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.   In the Photoshop Layer stack panel, you are looking from the top to the bottom.  You can arrange a layer to any position, like shuffling a sheet of acetate in the 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 brushes brushsize

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. To a menu of brush presets, right-click in the workspace.

Photoshop Scrubby Brush Shortcut

Right click brush shortcut

Alt + Right-Mouse drag horizontal will increase or decrease the brush size (left to decrease and right to increase).  The vertical direction softens or hardens the brush (up to soften and down to harden).

I don’t know when this was added to Elements, but it works on version 15 and higher, not 11.

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

Create You Own Blue Plate Special


Layer Mask

A Layer Mask is a non-destructive method of removing 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 portion without having to start from the beginning.

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.  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 a 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

Refine Edge Selection

Refine Edge & Refine Selection

Edge DetectionAfter you made the best possible selection and while it is still active you have the opportunity to refine it more with the Refine Edge button.  In the Edge Detection section of the Refine Edge dialog box offers you the opportunity to make refinements to the selection edge.

Shortcuts to Remember

Alt + click on layer mask thumbnail to switch between layer mask preview and image
\ – displays mask overlay over image in translucent red
Shift – disable layer mask

Download all sample images from Lesson 1 – 6