Lesson 3

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Understanding Layers

Photoshop layers representation
Photoshop layers representation Transparent areas on a layer let you see layers below. The orientation of the layer stack is from the top looking down.

Photoshop layers are like sheets of clear stacked acetate. You can see through transparent areas of a layer to the layers below. You move a layer to position the content on the layer, like sliding a sheet of acetate in a stack. You can also change the opacity of a layer to make content partially transparent.

You use layers to perform tasks such as compositing multiple images, adding text to an image, or adding vector graphic shapes. You can apply a layer style to add a special effect such as a drop shadow or a glow.

Photoshop brushesbrushsize

Not all Photoshop shortcut work in PSE, but you can still adjust brush size and hardness using [ and ] to decrease and increase the brush’s diameter, as well as Shift + [ and Shift + ] to decrease and increase the brush’s hardness.

Layers Panel

Layer Panel

Layers Project

Tips & Tricks

The key to working with multiply files is to use the Photo Bin or set Windows>Images to Tile:

Windows Image to Tile

When working with many images at the same time, it might be better to set Windows>Images to Float all in Windows.  This will allow you the work with each image outside the confines of the workspace.

Float all in Windows

If this option is greyed out, you must set this option under Edit>Preferences (Ctrl + k):

Allow Floating Document



Layer Mask

Layer Mask allows you to remove the background or unwanted portion of your image without using the Eraser Tool.  The problem with the Eraser is that if you remove too much it is hard to get it back after you have saved it.

A layer mask can only be black & white or some grayscale tone, so areas you paint in black are hidden, areas you paint in white are visible, and areas you paint in shades of gray appear in semi-transparent.  The the novice remember this rule:

“Black hides and white reveals”

Butterfly Layer Mask

The result

The result will look just like we use the Eraser Tool to remove that background.  Remember from the previous lesson that Photoshop Elements represent a transparent background as checkerboard.

Checkerboard Background

With the background removed, we can place the Butterfly on top of a different image in the layer stack.

Layer exercise project result
The butterfly on a different background image