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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 24 of 36

Opacity Vs. Fill With Layers

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

24. Opacity Vs. Fill With Layers

Lesson Info

Opacity Vs. Fill With Layers

Someone asked about opacity versus fill. And this is an important function, because it can give you some interesting options, and it's a matter of where you are in your layers in terms of the settings. So what I mean by that is, I'm gonna temporarily turn off effects. Actually, no I think I'll keep 'em on. It'll be better to show you this way. So let's do it this way. So opacity means the how see through anything on your layer is. In this case it would mean both the shape and the layer styles. So if you'll see, if I lower the opacity using that scrub B slider, see how everything is getting see through, including the beveled emboss, including the shadow, So that's what opacity does. It says, whatever is on this layer, I will make it more or less see through. And again, it will stay that way until you change it back again. Fill looks like the first thing at first, if you didn't have layer styles. So for example, let me do it this way. I'll add a new layer, and I'll just add another littl...

e shape so we can compare. So if I went to the fill opacity in this one, and lowered it down, at this point it functions exactly the same as opacity because the only thing on this layer are just the regular pixels. So at that point, when people say what's the difference between fill and opacity? My answer's always, well it depends, what's on your layer? Because if all you have on your layer is pixels, there is no difference. But if I delete that layer, and come back to this one. Here's the difference where it's really interesting. If you have layer styles, fill says only lower the opacity of the fill color, leave the layer styles alone. So that means if I bring the fill down, see how the red is disappearing. But I end up with this kind of interesting effect because now the only thing that you're seeing is the drop shadow and the beveled emboss. So often people wanna do something that looks like glass or something; this is how you would do it. The color becomes irrelevant. So when you're making the shape, it doesn't matter if it's red or purple, or green. Because ultimately, you're gonna lower the fill opacity down to say just keep the actual shape itself. This layer styles. So let me show you another example how you might actually use this, unlike this one. Gonna add a new layer, and I'm going to make a rectangle. Now let me take a step back and say, one of the functions I talked about earlier, was this whole idea of when you're approaching some process you're trying go through in Photoshop to kind of think backwards. So what I wanna end up with is an outline of a rectangle. Meaning see through in the middle, but a stroke around it. So basically just a stroke with no middle. And there are ways to do this in Photoshop where I could do it, but with one problem. So let me show you the difference where you can see how taking an approach that's always thinking about layer styles and layers, and editability is better. So I did make a new layer first. So that's one point in my favor. But here's a way that I could add a stroke. And I'm not gonna suggest you do it this way, I'm just gonna show you. This is just to show you the difference. So under the Edit menu, there actually is a command called Stroke. And it's gonna say take my selection I've already made, stroke it with the width of let's say four pixels with this color on the inside, click OK. So I've got a deselect a little, teeny tiny stroke around here, which works. The problem is, I show it to my client, he says, "Can you make the stroke a little bigger, "and maybe not red?" And I'm like, "Well yes, if I start completely over again." 'Cause nothing on there is editable, it's just red pixels that happen to look like a rectangle. So while it worked, the problem with the stroke command, is it's just like painting red pixels in a rectangle. And if you know that's exactly what you want, great. But if you ever wanna change your mind, you can't. So I'm gonna step backwards, so that doesn't happen. And instead choose Fill, and I'll pick, doesn't really matter any color, but let's just use black for the sake of argument. Click OK. So now I have a black rectangle. Well how does that help, 'cause it's still not just a stroke with a see through middle. But I'm doing it because I know this second approach, while it's gonna take me an extra step, it's gonna give me more control, and more ability to edit it. So I go back to those layer styles, and I choose Stroke. And I'm gonna change this to red, so it's similar. So right away; where can I move this so you can see? See how right away I'm one step ahead, because it's actually a live preview, so I can decide how big a stroke. Instead of before, I kinda went four? And it turned out to be a little too skinny. Now I could try four or 68 or anything in between and go oh, I like that right there. So I click OK. So the only important choice here, was the color of my stroke. That initial black rectangle that I pasted on there, is gonna become irrelevant in a moment, because I'm gonna change the opacity settings through fill, to only show the stroke. So this is an example where if you're uncertain, if you can't quite remember, you'll pretty easily tell because if I go to change the opacity, I'll see oh wait, even the stroke; I don't want that. So it must be fill. And that's what I want. And there's nothing to say you have to. Maybe you don't want it to be zero fill, but you could even lower that but keep the stroke. So it's completely your choice. But in this case I'll go all the way to zero. And you see now I have what I wanted, which was a red stroke box. But the difference is, I can change everything about it. It's just an element that happens to be; and this is where you have to kinda go back and forth. Look at the layers panel. Technically that black rectangle is still there. It's just because of the settings, it's acting as, I will just become see through so that only the stroke appears. So I can change the shape of the rectangle itself. Which I'll show you in a second. I could change the color of the stroke, the thickness of the stroke, every setting because it's just another setting that appears in the layers panel. So if it were up to me, which it isn't, if I worked at Adobe; if I was the president of Adobe, I wouldn't be here. But if I was, I would go into Photoshop, and say let's just take out that command called Stroke. Anytime I see someone use it, I'm like are you sure, 'cause you've just kind of painted a stroke on there nice and quick. But then anything later on, someone says can you just change the; and you're like no. Whereas this way, yeah. So here's an example. Remember that rectangle was just a black rectangle. If I take the command called Free Transform, which allows me to scale things, I can take it and say I actually want it to be this big perhaps; I'm just playing. And now that I've done that, and I hit Enter. I'm like well maybe the stroke is actually a little too big; let's double-click on here and pull this back to maybe something like this. So just a couple steps, and I've gone from what I did initially, to changing it dramatically because it's just another editable element on a layer. Here what we've done is also like added the black pixels in the rectangle, right? Mm hmm. So how do you know when your adding pixels, but it's fine, you will be able to make changes versus the first method you showed us with just adding the red stroke? Well and really what it comes down to me, is I always; my first thought is, how can I do this in a way that's more easily editable? So that first scenario I thought; here's the way I look at it. Even if at this moment I think I'm sure that I want this stroke to be five pixels wide, a little voice in my head goes, are you really sure? Because what if, when you print it, you realize that it's a little too thin or too thick? So that's why I always; I showed you that method just to show you why it doesn't work so well. So for me, that's why I said I wouldn't even look at that. I would always be thinking stroke using a layer style, or whatever technique you're using because the nature of this is completely editable. There's nothing about this that you can't change, unless you did something bad like, I'll just merge this layer with the one below or something. Which I don't know why you'd ever do that, because you just lose the ability to edit it. Now one other thing I wanna point out here. Previously I said, be careful when you're transforming anything, 'cause if you make anything larger you're gonna lose quality. This is a rare exception, because it's a rectangle. And because pixels are square, when you make a rectangle big or smaller, the pixels don't get stretched the same way. If there was anything with a curved edge on it and I made it bigger, then you'd start to see the edges get pixelized. So one of the rare exceptions, that rule of never enlarge something, is if you have a basic shape like a square or rectangle, you can be pretty much okay to scale it up a little bit. Especially in this case, where really the only purpose of the rectangle was to make the stroke appear. So I'm not really actually looking at the rectangle at all. It's hidden in effect, because of that fill slider. So as we progress along, this is another example where I would be saving this as a PSD file. Let's do that so I don't just talk about it. It already was a PSD file, so I'll just hit the Save command now it's updated. So this layer called of course layer two, because that's a perfect name for it, with the effects saying stroke. So if I looked at this photograph two years ago and kinda went, "Huh, how'd I do that?" Well it's right there to tell me, because as soon as I open it I'll see right away, oh yeah there's a big box there with fill opacity to zero. I mean you can kind of reverse engineer and figure it out, which is one of the main reasons, along with flexibility, that I like this approach of working this way. It doesn't just give me a the option to be able to edit it, but it also let's me go back to something I did a long time ago and kind of A, revisit it, and B, reuse it. Here's another example. Before I showed you how I made a layer style. I saved it so I could apply it to a different photograph. What if I wanna use this same box on this other photograph? Now the scale is not the same, so I know right away it's gonna be a little different, but I just take my move tool. This is the active layer, so remember I don't have to click in any particular spot because it's that big sheet of plastic. So I can just click anywhere, even though it looks like I'm clicking on the man I'm not, 'cause I'm on that layer. I drag, wait, come down, let go. You can see it's considerably smaller, but that's okay because it's a box. I can go under here to Free Transform, just click on a handle, drag it down wherever I want. And then if I decide the stroke is too big or too small, of course I can edit that as well. But again, rather than me build that from scratch when it's not necessary. It's a lot easier to say, "Well I already did that somewhere else." Even if it's not exactly the right size, it's just as easy to take this and drag it into a different document. One last note about layer styles, which is important and the reason this works, is that layer styles don't get pixelized. In this case I made it much bigger. Doesn't mean the stroke is gonna suddenly look weird, because it's just reapplying the stroke to this new size. So it's not like we're actually, technically scaling the stroke, we're scaling the object that has a stroke on it. So that's another huge advantage of doing things with layer styles, is it's okay to scale things up or down in terms of layer styles, because they will update automatically. The only thing, as you saw with that first example, was when I took this shape style to a smaller image, I had to scale the settings down a little bit because they were almost too big, but at least you can do that. So this is another of the big advantages to me of always thinking ahead to down to road if I want to edit this, if I wanna reuse it, if I wanna remind myself how I did it, those are all built-in aspects of the fact that this is a PSD file with these elements on these layers.

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

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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.