Working with layers in Photoshop

Working with layers in Photoshop

Written by Carmen Jerrard

An easy way to understand Layers is to think of them as if they were transparent pages that are lying on top of each other – so that you can see the information on each layer and you can also see how that information affects the layer/s beneath it.

1) Open an image in Photoshop. If you have set up your workspace correctly you will see your Layers palette on your screen (see previous lesson on setting up your workspace). Your Layers pallet will look similar to Fig 1.2, with a thumbnail of the image you have opened as your first layer, automatically named ‘Background’.

2) At the bottom of your Layers pallet you will find a set of Layer option tools. The first tools we will be using tools are D, F and G.

3) The background layer is your original layer, which you will need to preserve as an unedited layer so that you can always access the original image. Therefore NEVER perform any edits on this layer. We do however need to make a duplicate of this layer that we can edit. To do this, begin with option tool F from Fig 1.3 is the New Layer icon. Use this tool to create a copy of the background layer by dragging the background layer into the New Layer icon. This will automatically create a new layer as your ‘background copy’ See Fig 1.4. From This point on you will never do any editing on the layer labelled Background – you will only edit on the ‘Background copy’.

4) Tool option G from Fig 1.3 is the Delete Layer icon. Use this icon to delete any layers you don’t want to keep. Choose the layer you want to delete and drag it into the Delete Layer icon and the layer will be deleted.

5) Add New Adjustment Layer (Tool D in Fig 1.3).

Click on the Add New Adjustment Layer icon (half black half white circle) at the bottom of your Layers palette. You will see the adjustment layer options appear as in Fig 1.5.

6) Click on the type of adjustment you would like to make and a new layer will appear above the Background copy layer (Fig 1.6).

7) If you want to see what effect a specific layer has on the other layers click on the little eye in the small box on the left of the layer. This will turn the layer ‘on’ and ‘off’ and will allow you to see what your image looks like with or without that specific layer.

8) Saving an image to keep your Layers: Click File > Save As… > select your Format as: Photoshop or TIFF and put a tick in the Layers option box (see the two circled areas in Fig1.7 below). Your file will now be saved as a .psd or. tiff respectively and will keep all your layers so that you can carry on editing them at a later stage. NOTE: if you save your image as a jpeg you will LOOSE your layers and therefore you will loose the ability to make any safe adjustments if you open the image again.

  • Fig 1.1 Layers as if they were transparent pages
  • Fig 1.2 Layers pallet with background layer
  • Fig 1.3 Layer option tool icons and names
  • Fig 1.4 Background copy as a new Layer
  • Fig 1.5 Adjustment Layer Options
  • Fig 1.6 New adjustment layer above the Background layer
  • Fig 1.7 Saving your file to keep your layers