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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 20 of 36

Basic Layer Examples

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

20. Basic Layer Examples

Lesson Info

Basic Layer Examples

This is a RAW file so I wanna use this as part of my layout of different layers. So that means first of all I need to make sure it looks the way I want from a RAW standpoint. So I've already done some work on this, so I'm just gonna say that's fine like that, hit open object, so then it opens as a separate window of course, and now part of the confusion that many people face when they're trying to do something with multiple documents is the more documents you have open in this tabbed document view, the more tabs you'll have, and when you go to drag and drop you have to remember, well which one is my target? Where am I wanting to go? And I'll give you a suggestion, because some people find this part really confusing. As long as you don't let go of your mouse and whatever you know in my case using pen it's okay if you drag to the wrong one. So I actually know it's the far left one called senior.psd is where I actually wanna go, but just to show you, if I do my drag and drop and drag to t...

his one, as soon as I let go, I'm just like, oh wait, it's not that one. Oh, there it is. So even if you have multiple tabs, it's okay, as long as I haven't let go yet, to move around and go that's the one I want. Now I'm gonna come down here and let go, and it will put an enormous photograph on there, 'cause the photos are the wrong size. But oh, that's okay. So, now I decide, well where do I want this to go? Maybe I'm gonna pull this down below. Here's an example of why I might wanna unlock the layer. Now, all these layers are visible. So in order for me to see what's happening I'm just gonna hide that layer immediately above for a second, remembering that hiding a layer is a very simple operation that's in no way changing anything permanently. It's just a turning it off. The only time you would change anything is if you actually deleted it. So I want to position this maybe around here, and let's make it a little smaller. So, free transform. So while I'm showing you this here's a little, it's not a small, I was gonna say a little pet peeve. It's actually a large pet peeve of mine. Free transform is this command that puts handles on things so you can like scale and rotate and so on, and you can see that because this photo was so big the handles are out here somewhere. Now my question would be how am I supposed to move those handles when they're way up there somewhere? I would think, this is just me venting by the way, that as soon as I hit that free transform command, it would scale the whole thing down, so I could see the handles, but it doesn't do that. I don't know why. It's just odd. So, luckily there is a solution, and that is you just have to know this. When you try to free transform something that's bigger than you can see, remember this view we talked about called fit on screen? If you've already done free transform and you see those handles, and you choose fit on screen it doesn't scale the photo, it scales the handles to fit. So now all of a sudden I can see the handles, and that's been a bit of a issue for people where they're like, they say, oh, I need to transform it down, but the handles are outside my viewing area, and they end up trying to figure out a way to do it. So, the simple solution is hit free transform. If you can't see the handles, fit in window view, and it will scale everything down. Now, I could scale this and when you're free transforming, and this is whether it's on a layer or just in general, usually it's on a layer we're doing this, it does not constrain by nature, meaning if I drag this corner while holding down any key it will squish it and do very not nice things to my photograph. So the shift key acts as a constraint, so I can make sure that I keep it in nice proportion, otherwise I will be squishing it in ways that I don't, won't be very attractive. So another thing we need to know about this free transform function is Photoshop will think I'm still free transforming until I tell it I'm finished, because technically I am, even though I know I'm finished. If I go to try and do anything else right now, like I don't know, almost anything, you'll see almost every menu is completely grayed out 'cause as far as Photoshop is concerned, I'm not finished transforming yet, and that's something you have to get used to. If you're in the middle of doing some operation, you generally have to tell Photoshop you're finished before moving on, and the way we do that is up here in the options bar there's a little check mark that's called the confirm button, which just means I'm done, I'm finished, or you could press enter or return on your keyboard and it does the same thing. Now once I've done that, every other function is available. So if you're ever trying to do something in Photoshop and you're like, why is every single menu grayed out, with one or two exceptions? That's probably the reason, is it still thinks you're in the middle of doing some other operation, okay? So now, once again I would use that fit on screen view to get closer, and now that I've done that this photo doesn't need to be so big, so I could free transform that. Put it somewhere else, and that's kind of the approach. I'm not gonna, I'm just playing here, but just to show you this is kind of the process of experimenting with multiple photos is knowing that each one of these layers I can continue to move around. Let's put that, that's the perfect position right in front of her face, okay, and not working out so well here. But anyway. So each time we're opening another photo and dragging it in, whether it starts in camera RAW or JPEG it doesn't matter. It's still gonna become a layer. The only thing that's worth noting in this case is that bigger photo that's in the background here, if I hide all these other ones for a moment just so you can see the big one I'm talking about right here. Remember it came from camera RAW and I have that two way editing street turned on. So that little symbol in the corner of the thumbnail tells me this is that camera RAW smart object. So even though I have all these other layers and I'm doing all this work at a certain point I could think I'm almost finished, but then I'm thinking, I wonder what this would look like if that background photograph was black and white instead of color. So, I double click on this layer. It's gonna come into camera RAW where I have functions like convert to grayscale, click okay, and then it updates. Now it's not a permanent change, because it's part of that RAW processing, but from an experimental standpoint that's one of the advantages of making sure whatever you're doing from RAW is coming in as that editable two way street, so in the context of all the other layers you can say, well, what does this look like? And what if I tried that? And is there a way that I can you know see if I like that or not, that kind of thing, okay? Even if you save it, and this is important. So I've already saved this as a PSD file. So I hit save, and I close it. So it's gone, and I can close this other stuff, and close that, don't save that, and here's that PSD file I saved in Bridge. I open it back in Photoshop and we're gonna pretend this is three weeks later, but as you can see, everything about it is preserved the way I left it. The same layers in the same order with the same names et cetera and that bottom layer is still a camera RAW smart object. So you know what? I'm, nah, grayscale thing isn't working for me. Let's double click go back and turn that back off again, hit okay, and it will update. If I had in any way merged or done anything to put the layers, squish them together like flattening and merging none of that would be available. So, the down side to it, and to me it's a minor down side, is that the more layers you have, the bigger your file will be when you save it, okay? I mean, I hate, I don't wanna sound like flippant about it but storage is cheap. Your time isn't. So, I don't wanna have to recreate this beautiful, beautiful work of art because it is so stunningly beautiful. I think you would all agree. I don't wanna start from scratch to create it again, so if it means, I don't even know, like people say, well, how big is that file? I have no idea, and honestly I don't, I don't really care. The only time I've ever cared about is a file too big is if I'm doing something and suddenly the little spinning thing saying hold on a second, I'm still working on it, then I know it's getting pretty big. But I've had files that are pretty darn huge in terms of number of layers and this is not a super, this is a regular old laptop and it still works fine, and if I went and looked I'd probably go, I'd probably be surprised. I'd go oh, that's a big file. Okay. We've got a question about layer groups. Are you gonna talk about layer groups? Let me just see here if I am or not. I can, sure. (laughing) Why not, right? What do you wanna know? (laughing) Okay, so I talked before several times I think the point is evident that I don't like when people merge or flatten layers but every so often you're at point where your layers panel is starting to look kind of complicated 'cause you've got all this stuff in here. So, as an example, let me do this just to make it more obvious. I'm gonna take this one and scale it down like that. So these three layers right here I like the way they're kind of, the relationship with each other, but I don't wanna merge them together. I will show you only for demonstration purposes and I will, you will never see someone undo as quickly as I'm about to here. So I could, if I took these layers, and I have a hard time even clicking on it, and choose merge layers, then I have one layer, which is cool, 'cause it's now less complicated, but if I wanna move the shield over a bit, nope. So I wouldn't do that. But there is an alternative, which is nice from an organizational standpoint, and that's to put several layers into a group. It's called a group. It should just be called a folder, 'cause it even looks like a folder, but it really, it's a way of organizing your layers. So if you have the layers already selected as I do here I can just use this fly out menu and choose new group from layers. That's gonna take my selected layers and put them into a group which I hopefully will name something that makes sense. So now you see in my layers panel I have this little icon that looks an awful lot like a folder, and it looks like kind of the same as when I merged the layers but the difference is inside of this group if I see this little symbol right to the left of the folder icon, if I click on that it reveals the fact that I have all those layers in that group. So why would we wanna do this? The first one is just strictly organizational. It's easier to see with all this clutter. But also, now these three layers by nature act as if they're one in some aspects. So for example, if I decide I wanna move this further down on my image, it doesn't matter where I click 'cause I'm technically on the group, all three layers move together. So I didn't have to go and select them first. That just happens automatically. If I decide I wanna see what it looks like without that one click on one eyeball hides everything inside the group. So, this is a very efficient way to work when you're trying to organize things because then it's easier to say okay this whole group I want to move together. I wanna lower the opacity all at the same time. Whatever it is, it's done on a group basis. If you ever decide like maybe I want this other photograph should also be in that group, you just click on that layer and drag it right into that little folder, and now that's in the group too. Within the group, you can change the stacking order. So if you realize inside the group they're not quite in the right order, you just drag the layers up or down inside the group, and that's fine as well, and I would recommend that for anyone who has played with layers and maybe read a tutorial that at some point said now merge, I would cross out merge and say put in group, because effectively it's gonna look very similar. It's gonna give you the similar kinds of controls, but without eliminating the ability to change the independent nature of your layers. It doesn't help with file size. So that's not gonna, don't worry about that. But hopefully by now we've established, we don't care about file size, 'cause these days it's not as important. And of course, you can have multiple groups. It's not unusual at all to open a, see someone open a file and they have a couple layers and then five groups and inside that group who knows how many layers they have. There are templates that you can get including ones that come with Photoshop and very often they have a bunch of groups and there will be a layer called put your photo here. So you drag it at that point in the stack and then turn groups on and off to see different effects, like adding a vintage effect or something like that that would take us forever to create, someone else did it, and just slide your photo in and then experiment with turning different groups on and off to get different effects, would be an example of how that would work, okay? Otherwise it's still the same. You still save your file as a PSD file, 'cause it's part of layers. Everything we're doing in here is intended to preserve all this information so it's easier to edit. So when I talked at length about non destructive work this where it's at, 'cause everything in layers works the same way, okay? Now we're gonna talk more about this in a later segment but just to give another example of where layers fit in earlier I talked about comparing the difference between using commands under this menu, these type of adjustments, which are destructive versus using things with the same name but under here. So for example if wanted to try changing the color maybe putting a little tint on it of some kind, because this looks so great. It's like perfect. So because I know I'll never ever change that 'cause it's so nice. (laughing) Now because I'm not convinced at all that I like that the fact that it's an adjustment layer means it will automatically affect the layer immediately below it. Notice how the top layers are not changed, because the nature of an adjustment layer is to say I will see every layer below me and change them. If you decided in your infinite wisdom that this whole layout would look much better if the whole thing was color tinted then you just take this whole layer and drag it up to the very top and now that adjustment layer is affecting all the layers below. I don't like that at all. But anyway, just to make the point, everything we do is subject to an easy way of editing if we build it the right way. So people always kind of raise an eyebrow sometimes when I'm talking about building something in Photoshop and i say, if you structure it the right way, and they're like structure in Photoshop? I'm like, structure in the sense of building it in a way that gives you the best option of flexibility, and structure and creativity don't necessarily seem to go well together, but for me they do, because I plan on saying well if I put that in that part of the stack of layers I know I can always move it later if I need to, you know, things like that, instead of going to the image menu and saying let me colorize that layer and now I'm done. I can never change my mind again. I know, let me turn that off before it disturbs anyone too much more 'cause it's not good. (laughing) Someone saying, please turn that off. And again, along the way I'm always saving as PSD file.

Class Description

Join Dave Cross in this beginner friendly class starting at the very basics with Adobe® Photoshop® CC. You’ll learn how to begin navigating the software and what the best practices and work habits are to approach different projects.

Dave will cover:

  • Working non destructively on your files
  • How to resize, crop, and straighten images
  • Using layers with basic layer examples
  • Adding text, color, and painting to images
  • How to retouch and adjust images using selections and masks
  • Learn how to use the tools you need to create the image you want. Dave will demonstrate using sample workflows that take you through projects from start to finish.

Don't have Adobe Photoshop yet? Get it now so you can follow along with the course!

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Quick Notes Guide

Landscape Image for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait Missing Element for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait With Element for Practice Edit

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.