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Never quite understood layers and how to use them

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  • Never quite understood layers and how to use them

    I've used Photoshop for years -now version CS2 and lately Photoshop Elements v.6_Somehow I've never really grasped the basics of Layers. I open the Layers Panel, put in one of the photos I want to work with as a background and then try and add another, then the 1st one disappears. I know it's something to do with the "eye" and after getting P/El V.6 for Dummies I read the chapter about Layers and they somehow think you don't need the basic steps explained- I do and it annoys me to be so dumb! What should I do if I want to say have 4 different photos in my Layer panel without making the last one disappear? As you see I need a simple start procedure explained and then hopefully I'll be able to use this tool.

  • #2
    Re: Never quite understood layers and how to use t

    Welcome to RetouchPRO, Bobdut...

    One of the easiest ways to get a handle on Layers is to think of them as acetate overlays that have been painted. If you duplicate the original Background layer or bring in another graphic file and place it over the background layer, it then hides everything on the layer below. You must somehow erase or remove the paint on the top layer, reduce it's opacity value or set a special blending mode in order to reveal the picture below it.

    There are many ways to reveal the picture below.

    1. Grab the eraser tool and just start erasing out the areas of the top picture that you don't want to see any more. This is distructive and not the best way of doing things, but it works.
    2. Change the blending mode. Toggle through the different blending modes and see if there is something you like.
    3. Make a selection of everything you want to keep visible on the top layer, invert the selection and delete everything else in the background OR, with the marching ants around your selection, Go to the menu "Layer>New.Via Copy and your selection will be duplicated on a new layer above. Turn off the eyeball on the layer you copied from and presto you've got a composit of your two pictures.
    4. Masking. This is probably one of the most difficult concepts for a beginner to grasp, but once mastered it is the best of all worlds. There are several ways to make a layer mask, but they all work the same. It is non destructive to the image's pixels so you can always go back and change or redefine the mask. You cannot create a mask directly on the original 'Background' layer because that layer, by default does not allow transparency and a mask needs to be on a layer that supports transparency.

    To better understand how a mask works... Duplicate your original Background layer. Then on the duplicate, use the marquee tool to draw a rectangular selection. With the selection active, use the menu Selection>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. You will see a new black and white thumbnail appear next to the layer's image thumbnail. This is the layer mask. Now turn off the eyeball on the layer below. Look at the layer mask thumbnail and note how everything in the mask that is black appears transparent in the layer image and everything that is white in the maks is visible in the image. If you put a new layer UNDER the masked layer and fill it with a color it will create a color border. This is how you "see" through to a layer below.

    Consider a mask like a chemical lab where you mix a magic black paint that literally erases or disolves the "paint" on the layer's image making areas that are painted black on the mask magically transparent on the image without actually destroying the pixels. Remove the mask and the entire image is still there intact.

    Hope this helps.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Re: Never quite understood layers and how to use t

      ok, when you say 'the first one disappears', are you talking about in your main window or in the layers palette? if you're talking about the main window, this is normal. if it's in the layer's palette, this is abnormal and shldnt happen.

      layers are exactly what they sound like, layers. you are laying one thing OVER another. if the one you are laying over another is completely opaque, you wouldnt be able to see the one underneath. it's that simple. if the one on top is semi-transparent, you would be able to see the one on top partially and the one on the bottom partially. if the one on top is fully transparent, you wouldnt be able to see it at all (though it would still be there) and you would see the one on the bottom fully.

      that's the basics of it. it really is layers, one layer on top of another. it gets more complex as you do other things with the layers and how the different layers can be partially 'blended' together or 'masked', but that's another story


      • #4
        Re: Never quite understood layers and how to use t

        All this help is great and I'm beginning to get the idea-finally <Grin> Many thanks-Bob


        • #5
          Re: Never quite understood layers and how to use t

          Hi Bob,there is a very good course on layers that you can take here.The course was done with an earlier version of Elements,but all the basics still apply.