Adobe Photoshop Tutorial. Copyright Michael B. Karbo.

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    6. Exercise with multiple layers

    In this chapter you will get acquainted with one of Photoshop’s best and most practical facilities – that is the ability to build a picture in multiple layers.

    What are layers?

    Imagine a stack of transparent plastic sheets. You can draw, paint, insert pictures of any kind, adjust brightness and contrast, insert text etc. on each sheet. All work on any one sheet is quite independent from the other sheets. But in the end all sheets are combined for the final picture.

    Layer 1:

    Layer 2:

    The combined picture:

    Figure 12. The layer function in Photoshop is incredibly smart designed. You can make countless manipulations, collages, transitions etc. The neat thing is that you add a new layer for each new element. It works quite easy, once you figure out the system.

    In Figure 12 you see an example of a picture with two layers. Notice that the car in layer 2 is seen on a transparent background. The ckeckered area indicates that the picture area is transparent. Therefore ”you look through” layer 2, and layer 1 becomes background in the combined picture.

    You can add new sheets as needed, remove others, change their sequence, make some elements more or less transparent, drag the picture elements around on the screen – the possibilities are nearly countless.

    Create a new picture

    You are now going to do an exercise that introduces the layers.

    First we need a background color, and we need to select that in a different way than before. Where the Swatches palette lets you choose from a variety of pre defined colors, you can choose any shade of color with the dialog box Color Picker.

    1.   Click on the backmost of the two color fields:

    2.   Then the Color Picker dialog box opens. Choose a color by dragging in the slider on the small, vertical rainbow – we need a violet, so the slider needs to get near the top:


    3.   Then click in the large square field to fine tune the color shade, in this case you need to get up in the uppermost part. Then click OK.

    4.   Open a new picture. The quickest is to use the keyboard shortcut Control+n, but you can also use the shortcut Control+Alt+n, which gives a new picture of the same size as the previous.

    5.   Name the picture geometry, and make sure that you have selected a background color in the contents section in the dialog box (like in figure 13). Then click OK.

    6.   Then save the picture as a file on your hard disk as geometry.psd (the procdure was described in the previous exercise).

    7.   If you prefer you can fit the work area to screen. You can do that with the shortcut Control+0.

    8.   Hide the rulers with Control+r.

    Figure 13. The new picture will have the same dimensions as the previous.

    Add a layer

    First you need to add a new layer. You control the work in the different layers with the layers palette. If it is not on the screen, it can be opened with F7.

    1.   In the layers palette you see a thumbnail image of the solid violet picture that you have on the screen:


    2.   This first layer is referred to as ”Background.” It is created in most new pictures. To begin with this layer is ”locked,” as you saw it in a previous exercise.

    3.   The layer palette has many settings options, for now we will only cover the most important ones. In the bottom of the palette you see a number of buttons. Noc click on the button Create a new layer:

    4.   Now a new field appeears in the layer palette called Layer 1, as you see here:

    If you have a picture that consists of many layers, it can easily be confusing to figure out what is what. Therefore it is a good idea to get in the habit of assigning the layers descriptive names.

    5.   Tight click on layer 1, and choose Layer Properties… from the menu:

    6.   That opens the dialog box Layer Properties. Here you can name the layer, and you can give the layer button another color.

    7.   Write Oval in the name field. Click on the arrow in the right end of the color field, and select Yellow. Then clck OK:

    It facilitates navigation between the different layers when the layer lines have different colors in the palette.

    8.   Save the picture with Control+ s. That saves also the new layer.

    9.   Then click on the marquee tool (top left tool or use shortcut letter m), and choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool:

    10. Click somewhere in the picture and hold the mouse button down while you drag an ellipse of suitable size:

    11. Select a pure yellow color from the Swatches palette:

    12. Fill the ellipse with the yellow color. Did you forget how to fill? See the description on page 19, or use the shortcut Alt+Backspace, which just fills a selected area with foreground color.

    13. Remove the selection with Control+d or by clicking somewhere outside the ellipse.

    14. The layers palette now shows the new layer with name and yellow color. You also see a miniature of its contents (the small yellow ellipse):

    15. Activate the move tool (with v), and try to move the yellow oval around on the violet background:

    16. Save the picture with Control+s.

    So photoshop can work with pictures in many layers. But be aware that there is one selected and active layer. You can only make changes in the selected area.

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