Introduction to Layers
Layers is a topic that is very difficult for a lot of people to wrap their head around. I had the fortunate, I guess, fortunate ability to get my degree in printmaking and sculpture, so I learned layers at a very early time, that's really helped my out with layers in Photoshop. So what we're gonna talk about today is layer demo, we're gonna actually do a physical demo where you're gonna see layers working on transparencies, we're gonna talk about how you can start envisioning layers in your mind, to set you up for success with layers in Photoshop, we're gonna talk about the types of layers, and then we're gonna talk about some practical application with those layers to get it all to kind of circle back to the very beginning of the basics of layers. So let's go ahead and start this layers demo. So if I told you to draw a smiley face on a piece of paper, you'd probably be looking at a sheet of paper like this here and you'd just draw your smiley face like this. And now we have a smiley f...
ace on a sheet of paper. This is not conducive for layered editing in Photoshop, because this smiley face is on its own layer, it's got an opaque background, and it doesn't really help us when we're thinking about layers in Photoshop. So the next transition for this is to think about layers in terms of actual transparency sheets. So I don't know if you're like me, but I learned math back when they had those old projector units, where they would draw the problem on the piece of transparency film, and then they would put the solution to the equation on top of it afterwards. And that's exactly what you need to think about layers in Photoshop as, is that you can slide these things in and out, you can build upon them, but you have to understand that each layer is it's own separate entity. So now, if I were to draw this smiley face on one transparent layer, this is a little bit more conducive for working in Photoshop, because now I have my transparency film. You can see through it. If we were to put this transparency on top of this piece of opaque paper, I did a pretty good job of getting that smiley face almost pretty close there, huh? We have one layer interacting with the other layer. But the even better way to do layers in Photoshop is to actually do each separate part of that smiley face on an individual layer. So we'll have the head will be on this layer, and then we would take our layer two, and maybe draw those eyes, and then our layer three, and now we have the smiley face. So each individual layer, then, can be modified. This smiley face, the smile of the smiley face, is on it's own individual layer, which can be edited or modified, and if I wanted to, I could then make him sad or angry with any other layer while still preserving the original eyes and the face. And that's the advantage with working with layers in Photoshop. So thinking about layers in terms of Photoshop, the transparency film helps, because you can see how they're individual, and the eyes are on one, the head is on the back of layer one, and then layer three also has a smiley face. And notice how they're all also very well labeled, one, two and three. And we can do this in Photoshop as well. So we can have those pieces of the smiley face individually compartmentalized in their own area with their own name, so we have a quick reference to them. So this is still a transparent layer, but it's a transparent layer with all of our individual pieces on it, and this is an opaque layer. And all of these actually do play into Photoshop. This would be essentially what we call a merged set of layers, that still has transparency to it. This would be a flattened document, which might be ready for print, and these would be your working documents. So envisioning this, envisioning layers, is the next piece to this. I've already kind of showed it with the transparencies, but you can really see how layers are now, we're taking a two dimensional thing that we think about, a photograph is two dimensional, and we print it out, all you see at the very end of it is a two dimensional object. But the building of that two dimensional object is a three dimensional, almost sculptural type of mentality, where you have to think of those layers as sheets that rest on top of each other, and actually pull them apart in your mind, to see how they're interacting with one another. So looking at the screen, it's just flat. You have your layers, and they're also flat, but if you think about that layer stack that we're gonna see when we get into Photoshop as each one of those layers being a physical object that can be moved around, it's a lot easier for you to understand layers than the paralyzing fact that you have multiple things going on in one layer stack, okay? So here's our smiley face. If we envision that smiley face as our three dimensional object, just like we saw on the transparencies, you can see how now the eyes and the mouth are pulled away from this object there. So the first object would be the face, the second object would be the eyes and the mouth, and they are separate. When you pull them apart, you can actually see a shadow on them too. That's thinking about this in three dimensions. So we have two layer qualities, and we've already kind of talked about those layer qualities. The first layer quality is an Opaque layer. And and Opaque layer is a layer that has an opacity of 100%. That's a fully Opaque layer. The second one is a Transparent layer, which would be a layer that has an opacity that is set at 99% and below. So it's somewhat transparent, it can be seen through. And some of these, we also have to understand that some of these layers can be opaque and transparent. So that's one of those things to wrap your head around, is that if you have a solid fill of that eye of the smiley face that's 100% opacity, but the area around it is transparent. So we have two layer qualities, but the third layer quality is kind of that hybrid mix of both of them. So let's talk about the layers in Photoshop. There are three main types of layers. Regardless of your layer styles that you have applied to them, which we'll talk about in the next lesson, the Opacity, the Blend Modes or the Fill, there are always three types of layers in Photoshop. And these are your basic layers that you're gonna also need to kind of wrap your head around when you're thinking about things in terms of layers. The first one is a Pixel Based layer. And a Pixel Based layer is any layer that is Rasterized. That's a big word that you probably right now just stumbled upon, but that's fine. We'll take care of that one. These are layers that contain pixel data. Think about a background layer, or an imagine right out of your camera that you pull into Photoshop. If you notice that when you pull it in, it's got a thing that says Background with a lock on it, that is a Pixel Based layer. It's a layer that's comprised of Pixels, because our camera sensors take Pixel Based images. The next one is a Vector Based image. Now, as photographers, we don't always see Vector Based images. Vector Based images are typically something that you would see coming out of Illustrator, or something that uses lines, shapes, and text to create an image. And Vector Based layers are separate and different from Pixel Based layers. Then we have Adjustment layers, and these are kind of the thing that turns all of it on its head. Adjustment layers are what I like to call Calculation Based layers. Adjustment layers will take anything that is underneath an Adjustment layer, and make a calculated representation in the layer above. Think of things like a Curves Adjustment layer. That Curves Adjustment layer is a calculation. It's looking at everything that's happening below it, it's calculating things based on curves, and then also levels, gradient maps, hue saturation, anything you see in the Adjustment layers that when we get to the end of this lesson here, you'll see exactly what I'm talking about. But these are all calculations. These are temporary things that are happening within that layer that are not destroying anything that's going on underneath your layers, because it's happening right within that Adjustment layer. So let's go ahead and hop into Photoshop, and we'll do a little bit of practical application with this. Take a look at layers, how layers are organized, how to organize them best, and also look at how we can look at Vector Based images, Pixel Based images, and Adjustment layers individually.