View Full Version : Understanding Layers

April 26th, 2006, 06:34 PM
Try as I might, I am still at a loss when it comes to understanding layers. Is there one book, or one tutorial, that will make this subject clearer?


April 26th, 2006, 06:59 PM
Hi Barnum

Maybe my next project will be a layers video But;

Here is a good way to get a grasp of basic layers.

Think of one big poster or picture you want to add other pictures to. Put it on the floor. We will call it the background layer

Now pick 4 or 5 other pictures you want to add to your big background picture. Say mom…dad… and little Alice and Fido your puppy.

Get the scissors, well imagine you do, and cut each person and puppy out of the pictures.

Now lay them on your background but slightly overlap them… start with the puppy first.

NOW think of each picture as a layer. Say you want to draw shorts on mom but she is behind dad, no problem with layers just pull mom to the top of the pile and draw away, then put her back.

Oops the puppy is behind dad’s legs… no problem with layers just move him up in the stack.

If you did not have each picture on its own layer you could not do that once you had first made the picture.

Now adjustment layers think of as spotlights… say little Alice was too dark… so above her put an adjustment layer spotlight to lighten her.

Basically that is all there is to it, you are putting pieces of the picture together by stacking one on top of the other and looking straight down from above.

Hope my ramble helped you understand.


April 26th, 2006, 07:03 PM
Coming soon is a course on layers -- it is possibly going to post the first week of May and I'm looking forward to it.

April 26th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Thank you Butch. I really didn't understand adjustment layers and you have just made it clear.

April 27th, 2006, 02:48 AM
Shari ...

It maybe worth you taking the online class on layers ... it sounds as though it will be really good. :)


April 27th, 2006, 03:31 AM
Butch has also done a brilliant video on layer masks, each step very clearly explained, well worth watching!


Hamlet 77
April 27th, 2006, 04:24 AM
Despite the excelent advice given by the 'layer masters' I would like to point out that many times you don't actually have to worry about what a layer does/is/makes up/whatever, cos PSE does all the hard work for you.

To use the example given by daviskw, you have your background that you want to stick the family onto and you have mom, dad, fido etc. all nicely available and you stick them onto your background, well that's where PSE comes in, IT keeps them seperate i.e. different layers, the same with masking layers or whatever they are all handled by PSE you just have to remember which one you are working on and if you want to move them around and that is dead easy.....

Dee Dee Warren
April 27th, 2006, 06:20 AM
If you're not a Spring chicken (like I am not) this is how I understood layers. Before all this new-fangled technology, in school, the teacher would often use transparencies to teach subjects that built one upon the other. The first basic transparency would be laid down and then more information laid on top of it to add to the original (or even block out stuff from the original)

April 27th, 2006, 08:23 AM
Okay, let me show my stupidity.... how do I unlock a layer? I keep opening photos (which I want to be layers), and they simply keep covering over the last one I opened. In other words, how can I have the many layers showing bottom right so that I can work on them? Is a photo not a layer?

April 27th, 2006, 08:29 AM
Barnum, it sounds like you have several pictures opened. Each is it's own "document" with it's own set of layers. If you want several pictures to be in one "document" each in it's own layer, you have to copy and paste the images into one open "document." Each copied image becomes a layer.

By default, the first image opened is in the background layer, which is locked. Make a copy of the background layer by pressing CTRL-J on a windows computer.

Do you have any PSE books? I would recommend a book like Deke McClelland called Photoshop Elements 3 for Windows: One on One. There's also a version for PSE4. It will walk you through all of this in little steps.


Byron Gale
April 27th, 2006, 10:59 AM
...I keep opening photos (which I want to be layers), and they simply keep covering over the last one I opened...

You are probably viewing your images in Maximize Mode. Try clicking the menu Window > Images > Cascade (or Tile). Then you will be able to see all of your open images in your workspace so that you can go back/forth between them.

The Layers palette always only displays one image's layers at a time... whichever image you have currently selected.



April 27th, 2006, 07:34 PM
In all the books I've looked at the layers are indicated bottom right of screen.... I only see one layer, not all of them, and guess this is what is confusing me. Sorry to be so dense.

April 27th, 2006, 08:41 PM
Open 3 pictures -- can be of anything. Each picture will have its own background layer which by default is locked.

Pick one of the pictures for the BASE (document) picture. You'll be adding the other two pictures one at a time.

Select one of the other pictures -- do SELECT, SELECT ALL, the do EDIT, COPY.

Now go back to your base picture -- and do EDIT PASTE. You will have two layers in the base document. You may not be able to see the picture beneath since it will probably be covered by the pasted image.

Go to the remaining picture and repeat the select, edit copy, then move back to the base document and Edit Paste -- you will have 3 layers now and the top layer will be obscuring the lower two layers.

You can select a layer by clicking on it then use the MOVE tool and resize it to fit where you can see some of the image from below.

HTH --