Using Layers in Photoshop – a Comprehensive Beginners’ Tutorial

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni | June 8, 2015

Banner of using layers in Photoshop

Every image in Photoshop is made of layers, and the manner in which these layers are designed and then stacked together is what gives the image its appearance and appeal. As such, using layers in Photoshop should be common knowledge for every Photoshop users.

Here is a brief but comprehensive Photoshop beginner tutorial on how to use layer in Photoshop.

The layer panel

The layers panel in Photoshop not only gives you access to the layers, but it also comes with a wide range of features that make manipulating and designing these layers simple. It allows you to create, design, and re-design layers in addition to other things such as:

  • Creating a new layer

You may find it necessary to add a new layer to an image in order to achieve certain effects and appearances. This will require you to create a new layer.

There are two ways to do this –click on the upper right corner of the layer panel and from the resulting menu select “new layer.

Create new layer from upper righ corner of layer pannel

Or simply click on the “new layer” icon located at the bottom of the layers panel.

Create new layer from the bottom of the layer pannel

  • Duplicating a layer

You can also duplicate an existing layer to have two similar ones quickly and easily. Just right-click on the layer you wish to duplicate and then select “duplicate layer” from the resulting menu. Here, you have an option of adding the layer to the same image or another image – to add to the same image simply give it a name and select “okay.”

Duplicate the layer by righ clicking on the desired layer

Name the layer and click ok

If, however, you wish to add the layer to a different image, type the title of that document in the box titled “destination” and give it a name before clicking “okay.”

Duplicate the layer and choose destination

  • Alternating the layers’ positions on the image

When working on an image, the different layers in Photoshop making up that image are arranged in order of their position – from the one at the top to the background layer. You can alternate the positioning of these layers by simply clicking on one layer and dragging it either on top or below of the other layers, depending on your intended outcome.

Alternating the layers position

  • Hiding or deleting a layer

It may become necessary to hide a layer and observe the image without it or delete the layer altogether if it is undesirable.

To hide a layer, locate it on the layer panel and click on the eye icon beside it – click on the same icon to make it visible again.

Click on eye icon to make visible of invisible layers

To delete a layer, simply click on that layer and drag it to the trash icon located at the bottom of the layers panel or right-click that layer and select delete.

Deleting the layer

  • Changing a layer’s mode

You can also change a layer’s mode to manipulate its appearance and feel/texture. To change the mode, locate the tab labeled opacity on the layers menu – click on the other tab labeled “normal” on the left side of the opacity tab. This will open a drop-down menu with numerous modes to choose from – just click on the desired mode to apply it.

Changing layers mode

  • Changing a layer’s color

When you right-click on a layer, the resulting menu offer several options, among them the ability to change the layer’s color to several other colors highlighted by name and by the color – simply click on your preferred color to change that particular layer’s color.

Changing a layers color

  • Adjusting a layer’s transparency

A layer on an image does not have to be opaque – it can be partially transparent to make the layer beneath it visible, even if only partially. To increase a layer’s transparency or opacity, simply adjust the opacity percentage from the layer’s panel – it is located just above the layers.

Adjusting layers transparency

  • Adding styles to a layer

Finally, you can add a host of effects to a layer to enhance its appearance and shape. Simply click on the layer you wish to add effects to and then click on the icon labeled “fx” at the bottom of the layers panel. This will open a menu with a wide range of effects to apply – just click on the desired effect.

Adding styles to a layer

Tip: If you do not wish to change a certain layer’s aspects, click on it to select it and then click on the lock icon at the top of the layers menu – this will help prevent mistakes that can compromise the image’s appearance.

Lock icon at the top of the layers menu

Tip: If you wish to decongest or categorize the layers in the layers panel, click on the folder icon at the bottom of the page and drag the layers into the new folder to make a group.

Making a group of layers

Remember, layers are essentially the image and how you design them determines the appeal of the resulting image. As such, hone your skills in using layers in Photoshop by practicing and experimenting with different images to learn new things or you can apply this technique to create a realistic drop shadow using Photoshop so that you can add a layer style to create the shadow.

Rokaiya Yeasmin Munni

As manager and head of digital marketing at Clipping Path India, Rokaiya wants to help retailers and photographers use marketing strategies and tactics that will elevate their business. She has an 18-year background in graphic design, content management and digital marketing.

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