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Layers & Adjustment Layers

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • Layer Basics 0:40
    • Layer Basics, Part 1
    • Layer Basics, Part 2
  • Layer Panel 9:48
    • New Layer
    • Adjustment Layer
    • Add Layer Mask
    • Layers Lock
    • Blend Mode
    • Opacity
  • Adjustment Layers 12:58
    • Adjustment Layers Overview
    • Example: Using Adjustment Layers

Transcription: Layers & Adjustment Layers

Hi, everyone--Mike Brown back with you again, with another lesson in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 from

We've discussed exposure and color corrections to your image; we've discussed making selections to isolate areas for correction, and we've discussed how to adjust the edges of the selections so that you get flawless blends.0007

Now, we're going to discuss another very, very powerful feature in Photoshop Elements, and that is layers.0020

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at what layers are, layer basics, and we're going to talk about adjustment layers--a very powerful feature that even goes a step beyond the regular layers.0027

Let's get started!0040

Here is a layer sample: this (I want to open this up right back to where we started from).0042

First, the Layers panel itself resides on the right side of the workspace, and across the Option bar at the bottom, you see that the Layers icon can turn it off or turn it on.0049

In this case, you see a file that appears (if we just hold the spacebar for the Hand tool, and we move it around)--seems to be a solid image, but if you look in the Layers panel, you see a list of items with thumbnails and eyes.0060

These are individual layers.0077

This image is actually made up of five separate elements: the white background, the yellow square, the red circle, the green triangle, and the star--the blue star.0080

All are independent, although you see them right here.0093

The way layers work (as you see in the panel): the background is at the bottom, and everything else moves its way up the ladder, and the visibility is from the top of the stack down to the bottom--just the way you see it: top to bottom.0097

Notice that the star is visible above the green triangle, and you can see that it overlaps it, so you look down through the star at the green triangle.0113

Below the green triangle is the red circle, and below that is the yellow square, and all of them are above the white background.0122

That is the way layers work from a visibility point of view.0129

At the left side of a layer, you see an eye; this is the visibility icon.0133

You can turn the layer off: let's just turn off the red circle by clicking, and you see the red slash; now, it's not visible.0139

It is not going away; its visibility is only turned off.0146

This is extremely powerful, because now, you can have all sorts of layers in an individual file, and perhaps, if you are making a graphic design for a client, you can turn on and off one series of layers, and you will have one visible image, which you can save out separately for display to your client.0151

Then, by changing the layers on/off, it changes the image into another graphic design, all contained within a single file--by simply turning on and off layers.0174

Let's go ahead and turn the circle back on--and you see, it's still there.0185

Now, if we turn them all off, what you see is a checkerboard pattern, and the checkerboard pattern indicates transparency.0189

Since none of the layers are visible, all we are looking at is transparency--nothing is there.0199

If I turn on, by clicking on the eye, the background, we see all white; turn on the square; turn on the circle; turn on the triangle; turn on the star; now, they're all back where they were.0205

That is the visibility.0217

To move a layer, we can change the position within the stock.0219

Let's say we would like to put the circle on top: just click the layer (you can click it in the icon or the thumbnail, or click it in the layer), and drag it up.0222

Every time you reach a position where it can be dropped, notice a line appears.0233

If I put it there, the circle will be between the star and the triangle, and there you see--it's above the triangle, below the star.0238

We'll drag it up another notch, and there it is, at the top of the stack.0246

You can move more than one layer at a time, and they don't have to be right adjacent.0250

Let's move the star and the square up to the top.0255

Command on a Mac/Control on a PC, click the second layer, and we have two active layers.0261

Now, when this reaches the top, the star will be on top, the square below it, both of them above the circle.0267

It doesn't matter which one you drag: let's drag from the bottom--click, drag--notice that they're both moving.0274

Line, line, line, to the top, and now you see: the star is still an individual layer above the square, which is now above the circle and the triangle.0280

You can organize those any way you want.0290

You can also merge two layers into one; let's say...let's move the square down to the bottom, just for fun.0294

Click and drag until I get the line; it's at the bottom.0304

I would like to merge the star and the square together.0307

Command/Control+click; the star; both are highlighted; we'll go to this little list icon at the upper right of the Layers panel, and here are all of the things you can do with stuff in the layers.0311

Merge Layers merges visible, active layers.0325

There is now active and visible; an active layer is indicated by the blue, so these two are active.0330

We click; Merge Layers also can use the shortcut Command+E, and notice that the square jumped to the top, and it's now in a single layer with the star.0340

The way you move layers is with the Move tool, under the Select menu, right next to the rectangular Marquee.0353

Highlight it; we get a bounding box around the highlighted layer, and now, if we click anywhere in there and drag (I got the wrong layer; I'll get that back up there; get this layer, and you click and drag), notice that the star and the square are moving.0360

Look up in the thumbnail; if you see up there, the thumbnail position move according to what we do in the actual image.0379

Now, if you wanted to separate these now, what you would have to do is make a selection (let's just say a rectangular selection with a feather of 0), and we would have to remove the square, since it's now part of that layer.0391

What we're going to do is just click and drag around the square.0412

That layer is highlighted; we're going to do Command/Control+C to copy, and we're going to do Command/Control+V (as in Victor) to paste, and watch what happens.0418

There is a new layer that came above the active layer, and there is the square again, but it still exists on the layer below.0432

If we want to make it go away, we need to delete it from that layer; we'll take the Marquee tool and surround it and hit the delete.0439

It didn't appear to go away, but let's turn off the square...and now, it has gone away, and we're back to new layers again.0448

This is what you do with layers.0455

The checkerboard pattern, again, is transparency, so you notice, when I took and dragged the selection, I didn't worry about going directly to the edges of the square, because that is all that is on that layer.0458

So, when I copy it (and I'll do that again, right now--copy it; oops...)0473

There is a good one for you, right there; I was looking to copy the square, but notice the active layer is the star layer, and it doesn't have a square; that is blank space, so when I try to copy it, it says "could not complete" it, because no pixels are selected!0479

We need to highlight the square.0496

Now, Command/Control+C; Command/Control+D to deselect, and I'll just go down here for fun, highlight, Command/Control+V, and paste, and now we have another square.0498

We now have two square layers, because we pasted, and we copied from this one and pasted in another one; we have made another layer.0514

That is pretty much how the layers work--the basics of layers.0525

Let's go back to the beginning here, and just to show you a couple of examples: this is a layered file that you're looking at, right here.0530

The logo is an individual layer, which can be moved, by the way, with the Move tool, and notice that it's at the bottom, under the type layer; so see, when I move it, it goes behind the adjustment layer type, and also behind the rest of the type.0541

We'll move it back in its position and click that; we're back there.0556

Notice, at the top, there is a layer with a checkerboard-pattern thumbnail.0562

That is a blank layer, and I have made that layer (and I'll highlight it as active) so that I can paint the check marks when we go over specific subjects.0566

I'll just put a check mark on the layer basics, and if I turn that layer off, notice that the little check mark turned off.0577

All right, there we go; let's turn it back on.0585

Now, let's talk about the Layers panel itself.0588

It's on the right side; let's go back to that layer sample and turn it on and off by clicking the Option bar.0591

The icons across the top of the panel: we have the New Layer icon, which you saw right here--we have a new layer; if I click the New Layer icon, notice, another blank layer appeared above the one we had.0598

It just creates a blank layer.0613

Let's go back to the sample.0616

Next to that is an icon that gives us adjustment layers; these are layers that allow you to make the specific adjustments listed separately from the image (we'll talk about that in just a moment).0618

Notice, Levels, Brightness and Contrast, Hue Saturation--our primary exposure and color controls are here.0631

Solid-Color Fills, Gradients, Patterns, Photo Filter, Gradient Map (which we haven't talked about), and a couple of others...but primarily, right here: Levels, Brightness and Contrast, Hue Saturation: our most-used exposure and color adjustments.0640

Next to that (let's go ahead and put one right here), this is an Add Layer Mask icon, which we will be talking about; we talked about it briefly in the last lesson, with the Selection brush--what a mask is.0655

You can attach a mask to a layer (we'll talk about that in the next lesson).0671

This lock locks the layer, so you can't move it around; you can move it up and down, but you can't move it around, and you can't retouch it.0676

The same with this lock (you don't use those very often); the Trash icon, the dropdown menu for all of the layer functions, which are also under the Layer menu...0684

The same right there...or right there.0694

That is your Layers panel.0699

We also have, right below that line, a series of blend modes, which accomplish a lot of things.0701

We'll have a lesson on those in a little bit.0709

You can change the opacity of the highlighted layer; for example, let's highlight the star, and say we would like to be able to partially see through the star down onto the square and the circle.0712

We adjust the opacity; you can do it one of three ways: click the little triangle and move the slider; or type it in--let's say 50%; or (let's get back to 100) the easiest method, in some cases, is called "scrubby."0724

As you move your Hand tool up, notice what happens when I get to the word opacity.0745

The hand becomes two arrows; if I click and drag, notice: to the left, it gets lower opacity; to the right, it allows you to adjust it that way.0751

Let's go down to about 70%, and now you can start to see through the triangle, because that layer is at a 70% opacity.0760

You can partially see through it.0770

There are all of the pieces of the Layers panel.0772

Adjustment layers: wow, this is some powerful stuff.0779

Let me switch to this; I want to open an image on the Desktop; just a second; it's on the Desktop;'s on the Desktop; there it is--2451.0783

We're going to open this image up; I'll demonstrate this as adjustment layers.0810

Here we have an image, right here, and let's look at the Layers panel.0815

At the bottom, there is our background layer, still locked, as is normal.0819

Right above it, Layer 1 is the duplicate of the background layer (remember, I told you that is the first thing we do); it's identical.0824

We didn't do any physical work on that.0832

Above this are two layers that have blend modes; these are the High Pass Sharpening layers that I talked to you about earlier.0834

That is how you do the High Pass Sharpening--using layers.0843

Above that, there is Hue Saturation, Hue Saturation again, and all of these that start with a C; this particular image was worked in Photoshop, which has an exposure control called Curves.0847

We use Levels; they use Curves.0861

This is all exposure; and then you see, for all of these layers, the little gears indicating adjustment layers.0864

That indicates the icon for Hue Saturation; these are adjustment layers, and what they are are our exposure and color adjustments.0872

They have layer masks, isolating areas; let me just turn them all off (just going right up the line here), and there is your original image.0884

Here is one for Hue Saturation; here is one for Curves, right there, across that hillside.0892

There is another one for the same; there is one, across there; and as we move up and turn them on, you notice that things change on the exposure and color of the various areas; and that is our final image.0898

All of these, by the way, are non-destructive.0914

I could go in and change any one of these; and let me show you how this works.0918

I think this is the image...let me go back to that one...Command+A...0924

Command/Control+A, Command/Control+C, and we're going to go here, and Command/Control+V, and paste it.0930

Now, we can go and close out 2451, which is right here; I'm going to close it.0937

Here is the basic image; when you paste it into a blank layer, you will see that you get a white background.0948

We're going to do Command/Control, click, Command+E; and it merged those two.0953

Command/Control+J to duplicate; that is how we got our duplicate layer.0958

Now, instead of going to the Enhance menu for lighting, Shadows and Highlights (now, Shadows and Highlights--if we wanted to work with that, that is still going to work on the pixels--that is not an adjustment layer; but Brightness and Contrast and Levels are).0963

If we do this here, it affects the pixels directly; and, if we come back and change it again, you will re-torque the pixels.0977

So, if you overdo it and then go the other way, you keep working the pixels and degrade the image.0985

However, if we go under here and go to Levels, look what happens; I'm just going to close it; a layer appeared above the background layer.0990

There is the icon for Levels; it has a mask, which we'll talk about in the next lesson, and what you see is blank white, which means that there is nothing that is masked out.0999

It's going to affect the entire image.1010

We double-click, and there is our Levels control, so let's increase the contrast some, open the image up just a little bit, and there we have it.1012

Now, you say, "What is the big deal?"; well, check this out.1025

See that layer with the eye?--I can turn it off or turn it on, and I can come back in, and I can do something absolutely bizarre, and then I'm going to go on and make another one for Hue Saturation.1028

You say, "Well, now you've ruined your image"; no, I haven't.1043

These are all nothing but mathematical algorithms--the same algorithm that you apply over here, except it's just sitting here as a separate layer.1047

So, all I have to do is go back here and readjust it to wherever I want it to be, and I can do this as many times as I want, and it never affects the pixel layer until I save the file and print it.1059

This is always mathematical; so now, we did nothing with the hue saturation; we'll double-click here, and let's just up the saturation some; look at that!1079

Just like that--that is how we do that.1088

Now, I'm going to give you a quick intro; you understand what the adjustment layers do now, and we have Levels, Brightness and Contrast, Hue Saturation...other ones that you can use, but these are the ones that are the primary exposure and color.1092

Let me just quickly do one more thing: I'm going to take our (this will be a lead-in to the next lesson) selection brush tool, increase the brush size with a right bracket key; we're going to make a mask; we're going to paint a selection and then invert it.1106

I just want to do...we'll just do another one.1127

The Quick Selection tool looks like it's going to work here.1129

Up the brush size; let's just do a quick selection of the sky.1132

There it is; we're going to quickly go to our Refine Edge dialogue box, and we're going to feather at 1.1137

Now, we have the selection; we're going to go to Select, Save Selection, as we always do, call it Sky, and click OK.1144

Now, we have the selection; normally, we were going to the Enhance menu; we're going to go over here, down to Levels.1152

There comes a new layer--adjustment layer for Levels--but notice, the thumbnail is now a mask--which we have talked about before, briefly.1161

It's a saved selection, but it is saved right with this adjustment, so when I apply the adjustment, it only applies to the sky.1174

We can come back and change that; I can load that selection: Command/Control, click; there is the sky again.1189

Go back to the adjustment layers for Hue Saturation; there it is with the same mask, and take up the saturation on the sky if I wish.1195

I would like to make that sky a little darker, so let's go back to the Levels and darken it down just a little bit.1207

There we have adjusted the sky, and you can see (turn it off; turn it on): that is how adjustment layers work, and the power of adjustment layers.1215

So, in this lesson, we have talked about layer basics, the Layers panel, adjustment layers (which are the same exposure, color, and other controls you've used before, but they don't affect the pixels), and given you an example on using this.1226

In the next lesson, we're going to take a good, close look at (where is my untitled?) these layer masks--how they work and why, and how to adjust them and fix them up.1241

I'll see you back in the next lesson!1254