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Layers & Adjustment Layers

  • Layers and Adjustment Layers are what make Photoshop powerful. With layers you can make composites using many different items. You can make text layers, fill layers, you can adjust lighting non-destructively with a layer and a blend mode. Powerful stuff!
  • Adjustment layers are even more amazing. They allow you to make all of your exposure, color, effects, and more completely non-destructively. If you ever need to make a change just go to the appropriate adjustment layer and modify it. With Adjustment layers you NEVER ALTER A PHYSICAL PIXEL! All adjustments are mathematical.

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
  • Layers Basics & The Layer Panel 1:46
    • Layers Basics & The Layer Panel
    • Organize Layers
    • Layer Style
    • Add Layer Mask
    • Adjustment Layers
  • Adjustment Layers - Why & How 16:46
    • Example: Using Adjustment Layers
  • Lesson Summary 21:34

Transcription: Layers & Adjustment Layers

Hi everybody, Mike Brown here again with you, welcome back to educator.coms's Adobe Photoshop CS6 course.0000

We've now dealt with corrections, and that is exposure and color, we have dealt with selections in length, to enable you to isolate areas for corrections and so on and so forth, and now we're going to deal with another powerful feature in Photoshop that allows you to be unbelievably creative.0008

And that is the Layers feature--and layers allow you to bring objects into an image and create composites of different images and different effects and all sorts of stuff and they don't bother each other--they can be dealt with in individual layers or a combination of layers.0029

Wonderful stuff that you can do with them.0048

You couldn't do what Photoshop has available without layers, and now we also have adjustment layers which allow you to apply all of your exposure and color corrections, and some other effects as well, without altering any physical pixels of any of the picture layers.0050

This is so powerful, so let's get started.0075

In this lesson, I'm going to talk about the layer basics; how layers work, the layers panel; what are the features of the panel, adjustments layers; what they are, why they work and how you use them very briefly.0079

And then I'm going to give you a quick example of using adjustment layers to show you exactly the power, and then in the next lesson we will expand to layer masks and putting it all together.0094

So let's get started.0106

Here's a layer sample, I'm going to change my screen mode, and spacebar.0109

First off we'll talk about the Hand tool again--remember the Hand tool moves your entire image.0116

Now this looks like a singular image doesn't it?0122

We're moving it all around, but when I open my Layers panel, low and behold, this image is actually made up of five different layers.0124

The star, the triangle, the circle, the square and the white background, and they're all separate layers--they're actually stacked up above each other.0135

The way layers work, is essentially like a deck of cards; they stack up and you look at them from the top down.0147

In this case you see the star resides above the triangle, the triangle is above the circle, the circle is above the square, and the square and all of the other objects are above the white background layer.0154

Now, we just showed you that the Hand tool moves your entire image and you notice all the layers don't change position, they all move.0169

The Move tool, however, moves only layers, and only active layers--you make a layer active by clicking on it--when you click on it, it gets highlighted in blue, OK?0177

The only layer that you cannot move is the background layer, it has a lock on it.0192

If I try to move it, click and drag, it tells me I can't move it because it's locked, well I knew that, and now you know that too!0199

You cannot move it up in the stack either, it is absolutely locked in its position as a background layer--that's one of the characteristics of a background layer.0208

Now, all of the other layers can be moved, combined, turned on, turned off, all layers can be visible or not visible--see the little eye icon next to each layer?0221

Watch the circle--if I click the eye, it turns it off--it did not delete that layer, the layer is still there, it just turned it off.0235

This is very powerful too, because sometimes you might want to use some layers for some reason in one usage, and then turn some of them on and turn some other ones off for another usage, all within one document rather than having to redo and do several different documents--very powerful right there.0244

So we'll turn it back, if you want to move a layer, you use the Move tool, highlight the layer you want to move--we'll highlight the circle, and we'll click--and you don't have to click on the object, click anywhere in the image and drag.0265

And you notice that the circle moves around within its relative stack.0284

It's still below the triangle and above the square but we're just moving it round positionally in this particular composition.0291

I'm going to move the circle to there, and then I'm going to take the square and move it down over here a little bit, and take the triangle and slide it on over like that, and now I've moved three different layers and changed the composition somewhat.0300

There's one of the things that's powerful right there--you can adjust your composition.0315

You can change the opacity of a layer as well, notice right here an active layer, opacity 100%--you can do it with the slider, you can do it with the scrubby or you can type in a number--notice when I start changing the opacity down, you can see transparency through the layer, more and more.0319

If I go to zero it's basically like turning the layer off.0341

I can have any level of opacity on the layer I want--this is quite powerful as well.0344

You can also change blending modes on a layer...they're all here, let's try a couple and see what, look at that, that was an exclusion and it produced some kind of an effect.0351

What's difference didn't do anything there, subtract...didn't do anything there, how about divide?0364

Did various and sundry things--you can blend one layer with everything else that's below it, OK.0371

Now, you can also move your layers, not only in lateral position within the image (let's also just rotate that triangle around a little bit in its layer and now we got a better shape to look at) we can move them up and down.0378

Let's say that I've decided that I want the square to be above the circle and the triangle but below the star.0400

Very easy; highlight the layer, click and drag and as soon as you do you see the fist, and every time you get in between--I want to put it above the triangle--see I have a highlighted line?0409

If I release that, it will move up one, notice that it just went above the circle but it's still below the triangle.0421

Come up one more...and now the square is above the triangle and the circle but still below the star, so that's moving one layer and you can move them down very simply, let's take the star down one.0429

Right down two actually, so I could take it down one and it doesn't look like it's moved any, but if I wanted it to be under the square, notice--oh it us under the square, sorry, be under the triangle, I have to go another one down.0446

Drop down and now it's under the triangle--I kind of like it in between the two.0463

We'll just move that up a little bit, there we go.0468

If you want to move two layers at a time or three or four or whatever, highlight those layers, if you want to do let's say the circle and the square, we'd like to move...0471

The square is already on top, let's move the star up...move the triangle; circle and the triangle up to the top, and they're going to end up in the order (this is the topmost of those two layers) the triangle will be first, the circle will be second, and they will be above the other two.0486

And you don't have to click the top one--you can click the bottom one, go up until you see the highlighted one, and there you have it.0504

Now let's say you want to move two that are not adjacent; let's move the circle to the top and the star right below that, and so we just highlight those two, move up until we see the line, and now the circle's at the top, the triangle's below that...0511

Excuse me, the star's below that, the triangle and the square.0528

You can do that in any order you want, any number of them.0532

If you wanted to move, let's say, three in a row, you could go highlight, Command or Control click to highlight, Command or Control click to highlight, or click the top one to highlight and hold down the Shift key and go to the bottom most in line and all in between--you understand how that works.0536

And then you can move those up from there.0556

OK, that shows you how to move them, show you how the visibility works, and you understand (see the little checkerboard, I want to be clear about that) I'm going to turn that off, and this shows you that on these layers, that--let's just turn those off--on the circle layer only, that's the object, the rest of that layer is purely transparent.0559

So when we move it around, nothing else moves but the object itself, that's what the transparency is--that's why you see those against the white.0586

We turn the white background off of course it's transparent.0596

Alright, there you have those features--you also got the blends and opacity.0600

This line at the top...I'm not going to go into a lot of detail but what it allows you to do is organize types of layers.0604

If you have an object (let me quickly show you with this one here) look at the number of layers I have on this particular one.0614

I'm going to take this out...and that's how you trash a layer--drag it and drop it in the trash, we have all sorts of layers here; these are regular pixel layers, these are what are called and you'll find adjustment layers.0622

These right here that have the little object...they're all intermixed because that's the way I made this particular composite.0639

I can filter to just see adjustment layers--if I click that, that's all I see are the adjustment layers.0651

If I click here, I only see the pixel layers, but I don't like this personally because I'm working on a layer because I know where it falls above something else that I'm working on.0657

If I isolate just a specific type of layer, I don't know where it's relating to my other stuff, so you might use this if you're in graphics, you might not--that's just telling you what's there.0670

OK, let's go back to the layer sample.0684

These items here allow you to lock various aspects of a layer, whether it be the transparency, lock the image pixels in position, lock the position of the--all sorts of stuff like that, you can fix it where it is.0687

I don't want to do that either, it's not going to move unless you physically move it, we're trying to make life easy here, so we'll just deal with on and off, the various layers themselves, moving them around, that takes care of that.0703

Down at the bottom of the Layers panel, these you will be using.0718

With layers, there are layer styles, here they are, all right here.0724

Or you can also access them right here--these are things like drop shadows and bossings, all sorts of stuff--we're going to go over these.0731

Two ways to get to them; layer style from the Layer dropdown menu, or right here, nice and convenient.0740

This adds a mask or the possibility of a selection--let's say I have a selection right here...0747

And I wanted to attach it to the layer, all I have to do is click that and it made a mask, and now...I didn't want to do it that way because that's on the triangle, let's make that selection over this section--oh, I know what I did wrong.0761

I want to make this at just one pixel...make a little selection right here, and I'm going to attach it to the triangle layer as a mask, so now the only thing you see, you don't see the triangle any more, you just see that little circle because I masked everything out.0780

There's that selection I made, that's what's called a layer mask, we'll talk about them in the next lesson.0800

OK, I'm going to delete it and we're back.0807

That shows you what that is--a mask, these are adjustment layers...powerful.0811

These are all of your exposure, color, black and white photo filter, gradient maps, the things that we utilized right up here in the Image, Adjustment menu--there they are again; exposure, same things, right there.0817

They are available as adjustment layers under the Layer menu, new adjustment layer--there they are there...get out of here, I didn't want that...inadvertently did that.0833

Or they're down here, we'll talk about those in a moment.0852

If you have a bunch of layers that are similar that work on something, for example, here's Triana...and here are all of these adjustments right from here, down to here of facial adjustments.0856

If I want to group those all together and put them in one place where I can find them, they're going to stay there, all I have to do is highlight the top layer, I'll click this and make group, and when I do this (there's the group, it's just an empty folder right now).0876

So I select the top adjustment and go all the way down to the bottom of that list--Shift click, they're all highlighted, just drag them up and drop them into that group layer (come on...think I did, there we are) and notice, they're all now in the same place because I put that group right up top, but they're now in a collective area--just makes things a little more organized.0896

I could call this Facial Adjustments...and the layers stayed in the order--I did that--I just put a group into play, that's what the group thing does.0926

This creates a new layer, and let's show you what that does.0940

Right now we have our title block which you notice is a layered document, we have the background layer, a shape layer, Photoshop type layer, we have the stroke, another type layer, a couple of hidden layers, and I'm going to put a blank layer on the top.0944

It will go right above whatever the highlighted--if I put it here, that's where the layers come in, now we'll move it all the way to the top, OK?0966

I'm going to use that to check off--we've gone over layer basics, and we're just about done with the Layer panel we've done those two things--what I'm doing, is I'm actually drawing on a blank layer.0974

It's just a blank layer--you can see the transparency but I'm drawing on it so I don't affect other layers--this is another thing you can do; the one layers...single layers will not affect the layers below it unless you want them to.0991

OK, let's go back and look at adjustment layers very quickly, and I'm going to do that with this image right here...I'm going to go screen mode, move it over, come back right over here.1007

A quick tip; when you open up an image, it only has a background layer.1022

The first thing you want to do (I've mentioned it before) is to duplicate the background layer; go to the Layer menu to duplicate layer, go to the dropdown Layers panel menu, duplicate layer, or the shortcut Command on a Mac, Control on a PC plus the letter J, duplicates it.1028

Very simply, if you've worked--and this is the layer you're going to work on...if you make some mistakes somewhere down the line, you need to fix things and go all the way back to the beginning and don't have enough history steps, if you worked and only had the background layer, you have nowhere to get that from.1046

But here is the duplicate layer, so I can work all day on this one, and if I need to go back and recover something I can go right back to the background layer, or another use for it.1065

For example, right here, I took the background layer and duplicated it, moved it all the way up to the top, and you see the original (that's the same as the background) I turn it off, and there's everything I've done, so on, off, it gives me a before and after appearance, that's another use for that.1076

Let's go back to this one, OK.1096

Very quickly, adjustment layers, I'll show you how they work.1098

Let's quickly make an adjustment on the sky here--I'm going to make a selection just really kind of roughly, OK we've got that, before we want Image, Adjustments, curves, and we pull it down, make it...why did that not work?1103

I'm on the background, wrong place.1118

Image, Adjustment, curves, pull it down, make a change, pull it down, there it is, and what I have done is I have worked on the physical pixels of that layer, so that if I ever want to come back and change it again I've got to rework on those pixels which degrades your image.1120

There's another way to do it (Command+Z) still have the selection, we'll go down here to the adjustment layers, go to curves...exactly the same...feature, except that--notice what happened.1141

A new layer was created with a mask of the sky...notice, just the sky is now attached to that layer so that when I change the adjustment, it will only affect the sky--we've done this before.1160

Now I can go in and do whatever I want to it, let's just mess it up, and now I'm done with it, and normally you'd say "boy you screwed up your image" because I'm going to take the Lasso tool with another soft one--I'm going to very quickly select greenery, just very quickly shift greenery just for fun.1179

Put another adjustment layer in for hue saturation, and I'm going to change the hue, make it kind of a fall tone look.1200

Well, now you go "wow, the sky looks awful".1210

Well, here's my adjustment layer for the sky, all I have to do is double click, and there's the adjustment right there, and now I can go back and correct it to wherever I want it to be, and I did not affect a single pixel with either of these layers.1213

This is only mathematical representation...they're gone.1234

I can change them forever.1238

Here's the hue saturation--we don't like that, OK fine, highlight it, double click, there it is, let's change it back--let's just make it a little yellower, or let's just take that out and increase the saturation of the green.1240

And so we made that adjustment--we went from there to there, made another adjustment--we changed the sky, changed the greenery, went back and changed them again--you can do this all day and never affect a pixel with any...come on...of these adjustments here, whereas over here they would've been physical pixel changes.1254

We can alter these or turn them on and off all day, and all night, without ever hurting anything, so there you have adjustment layers, why they're valuable, how they work, an example using adjustment layers, and that pretty much wraps up your introduction to layers and adjustment layers.1277

We learned the basics, the Layers panel, the adjustment layers quickly, and an example of why they're so useful.1301

In the next lesson, we're going to go over more detail about how you put this together and how you utilize them and what those layer masks that we have right here, how to utilize those in various methods, and expand more on layers and adjustment layers.1308

I'll see you back in the next lesson.1327