/The Complete Guide to Layering In Photoshop
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The Complete Guide to Layering In Photoshop

Are you just starting out with Photoshop? If so one of the first things you need to learn is how layers work. Layers will be the bread and butter of any design concept you come up with so it’s important that you get it down to an art.

This doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by it. There is a lot to layers and they will take time to master but, they aren’t that difficult once you get a basic grip on them.

In this article, we’re going to cover the basics of what you need to know to become a Photoshop layers master.

1. What is a Photoshop Layer?

Think of photoshop layers as a sheet of plastic. You can see through transparent areas to the layers below.

You can move a layer to position the content on the layer just like sliding a sheet of plastic in a stack. You can even change the opacity of a layer to make it really transparent.

You use layers to do things like combining multiple images, adding text to an image, or adding vector graphic shapes. You can also apply a layer style to add a special effect such as a drop shadow or glow.

2. Layer Panel

Before we begin it’s important that you know about the layer panel and everything that it can do.

  • Layer filter: Lets you hide layers based on different things.
  • Opacity: 0=transparent and 100=fully opaque. You can adjust this with keys on the keyboard or with the slider.
  • Blend Modes: This changes the way a selected layer blends with the layers underneath it.
  • Fill Opacity: Adjusts the amount of opacity of the pixels.
  • Visibility: If the eye is showing, the layer is visible.
  • Locked: If the padlock is visible then it’s locked.
  • Lock all: If the box is checked then it’s completely locked from editing.
  • Lock position: You can do anything but move the layer.
  • Lock image pixels: You can’t draw on this layer.
  • Lock transparent: You can’t draw on anything transparent in the layer.
  • Link: Lets you link 2 layers.
  • Layer effects: Special effects added to your image layer.
  • Add layer masks: You can add a layer mask to the currently selected layer.
  • Add adjustment layer: This is the best way to add image adjustments like color changes.
  • Layer groups: A good organizational tool that puts the layers into a folder.
  • Create new layer: Create a new layer. Kind of self-explanatory. Just to save the bullet point, delete layer lets you delete layers.
  • Panel Options: A drop-down menu that has a list of options

3. Let’s get Down to the Basics

Now that you know what the layer panel is and the different options that it has available to you, let’s learn how to use them!

You can drag the layers up and down in the in the panel to change the order of the layered objects in the image. Click the create a new layer icon at the bottom to create a new layer. It will be transparent until something is added to it.

If you want to name or rename a layer, double-click the layer’s name and then type the new name and hit enter on windows or return on MAC.

To change the layer’s opacity, select the layer in the layers panel and drag the opacity slider to suit your needs.

To delete a layer, click on it and then hit backspace on windows or delete on a MAC.

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4. Resize a Layer

Sometimes a layer isn’t as large or small as you want. You can always resize it to fit your needs.

In the layers panel select one or more layers that contain images and objects that you want to resize.

Choose edit and choose then free transform. A transform border will appear around all the content on the selected layers. Make sure to hold the shift key so you avoid distorting the content and then drag the corners or edges until it’s the size that you want.

Drag inside the transform border to move the content around the image and if you drag outside the transform border you can rotate it. Once you’ve got it looking the way you want it, hit return on the MAC or enter on Windows.

5. Adding Images to a Layered Design

Every once in a while you need to add images into a layered design. To do this, select file and then click place embedded. Navigate to an image file in file explorer or finder, and click place.

Again, hold the shift key to avoid distorting your image, and drag the corners of the image border to resize the image. You can drag inside the borders to position the image where you want it.

When you click the check mark inside the options bar it will finalize the placement and automatically create a new layer with the added image.

6. Unlocking the Background Layer

The background layer will always be locked. This means that you can’t move it around and some editing functions won’t work on it.

All you have to do to change this is click the lock icon on the right of the layer name in the layers panel. After that, you should be able to have free reign with it.

Your Beginner’s Guide to Photoshop Layers

There are a lot more things that you can learn about Photoshop layers but these are the basics. Once you can read the layers panel and know how to resize images, mark on them, and make new layers then you can move on to more advanced techniques.

Ready to brush up on your photoshop skills? Visit our blog to find out how you can.