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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 17 of 36

Introduction To Layers

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

17. Introduction To Layers

Lesson Info

Introduction To Layers

Throughout everything we talked about so far, I can't help but had the word layers, 'cause it's gonna keep coming up 'cause it's such a crucial part of Photoshop. In fact, you know by now how much I really focus on the whole non-destructive way of working. That pretty much, the basis of all of that is layers because if you use layers, the nature of layers, unless you do a few things along the way, it's gonna be, everything will preserved. So as much as we can put things on separate layers and take advantage of layers, we're gonna give ourselves lots of great possibilities. But up until now, I've just been saying, you know, layer this, layer that, and I made a couple demonstrations, but I understand that for people that have never seen layers before, they're kinda like, what is actually happening here? So I like to demonstrate the principle of layers by not using Photoshop at first. So I'm going to demonstrate the advantage of using layers by doing something physically. So I have here, ...

as you can look at the monitor, a printed photograph that I did by getting the right measurements from the lab that I was sending it to to ensure that the quality would be good. And we talked before about all that canvas size stuff. So now I want to write something on here for some effect, you know, like, Class of 2019 or something like that. So of course, in the real world, I would take my permanent marker and write right on it, 'cause why, what's the danger in doing that, right? So I do Class of 2000, oh, gosh, I meant to put 18 and I did 17. Well, let me just... Nope. So I've basically wrecked the photograph 'cause I wrote right on it with a Sharpie. And you might be thinking why would you ever write with a Sharpie directly on a photograph? Exactly. So in Photoshop, why would you ever paint directly on the background of a photograph, in case you make a mistake? Luckily, just by coincidence, I have a second version of the same photograph, thank goodness. And this time, I'll just take a sheet of clear plastic that I happen to have around, and stick it on top of that, so it still looks like the same photograph, but now, when I type in here, if I make a mistake, (sighs) luckily, I have another sheet of plastic because it was separate from the photograph. So now I can type on something and, hopefully, this time I can get it right. I almost made another mistake 'cause I said that. (all laugh) The pressure was on there 'cause this is my last piece of plastic. So when you look at it visually, it looks like the writing's right on top of the photograph, right? But it's separate, so that means, later on, I could decide maybe it'd look better down here or up here in this corner. So I can do that because it's separate. But the bottom line is I've protected or not touched my underlying photograph by putting any new element on this separate piece of plastic. And I could do the same thing with a graphic. So I actually made a graphic that I wanna put on here somewhere and it's on its own sheet of plastic independent from the writing, so now I could position that one wherever I wanted to, you know, and keep changing them. If I start doing things and they overlap, I just have to change the order of the pieces of plastic so they appear in the correct order. And I could also do that with another photograph, so I wanna put another photograph in here, so that's also on its own sheet of plastic. So once again, it's just a matter of me deciding, moving things around, deciding I wanna overlap, but maybe this one should be in front, something like that. And that, basically, is layers in Photoshop is sheets of plastic, in effect, that you pile on top of each other without doing any permanent damage to the underlying information. The advantage that layers has over this, of course, is, what if I decide I wish that logo was a little smaller? Yeah, I can't change that on a piece of plastic 'cause it's actually printed that size. But as we'll see in Photoshop, of course, we can. If I want this photograph to be a little smaller and semi see-through, I can't do that on a sheet of plastic, but in Photoshop, I can. So for anyone who's like, I just don't quite get what layers are and why I'd use them and how they work, think sheets of plastic, 'cause that's really what the best and simplest way, to me, to really grasp the concept. So that suggests that if I wanted to put 15 separate elements on top of this, I'd end up with 16 layers, the original photo and 15 separate layers on top, each with their own element on it. Now, if it was me, and today it is, even when I was finished, I would keep all of those 16 layers just in case she said, "I really love that, but can you "swap those two things?" So I wanna keep those layers so I can continue to edit. As we talked about briefly before, and I'll say it again, as you flatten all those layers, we're back to wherever I put that other one, where the writings on there and too bad, too late. So I've run into lots of people who get the basic principle of layers and they use layers, but then at the end, they choose Flatten and Save. So while they were working, it helped them, but then they kind of threw it all away at the end just because, well, the file size was getting kind of big. Please don't ever let that be the reason to throw away layers. That used to be the reason 15 years ago, when my entire hard drive was 80 megabytes, (laughs) you know, I worried about that. But now, that's just not ever to be the reason. Some people do it because, well, I need to make it a .jpeg. So, as we talked about before, save a copy as a .jpeg. So this is my master file, this thing with all the layers on it, that's my master file. I'm gonna preserve that and then, ultimately, if this was Photoshop, then I would make a copy that has it all merged together so I can give it off to someone else.

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



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!


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.

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.