/5 Photoshop Layer Basics Everyone Should Know
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5 Photoshop Layer Basics Everyone Should Know

Graphic design is a career (or hobby) that is becoming more popular than ever before. While there are only approximately 250,000 people employed as designers, this isn’t stopping the industry from growing.

Just how an artist’s tool of choice may be a pencil or paintbrush, a designer uses software to create digital art.

A staple program is Adobe Photoshop. We’ve all heard of it, but few of us know how to use it. Anyone can learn, however.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Photoshop layer basics.

1. The Layers Panel

In Photoshop, the project you’re working on has different layers. As the name suggests, the layers panel is the space where you can manage them.

There many things you need to keep in mind about your project’s layers, such as the order they’re in, their opacity, and any changes you’ve made to their color.

As previously mentioned, the order matters. If you have two layers and both take up the entire screen, you won’t be able to see the second one underneath the first. You can, however, lower the opacity of the first to make the second more visible.

Take some time to play with the values of each layer and see how it affects the others in the chain.

Another important tip to remember is merging layers. This is done by selecting the layers you want to merge, the use the Photoshop bar at the top of the screen to click Layer > Merge Layers.

Remember that any layer with the “eye” icon disabled will be invisible. This is a common rookie mistake that can lead to people giving up altogether. 

2. The Toolbar

The toolbar is your paintbrush, so to speak. It’s also home to the infamous pen tool, but we’ll go over that later.

From cropping to magnifying, and even adding a gradient, this section of Photoshop lets you accomplish virtually any task that you need to.

But, there’s a good possibility that not every designer will need every tool they have access to.

Just like you did with the layers panel, go through and try out every tool in the toolbar just to see what it does/how you like to use it.

Then, when you’ve found a handful that you think you’ll use in every project, you’ll be able to take things a step further: customizing your toolbar.

Clicking Edit > Toolbar, you’ll be able to choose which tools you want to use. From there, you’ll be able to make specific groups that you use for different projects depending on your needs.

Not only will this allow you to save time, but you’ll also stay focused on the tools you need to use the most.  

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3. Keyboard Shortcuts

As the old saying goes: “Time is money.” Shortcuts do wonders in terms of productivity, allowing you to get more work done in less time.

In fact, there is often a vast difference between using keyboard shortcuts, especially for longer projects. Rather than having to interrupt your workflow and accomplish a task with multiple clicks, you can do it in under a second.

Here are common keyboard shortcuts you need to know for Windows and Mac users, respectively:

  • Save your project: Ctrl + S/Command + S
  • Open a project: Ctrl + O/Command + O
  • Create a new project: Ctrl + N/ Command + N
  • Zoom in: Ctrl +/Command +
  • Zoom out: Ctrl -/Command –
  • Fit current image to the screen: Ctrl + 0/Command + 0
  • Select all: Ctrl + A/Command + A
  • Deselect: Ctrl + D/Command + D
  • Undo: Ctrl + Z/Command + Z

Write them down on a notepad near your computer so that you can reference them as needed.

4. The Pen Tool

We didn’t forget. The pen tool’s back.

In all seriousness, the pen tool is one of the most useful that Photoshop has to offer, but it does come with a bit of a learning curve. 

The pen tool essentially creates anchor points as you “draw” with it that can eventually be used as a vector path. For those who aren’t in the know about Photoshop lingo, the pen tool is used instead of other selection tools (like the pencil tool) for when you need more possibilities.

In particular, it’s most often used for creating masks, which can give you more manipulation over your project.

As with the other tools in Photoshop, you’ll need to try it out for yourself in order to see what you can do. Although it’s notoriously one of the more difficult tools, the utility it provides makes it worth learning. 

Whether you’re an artist or a photographer (or somewhere in between), it’s a great asset to have.

5. Take Advantage of Presets

Once again, time is money, so you should always be striving to save time when you can. To browse the available presets, click Edit > Presets > Presets Manager.

There are presets for effects, tools, patterns, and plenty of other options. Some of the more useful ones include presets for filters and layouts. The presets for brushes are also useful for the majority of graphic designers.

By utilizing presets as opposed to starting from scratch, you’ll be able to jump right into designing and accomplish more work than you thought you could.

Understanding Photoshop Layer Basics Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about Photoshop layer tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful art in a fraction of the time.

Want to learn more Photoshop tips? This article has plenty of useful information.