menu, and this layer becomes highlighted on the Layers palette, indicating that it is the new editing layer.

  6. NOTE

    Insider - By the way, if you've chosen Auto Select Layer on the Options bar, you've ruined step 4! When Auto Select Layer is checked and you click in a document window, this feature will automatically select the top layer under your cursor after you click using the Move tool. It's our recommendation that you uncheck this option. This feature can get you into tons of editing trouble. And then, of course, you'll be late delivering your assignments, and you will most likely starve. When the Move tool is active, it's a much better solution to use the feature on demand by simply holding down the Ctrl(Command) key to temporarily toggle the feature on when you need to select the layer for an object quickly.

    Figure 3.38Figure 3.38 Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) with the Move tool active to bring up the context menu, where you can choose to activate any layer with content on it directly beneath your cursor.

  7. Aw, why not choose icon copy from the context menu? Now, with the Move tool (and only the Move tool), you can scoot the icon copy visual contents up and to the left of the stack of icons. If you have been fooling around with other features for a while and need a quick reminder of which icon you just moved, right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click), as shown in Figure 3.39, and click the only logical choice (the choices are Icon copy and Background).

  8. Figure 3.39Figure 3.39 This context menu is very handy, when used in combination with the Move tool, to quickly identify areas on the image.

  9. Move a few more icons out of the way of the original one. Oh, okay—we'd be remiss if we didn't show you the Auto Select Layer option. Click the check box on the Options bar, and then click on an icon. You will see the Layers palette changing the highlight for the current editing layer, as shown in Figure 3.40. You can close the file without saving changes.


Insider -Remember that Auto Select Layer is an option, but again, this option of auto-selecting can work against you because it's so easy to accidentally click a different image area after you've auto-chosen the layer you need. It's best to leave this option turned off and more efficient to select this feature on demand by simply Ctrl(Command)+clicking on an object with the Move tool.

Let's drift back to those custom brushes to show off a new feature only hinted at so far: the Tool Presets feature.

Figure 3.40Figure 3.40 The Auto Select Layer feature puts layer choosing—and inadvertent mistakes—at your fingertips.

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