PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO USING LAYERS
Understanding how to use Layers in Photoshop is essential to streamlining your photo-editing process and making sure you have the highest-quality images possible.
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But if you’re first starting out with using Layers in Photoshop, or you’re reacclimating yourself to the program after some time apart, it can be confusing to get started.
That’s why we created this Photoshop Layers for beginners guide to help you get started.
In this Layers tutorial:
- What are Layers in Photoshop?
- How do Layers work in Photoshop?
- Using Layers in Photoshop: Organization tips
- How to adjust Layer transparency and style in Photoshop
- Further exploration: Different types of Layers in Photoshop
What are Layers in Photoshop?
Using Layers in Photoshop allow you to add new elements to an image without altering the original image. With Layers, you can place text, additional images, shapes and even vector graphics into your Photoshop document while maintaining the ability to move, delete or adjust those elements individually without affecting one another.
Using Layers is a good policy whenever you need to modify an existing image; by working in Layers, you can maintain the integrity of your original image until you’re satisfied with your changes.
Many creative professionals keep a layered version of their Photoshop image that they can return to and edit later, as well as a flattened version of the modified image to use on ecommerce sites.
How do Layers work in Photoshop?
Layers act like sheets of transparent film placed on top of one another. Objects on the top Layer will appear on top of objects on lower Layers. If you apply a solid color to a Layer, that color will block out any objects on Layers beneath it.
Layers are accessed, modified, created and deleted through the Layers panel in Photoshop.
In this Photoshop Layers tutorial, we’ll go over the following:
- The Layers panel
- Adding a new Layer
- Selecting Layers
- Pasting a photo into a new Layer
- Deleting a Layer
- Duplicating a Layer
- Showing and hiding Layers
- Locking and unlocking Layers
The Layers panel
In the default workspace, the Layers panel sits on the right-hand side of the Photoshop window. Click on the word Layers to access it.
If you can’t find the Layers panel when you open Photoshop, you can easily access it by clicking on the Window drop-down menu at the top of the application window and selecting Layers. When Layers is checked, the panel will pop up your screen.
Adding a new Layer
There are several ways to create a new Layer in Photoshop. The quickest method is to type SHIFT+CTRL+N (SHIFT+COMMAND+N on a Mac) to automatically create a new Layer on top of any existing Layers in your document.
You can also create a new Layer by clicking on the Layers panel menu (which looks like four horizontal lines on the right-hand side of the panel) and selecting New Layer.
A dialog box will pop up with options for the new Layer you’re about to create. You can change each of these options afterwards, so it’s fine to leave everything as is and click OK.
Once you’ve created a new Layer, you can add an object to it or draw in it without affecting the background.
A Layer is selected when that Layer is highlighted in your Layers panel. To select a Layer, click on that Layer in the panel with your mouse. In the image below, Layer 1 is selected, and the Background Layer is not.
Pasting a photo into a new Layer
When you copy and paste an image from one document to another, the image will automatically appear in a new Layer.
To paste one image into another, go into the document with the image you want to copy, and make sure the Layer containing the image is selected (if there is only one Layer, this will be the Background layer). Click on Select > All or type CTRL+A (COMMAND+A on a Mac) to select the entire image.
Copy the image by going to File > Copy, or typing CTRL+C (COMMAND+C on a Mac).
Go into the second file, where you want to paste the image, and click Edit > Paste or type CTRL+V (COMMAND+V on a Mac).
The image will automatically appear as a new Layer in your Photoshop document.
You can also paste a portion of your image into a new Layer. To do this, use one of the selection tools (Marquee Tools, Magic Wand Tool, or Lasso Tools) to select a portion of your image.
Make sure the Background Layer (or Layer containing your image) is selected in the Layers panel. Then right-click on your image (CTRL+click on a Mac). From the resulting menu, click on Layer Via Copy.
Your selection will appear as a new Layer in your document. From here, you can move or modify the copied image portion without affecting the background.
Deleting a Layer in Photoshop
To delete a Layer in Photoshop, click and hold on the Layer in the Layer panel, and drag the Layer to the trash icon in the lower right-hand corner of the panel.
You can also delete a Layer by selecting the Layer in the Layer panel and then selecting Delete Layerfrom the panel menu.
A dialog box will pop up asking if you’re sure you want to delete the Layer. Click OK to confirm.
Duplicating a Layer
Select the Layer you want to duplicate and then click on the Layers panel menu. Choose Duplicate Layer.
A dialog box will pop up asking you to name the new Layer. By default, it will auto-populate this with the original Layer’s name followed by the word “copy.”
You can also duplicate the Layer into another document that’s currently open, or into a new document in Photoshop by choosing from the drop-down location next to Document (in the Destination section).
Showing and hiding Layers
Toggle the visibility of a Layer on and off by clicking on the eye icon next to the Layer name in the Layers panel. If you see the eye icon, the Layer is visible. Click on the eye to make it disappear, and the Layer becomes invisible.
Locking and unlocking Layers
By default, all new Layers are unlocked when created, and the Background Layer is locked.
To unlock the Background Layer, double click on the Layer in the Layers panel. The New Layer window will pop up, this time with the Layer name set to Layer 0. Click OK.