Adobe Photoshop Tutorial. Copyright Michael B. Karbo.

  • Next chapter.
  • Previous chapter.

    7. More about the layers

    It is incredibly important to understand the layer function. In this chapter we continue to explore the possibilities when working with multiple layers.

    The active layer

    Jus like you always have an active foreground color, there is also always only one active layer. When you in the exercise work with the triangle, the triangle layer is active. This means that whatever you do with the picture, it will normally only affect just this layer.

    1.   Use the move tool again. Look in the layers palette when you click on a new figure. Then you can see which layer is active.

    2.   Now select the triangle. See the picture’s title bar:

    3.   There you can read various information:

    File name, here geometry.psd.
    Enlargement degree, here 100 %.
    The active layer, here ”Triangle”.
    Color mode, here RGB, which are the common screen colors.

    4.   Try for yourself to alternately activate the four layers in the picture, and read the information in the title bar.

    The visible layers

    The layers palette contains various information about the layers. Notice the small ”eyes” along the left edge. They indicate that the particular layers are visible. Try this:

    1.   Click on an eye, that by the Triangle layer:

    2.   The eye disappears from the palette, and more importantly the triangle disappears from the picture!

    3.   Click again, and the triangle returns. Try to make all the layers invisible. Then you only see a checkered background:

    4.   Now make all the layers visible one by one, and start from the bottom. See on the drawing how the figures become visible.

    5.   You can also make all layers except one invisible in one operation. Try this: hold the Alt key down and click on the eye in the Oval layer. Voila, now you only see the ellipse.

    6.   Click on the eye in the Oval layer while you hold the Alt key down. Then all layers are visible again.

    Lock the layers in different ways

    There is another smart function associated with the layers that you need to try. It is associated with the four small lock fields, which are seen in top of the palette.

    1.   All layers need to be visible, and the Square layer needs to be active.

    2.   Find the button Lock transparent pixels, which is the first of the four small lock buttons in top of the layers palette; click on that:

    3.   Notice the small padlock that now appears in the layers window. It indicates that something in the layer is locked:

    4.   Now the layer’s transparent area is locked. You can check on that: Choose the brush tool and a blue foreground color. Try to draw outside the square – nothing happens. But you can draw inside the square. As soon as the brush leaves the square, it will no longer paint:

    5.   If you accidentally painted inside the square – hurry and cancel that when you have seen the effect.

    6.   The transparent areas in each layer – where nothing has been drawn – can thus be protected from the the effects of tools etc,

    7.   The checkered pattern on the layer buttons miniatures tells that those areas are transparent:

    Figure 17.Transparent areas in the individual lagyers

    Each individual layer can have the setting protect transparency independently of the other layers.

    The other mini buttons in the layers palette have these lock effects:

    Lock transparent pixels protects all transparent areas.

    Lock image pixels protects all which is not transparent.

    Lock position protects the layer from being moved.

    Lock all combines the previous three items.

    Figure 18. Different lock modes, which can protect the individual layer against changes.


    You can make different picture elements more or less transparent. That is an effect with great possibilities!

    1.   Select the Triangle layer in the layers palette.

    2.   Click on the small triangle to the right of the word Opacity:

    3.   Then a small slider appears. Try to drag in that until the percentage is 75. You can also write a percentage directly in the field:

    4.   Now the triangle is partially transparent:

    5.   Try to drag the slider to different values.

    6.   The lower the value, the more transparent the triangle gets. At opacity 0 % you don’t see the triangleen – it becomes 100 % transparent!

    Lock layers together

    Sometimes multiple picture elements have to be moved to a new position. Then it is smart that you can ”lock” layers together.

    1.   Select the Square layer.

    2.   Then click on the empty field to the right of the little eye in the Polygon layer. A small chain appears in the field:

    3.   Now the ”Square” and ”Polygon” figures are locked together. Choose the move tool, and try to move the square. The pentagon comes along, while the triangle and the oval remaini in the same position.

    4.   Click on the chain symbol to cancel the lock.

    Delete layers

    If you want to delete a layer, it can be done in different ways. That is typical for maneuvering in Photoshop; there is almost always more than one way to reach the same objective.

    You can select a layer in the layer palette and choose menu items Layer --> Delete --> Layer:

    You can also right click on the layer in the palette. Then choose Delete Layer in the menu that pens:

    Finally you can simply click on the small wste basket in the lower right corner of the palette:

    Figure 19. Be aware of the small buttons in the bottom of the layer palette. This button deletes the selected layer.

    Close all windows

    You have now finished the first couple of execises. We hope that you gained from them.

    1.   Use the Use the shortcut Control+w to close the picture window.

    2.   Repeat that if you have other open windows until you have an empty program window, where you only see the palettes.

    3.   Try to open two drawings at once: Press Control+o (for open). Select the file ”my flower.” Hold the Shift- key down, and then also select the file ”geometry”:


    4.   Press Enter, then both drawings are read into Photoshop. You can now switch between them with Control+Tab – Try that.

    5.   Now close all open files with Control+Shift-+w.

    You can also close the Photoshop program with the shortcut Alt+4. But it is a large and heavy program to get started, so it might be a good idea to leave it open as long as the pc is turned on.

  • Next chapter.
  • Previous chapter.

  • Adobe Photoshop book overview.