Photoshop Intro Course: Intro to Layers

Using Layers in Adobe Photoshop Video Tutorial

In this video, we'll learn about layers, which are an important part of working in Photoshop.

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Video Transcription

In this video, we'll learn about layers, which are an important part of working in Photoshop. I'm going to use the paintbrush to make a couple marks on this document. So, I'm going to drag out a mark here, which makes a red mark and it's doing so on the background layer. The Layers panel is over here at the bottom right.

Using the default Essentials workspace, this should be open and visible on the bottom right. If for some reason it's not visible, it's possible you switched to a different panel and you can switch back to that tab. If for some reason it's entirely closed, then you can always find this under the Window menu.

The background layer is an automatic layer that for most files when you open them up, especially if it's a photograph, you're going to have the background layer. The background layer is a special kind of layer which we'll talk more about in just a moment. What is a layer? So, a layer is a place to store pixels.

When I zoom in closer, I'm going to use my zoom tool and zoom in closer on this. We see individual pixels as we zoom in close on our image. Now, I'm going to turn off the pixel grid by going to View, Show, and turning it off.

Each of these individual color pixels is what makes something look like a photograph or graphic or whatever it is when you're zoomed out. So, if I'm zoomed out, you don't see those individual pixels when they're small enough. But when you zoom in, this is how Photoshop thinks of all of its images. It is a pixel-based program, meaning that all of these little pixels is how it thinks of a graphic.

Now, on a layer, you get one layer or set of pixels. So, each pixel remembers one individual color. If you wanted to remember a different color, you'd have to create an additional layer. If you're working on this current layer, you only get one set of pixels. What that means is, if I go and make a change to the color of those pixels, let's say I go to my paintbrush and click on my foreground color to change it, then I come in with a brush and paint those to black, I have just changed the color of those pixels to black. Now, it does not remember the previous color.

So, if I save and close the file, there would be no memory of what used to be there because everything was done on this background layer. It does not remember what's behind that because it's not behind it. It is, I just changed the color. So, it's like I've literally changed that color and there's no memory of the previous one because the history that you have in Photoshop is temporary. This is not stored in your file.

So, this is going to go away when you open the file back up. History is limited to up to 50 states by default, although you can change that in your preferences. If you go to Photoshop preferences, which is edit preferences on Windows and Photoshop preferences on the Mac, this is where you can go to your performance preferences and in here you can see that the default is 50 history states. So, it's not unlimited and the history is gone when you close the file.

So, every time you open up the file, all you're going to see in the history panel is just open. If you want to maintain editability and information in your file, we use layers to maintain that information. We don't rely on the history to retain that information.

I'm going to undo this brush mark. I want to erase away one of these pomegranates here, so I'm going to use my paint brush and change my foreground color to white. If I saved and closed the file, that would be forever lost, so I'm going to use different layers and revert my file. I've not saved any of the work that I've done here, so I'm choosing to revert and that's going to get rid of all those changes.

Say I want to go to the white of the background color. There's other ways I can do that which we'll get to in a second. Let's say I want to paint that with white. I'm going to create a new layer by clicking the new layer button down at the bottom right of my layers panel. This layer is like a sheet of glass stuck on top of a photo. So if I go to paint with white, it is covering over the pomegranate seed. I can always hide that layer. Now if I hide the original background layer, we'll see that the only thing that I put there is white.

Let me show you a different way. I'm going to call this white remove seeds. I'm going to create a new layer and this one I'm going to paint with red. I'm going to choose a red from one of the pomegranates and let's say I paint with some red and make a mark here. Now this is my red mark. If I put that underneath the white seeds, this white that I originally painted with is actually white pixels. There's a top to bottom ordering going on here.

Just to be clear, let me make yet another layer and I'm going to call these black marks. I'm going to click the default foreground and background colors, click on that to set my default black foreground and white background. I'm going to choose my black here and make some black marks here. So I've got black marks here on the top and then I can put those under the red marks or I can put the white marks up here all the way on the top.

So I've got three different layers. The top one is in front and the bottom one is in the background. That's why it's called a background layer. So front to back, top to bottom. I can rearrange these at any point, hide and show them at any point. If I hide all of these layers, then we see the original pomegranate seed. So it's there, but I'm covering over it with some other layer.

When I create these additional layers, these are all separate things I can use my move tool to move any individual one of those. I can use my move tool to move the red marks around, the white marks, and the black marks around. I can rearrange them in front to back order of things.

This is how we build editability into the document. So this is how we can come back later. Layers are saved with the file when you save as certain kinds of files. So JPEGs do not support layers, but when we save an editable document, when we want to come back to it later to do more retouching and things, we go to save as and I want to save this onto my computer. I'm going to choose save to my computer. I don't want to save this to the cloud, although that would make it available to other things like iPads for example where you can also run Photoshop. I'm going to save this to my computer and put it into my class files here. I'll save this as 'Dan Pomegranate' and I'm going to save it as a Photoshop file because Photoshop files support layers.

So I'm going to go ahead and click "Save." It does ask about maximizing compatibility, which you always want to do because you want to make it more compatible with other Adobe applications, such as InDesign, After Effects, or Premiere.

It also makes it compatible with other versions of Photoshop, especially for other Adobe apps. You should just say "Don't show again" and leave "Maximize Compatibility" checked and you won't see this dialogue again. When saving as a Photoshop file, it maintains those layers. If you close the file and go back in, all those layers will be there, unlike your history which goes away. You want to build your document with layers, as they increase file size but make your document more flexible. If you decide you didn't want to remove that seed, you can just delete it by dragging it to the trash and the seed comes back.

If you use the eraser tool on the background layer, it will erase to whatever your background color is. So if you change the background color to blue, when you erase you're really just painting with blue. That's all you're really doing. If you paint with the paintbrush, it will paint with the foreground color. All of this stuff is happening on the background layer, which means you are working destructively, changing those colors of those pixels permanently. You should be doing this on a different layer if you want to work non-destructively.

You can turn the background layer into a regular layer by clicking the lock button or double clicking the name. When it's a regular layer, it can be see-through and the eraser tool will delete to transparency. This might be beneficial if you want to make a transparent background to take the image into InDesign or After Effects, or to take it onto the web and see through to the background of a web page. You can only have one background layer in a file.

All the rest of the layers are normal. Layers come into play when you copy and paste things. I'm going to use my selection tool for the rectangular marquee to select an area, and we can copy it. Notice in my layers panel, there's only a background layer. I'm going to go to Edit, Paste, and notice it creates a new layer. Now because I still had that selection, it pasted it right in that same area but if I use my Move tool to drag it into a different place, we'll see that we did make a copy of that seed. I can name that layer by double-clicking it and giving it a name.

If I later decide I don't want that seed, I can temporarily hide it, but keep it in the file in case I want to bring it back later on, or if I don't like it, I can drag it to the trash and get rid of it. Things are not stored in the trash; you can't go back into the trash to bring things back out of it. Dragging it to the trash just deletes it and gets rid of that layer permanently. Another way you can delete layers is by clicking on a layer and hitting delete on your keyboard. That works just fine too. Another way we can create copies of things is using the Clone Stamp. The Clone Stamp is going to clone or copy something like I had to say copy and paste as a two-step process. The Clone Stamp can copy and paste but the way that it does it is by copying and painting.

If I use the Clone Stamp, I need to do two steps: copy and paint. Option click (on the Mac) or Alt click (on Windows) to tell it what I want to copy from the image. Then I come over here and I see this little teeny red dot. I'm going to go back to my Clone Stamp, make the brush bigger, a harder edge, and then I can preview it. I'm going to keep it a little bit smaller than the pomegranate just to show you that when I start to paint, I click, and then as I move around, it's copying from where I defined that source. So it's copying from the plus over there on the left and painting on the right where the circle is. It does so on the same layer, normally.

I don't know if it's a highlight or a piece of pomegranate or something, but maybe I just don't like that little bit of a highlight there, and I want to get rid of it. So, I'm going to copy something from over here. Let's say this part right here - I like this part. I'm going to Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) to sample that, and then that's put into my cursor. Then, I can come in and drag to paint that over and I just replace the stuff that I don't want with stuff that I do want.

Normally, that's all done on one layer. So, when you're doing this it might be nice to either duplicate the layer first, or what you can do is create a new layer. I'm going to undo this so I can show you a better way. You can do a new layer, and since I'm working on this new layer, by default the clone stamp only samples the current layer. If I want to, I can say to sample the current layer and all the layers below, or just all the layers. A lot of times, 'current layer and below' would be good, because if there's things up above you might not want to copy those.

I can Option-click or Alt-click on this, then come here and paint that in. That retouching was done on a second layer, so that way I'm working non-destructively. I can call this my retouching, and go in with a bigger brush. I can Option or Alt-click on a pomegranate seed that I want, go in and paint that on in another location. That would be being done on another layer, so I can hide and show that. I'm working non-destructively. If I hide the background layer, we can see the new things that I've added to the retouching layer. Hopefully, you can see how important layers are going to be in your work. This has been just a brief introduction to the basics of retouching, which we'll explore in other videos in more depth.

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