Tutor Tips #1 – Working with Layers

One of the most fundamental, but most important, components in digital media is layering. In this post, I will demonstrate how layers work and why they are so important. I will also show you how to use layers in your own projects.

Layers function similarly to a choir arranged in rows: the further in the back someone is, the more they are blocked by those in front and the less you are able to see them. Each layer in a project is like a row: whichever is in front will block whatever is behind it, unless what is in the back is larger.


In the above image, I have a white background layer and three, differently coloured layers arranged as a series of pentagons. The higher the layer is, the further out front it is. In this case, the red pentagon is in front. If I were to rearrange the layers like this:


then the blue pentagon would hide the red one.



Layers are important because they allow you to apply changes to individual sections of an image without applying those changes to the entire image. My general recommendation is that if you are creating an image from scratch, each major part should have its own layer. For example, here is an image I created last semester:


In the above image, I had separate layers for each of the following:

•The moon
•The cats
•The background
•The text
•The snow

I created the image this way so that I could work on each component individually. The glow I applied to the moon would not work for the cats, for example (unless the cats were radioactive). In order to edit the lighting and texture of the moon, I needed to isolate it from the other components of the image. Layering is the best way to do this.

Look what happens when I re-arrange the layers in this project:

Changes in Layer 2


If it was not obvious before, each item exists on its own plane; they hide and reveal different sections of your project to create a well composed image.

Want to learn more? Book a Photoshop tutorial with myself, or another DMC tutor!
Call 864-6159, or email commons@mun.ca

For more information on layers, see this helpful guide: http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop-elements/using/creating-layers.html

– Quentin

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