Layer Basics

Layer Basics

Photoshop CS6 Tutorial


How to Work with Photoshop Layers



Layers in Photoshop allow you to enhance, restore and build images in unbelievable ways. One way to look at layers is that each one in a clear acetate layer with or without additional content.

Parts of each layer can be opaque, transparent or semi-transparent. You can easily re-order the layers by dragging a layer up or down the stack. Layers can be organized in layer groups or converted to smart objects.

The list goes on and on. Understanding layers is crucial to becoming proficient in Photoshop.


Step One

Open an image in Photoshop (File > Open), then open the Layers panel (Window > Layers).

Step Two

Notice that the layer name is Background and in italics. The Background layer sits on the bottom of the stack. This layer can't have any transparent areas or layers below it because it is a Background layer.

Step Three

To convert the Background layer to a transparency layer, double-click the Background layer icon. Click OK and it is now a transparency layer. Notice that the layer name no longer displays in italics.

Step Four

A transparency layer can have transparent sections. Select the Eraser tool (e key) and erase part of the image. You can now see through to the transparency checkerbox pattern. If you had used the Eraser tool on the original Background layer, the background color would have appeared.

Step Five

There are five different kinds of layers; Background, Transparency, Text, Shape and Adjustment.

Step Six

To add a text layer, click the Text tool (t key), then click in the document and type your text.

Step Seven

Shape layers are added when you select one of the Shape tools (u key) and add a shape to the document. Make sure to set the tool options to Shape layer.

Step Eight

Adjustment layers allow you to adjust an image in a non-destructive fashion. Select the image layer, then click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon and choose Hue/Saturation.

Step Nine

In the Properties panel you can adjust the sliders and modify your image.

Step Ten

Attached to each Adjustment Layer is a Mask. Since our Mask is white, the adjustment is applied to the entire image.

Step Eleven

With the Mask selected, click the Brush tool (b key) and set the foreground color to black.

Step Twelve

As you paint the Mask with black, the adjustment is disabled in the black areas.

Step Thirteen

To move a layer up or down the stack, click-drag the layer to change it's position in the stacking order.

The Power of Layers

This topic is just a shallow glimpse at layers. For more information, see topics, Add Layer Clipping Mask, Adding Layer Groups, Adjustment Layers and Masking With a Layer Mask.