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Using Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 5 of 7

Using Effects on Layers

Ben Willmore

Using Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

5. Using Effects on Layers

Lesson Info

Using Effects on Layers

Now I'd like to add a little more flare to this image. What I'd like to do is add a drop shadow underneath the text. And add drop shadows underneath each photograph, so there feels like some separation between them and what's behind them. So I'll start by working on a photograph, here I'll just click on a layer, and if you're not sure which layer this is, which part of the document it is, you can always turn off the eyeball icon for that layer. That will temporarily hide the layer, and then just click on where the icon use to be, and it will come back. Therefore, I can tell exactly what's in that layer. I'll go to the bottom of the layers panel, and that's where I'll find the letter fx. And that's where I can add a layer effect. And I wanna use the one called drop shadow. When I choose drop shadow, a screen is gonna open full of options, and let's take a look what it takes to make a drop shadow. As long as this is open, you can click within your document and drag, and you'll reposition...

your shadow. And all it's doing as you're dragging, is it's changing two settings in here. If you look at the right side of my screen at all those settings, look at the little circle that's in there that says angle. And as I drag, you'll see that's telling me the angle that I dragged. Then there's another setting called distance, and that's how far I dragged in that particular direction. So if you don't feel like clicking and dragging within your document, you could've just as easily done that with the angle and distance settings. The other settings that are important here are size. Watch what happens to the shadow as I bring it up. That's gonna cause the edge to become softer, or crisper. So that's gonna determine how soft this is. The softer it is, the more it's gonna feel like it's floating. Finally there's a setting called opacity. That determines how much can I see through that layer. So if you want a darker shadow, bring it higher. And if you want a lighter one, bring it lower. So it's a matter of fine tuning all of those settings to get a shadow that I like. We're gonna do something about like that. Then I'll click OK. Remember the way that I added that in the first place, is I went to the bottom of my layers panel, I found the letters fx, and I chose drop shadow. That's how I can go in to change the settings for it as well. If I decide I want it to be a softer edge later on, all I have to do is choose that once again. When the layer that I've applied that to is active. If you look at my layers panel, and you look closely at the layer I was working on, you're now gonna see it says it has effects. And the effect it has applied is drop shadow. You see a little eyeball icon. If I turn that off by clicking on it, watch the drop shadow over here, and it goes away. The one next to the word effects will do the same thing. The only difference between these two is, the effects is a category. I could go down to the letters fx and add an additional effect. Like right now we just have a drop shadow, I could come in and choose something called a stroke. A stroke would draw a line around the edge of an image. And I'll bring up the size setting a little bit, so it's easier for you to see that. So now if you look in the layers panel, effects means all of these things. So if I turn off the eyeball next to effects, not only would the drop shadow disappear, but so would the stroke, or line that goes around here. If I turn off the eyeball next to these two though, it'll turn off the individual effects of the stroke and the drop shadow. Or collectively, all of the effects. Once you've added effects like that, if you don't want to see them in the layers panel, you can go to the right edge of the layer where you find the letters fx to indicate you have effects applied, and there's a little triangle there. If you click on it, it will collapse it down. So therefore only the letters fx here indicate that this layer has anything attached. To see which effects are attached, click on that triangle and you can see the list. If you want to get rid of one of these effects, you can drag the effect to the trash can at the bottom of the layers panel. But the other thing you can do is drag it to a different layer. I want to put this stroke on my text. So I'm gonna click on the word stroke, and I'm gonna drag it right up here to the layer that contains the text, and then let go. And I just moved it. I might also want a drop shadow on the word Barcelona. So here I already have a drop shadow on one layer. The problem is if I just drag it up to the text, it will remove it from the layer it was on before. I want it on both layers. To get it on both layers, when you drag, hold down the option key. That's alt in Windows. So I'll click on the word drop shadow, I'll hold on option, and I'll drag to a different layer. And let's see, it didn't do it. So I'll have to hold it down before I click, and then try. There you go. I held it down after clicking the mouse, and I needed to hold it down beforehand. So if I want to put a drop shadow on a bunch of these layers, I hold down the option key, alt in Windows, before I click on the word drop shadow, and I drag it to another layer. And I can do that, dragging it to as many layers as I would like. That's weird, why did it put two? Oh, I was holding on command. (laughing) I wasn't looking at my keyboard. But that's kind of ineffective to put it on, let's say, a dozen layers, because it's gonna be a dozen times that you end up dragging that. So there is another way that you can get this drop shadow to be on other layers. If you right click on it, there's a choice that is called copy layer style. Those effects that are applied collectively are known as layer styles. After right clicking on it and choosing copy layer style, then I can select all the layers that I want. And I'm gonna select here everything except for the text. And then you can right click on any one of the layers, it shouldn't really matter which one, and you're gonna find a choice within this menu called paste layer style. That should apply it to other layers that are currently selected. So now I have drop shadows on all of those layers. Now once I've done that in my layers panel, my layers are starting to look pretty busy. And that's where I might want to collapse down the little triangle next to the letters fx so I don't have to see that on every single one of my layers. Now there's a trick you can use, and that is show or hide all of the effects by holding down the option key, alt in Windows, when you click on that little triangle. And that will either expand all of them, or collapse them all. Adobe did add a different feature that's getting in the way though. Did you notice that it zoomed up on my picture when I did that? If you option click on the name of a layer, it'll zoom up to fill whatever's in that layer, have it fill your screen, and Adobe hasn't changed that to make it so it ignores the little triangle that's on the right. So when I option click to expand or collapse all of those, it happened to zoom up as well. Anyway, now we have all sorts of layers going on in our layers panel. And we have what's known as either layer style or layer effects, which are our drop shadow and our stroke. And the only thing I think id like to do now is I wanna change the color of our stroke because I used the default color. And I'd like to start adjusting our pictures. So to change the color of the stroke, I first need to figure out where it is in my layers panel. Well I know it's on the text, and I can see the text right here, so I'll click the little triangle to the right of that to expand it, and there I see I have a drop shadow and a stroke. To get back into the settings for any of these, just double click on their names. Not the eyeball, but the name. So if I double click on the word stroke, it brings me right back into the settings for it. Here I can see a setting called color. And I can see a black rectangle. If I click within that, I get a color picker. And then while the color picker is open, I can actually move my mouse onto my image and click within it to pick colors right out of the picture. Ill click OK to indicate I'm done. But now that white background is really glaring at me, and id like it to be more interesting than that. So I'm gonna go find another image from bridge to use as a background. Before I do that, look at my layers panel. At the layer that's currently active. And realize that it's the text. And that text has something special going on directly above it. And that is there's a photograoh up there and if you look at that layer above, you see a down pointing arrow. Indicating it's clipped to the layer that's below. So that it's only showing up where the text is. Well right now if I drag over another picture, the picture's usually gonna show up directly above the layer I'm working on. That's how layers work. It always creates new layers directly above the one you're working on. So let's see what happens when I go over here to bridge, I choose a background texture I like to use and drag it over. Then I'm gonna resize it, just making sure it fits the entirety of this document. And I'll press return or enter to indicate I'm done. Notice that it broke what I had set up before. Now this layer that contains the photograph, that use to be clipped to some text, is now clipped to this background texture. And that means this only shows up where the background texture is. Well the background texture fills the entire image, so this shows up wherever it usually would. So sometimes you'll end up breaking certain effects that were in there. So let's click on that photo that's above, and I'm gonna click on its name and move it again so its right above the text. It didn't keep that down pointing arrow though, so I need to figure out how to put it back in. Ill go to the layer menu, and there's a choice called create clipping mask. That's what I used the very first time we got that photograph to show up inside the text. That's what gets that down pointing arrow to appear. Its hard to see that it's clipped to the text because we have something else on top of it that's covering up our entire document. Because the way layers work, is as if you're standing on top of the layers panel looking down. And whatever the top most thing is, is what you're seeing first, even if it fills your entire document, it's obscuring your view of everything that's under it. So I either need to turn off the eyeball for that to hide it, or in my case, I want to reposition where it is in the layers panel. So I'll click on its name, and I'll drag it way down here. Now we have a nice little backdrop.

Class Description


  • Scale, rotate and distort layers using transformations
  • Understand the difference between Opacity and Fill
  • Use Clipping Masks to relate one layer to another
  • Discover how selections interact with layers


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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