NB These instructions are for Elements – in full Photoshop the menus will be slightly different
- Digital photography and Photoshop/Elements go hand in hand.
- Layers are not difficult! Start with a simple technique to understand the concept.
- At first, don’t expect to remember what to do! refer to these notes. Don’t expect to get it right first time. But you will need to put in a bit of time to practise.
- Layers allow you to go beyond basic image editing e.g. make better family photos; create a composite, add a border etc.
- Layers are features of Photoshop and Elements and some 3rd party editing software eg OnOne.
- Lightroom does not feature Layers: you need to export the image from Lightroom to Elements/Photoshop.
- A layer is one part of the image – the final image is a sum of all the layers.
- Without layers, if you decide you don’t like a certain edit you will have to go back in the History palette to before that edit to remove it and thus lose all the edits in-between.
- Layers are non-destructive to the original image.
- Saving the image as a PSD file (Photoshop Document) means you can save all the layers and return to the image in the future to continue editing.
- When you open an image in Photoshop/Elements, by default it is called the “Background” Layer.
- Added layers form the “layer stack”.
- You can name layers – double click on the existing name (e.g. layer 3)
- By default a layer affects all the layers below it.
- You can move a layer up and down the stack by doing a left click, hold and drag the layer.
- All layers can be seen in the Layers Palette: if you cannot see the palette go to Window menu and click next to Layers or in newer versions click the icon.
- The active layer is highlighted. Left click on a layer to make it active. The layer must be active in order to edit it.
- There are two types of layer: “adjustment” layers for controlling edits such as contrast, hue/sat etc. – and “pixel” layers e.g. where you add another picture to the image or add a border.
- You can add a “layer mask” to control which parts of the layer affects the layer(s) below it. Adjustment layers have a mask attached by default.
- The “opacity” of a layer can be changed.
- The “blending mode” of a layer can be changed. “Normal” is the default mode – ie has no effect.
- A layer can be switched on and off by left clicking on the “eye” icon
- When first saving your PSD file always use Save As, not Save and use a meaningful title different to the original image file
- E.g. “Sunset.dng” (or a .jpg) saved as “Sunset.psd version_1”
- A layer can be deleted by dragging it to the dustbin.
- The final image is created by “flattening” all the layers: go to the Layer menu and click Flatten Image (at the bottom of the list). Save the image using Save As and choose where to save and the file format, usually jpg or tiff. Click Save. Note - if you just use Save after flattening then all the layers of the PSD file will be lost.
THINGS YOU CAN DO BY ADDING JUST ONE EXTRA LAYER
(NB: if you use a laptop do not try to use the trackpad - it’s far too blunt an instrument for this sort of work - get a mouse and save your sanity)
1) Make a duplicate layer
It’s a good idea to duplicate the image and edit on that. This protects the original image (i.e. the Background layer) and you can always go back to it. To duplicate a layer, click on the Layer menu and click on Duplicate Layer. The Duplicate Layer window pops up, click OK. The layer is by default called “Background copy” - note that in the History palette the action is called Duplicate Layer.
2) Boost the saturation and contrast
Method 1: make a duplicate layer from the Background layer (as above). Now click on the arrow next to Normal (these are the blending modes) and click on Multiply. Click the duplicate layer on and off using the eye icon to see the before and after effect. Now click again on the arrow and this time choose Overlay to see the effect.
Method 2: make a duplicate layer from the Background layer. Go to the Enhance menu, click on Adjust Color and click on Remove Color. This turns the layer to black and white. Now choose the Multiply blending mode to see the effect.
Note on blending modes: each blend mode has a different effect on how the pixels of each layer are mixed together. You can read up on this but it is quite complicated and not really necessary. The main thing is to experiment with blend modes and use different images. The Multiply blend mode (for example) will work differently on different images. It’s up to you to choose which works best for the effect you want. The most useful modes are Darken, Multiply, Screen, Overlay and Soft Light. Some of the modes give quite bizarre results so are rarely used.
3) Change the strength of the effect of the top layer
After experimenting with the blend modes try dropping the opacity of the blending mode (i.e. the top layer that the blending mode has been applied to) to see the effect. Use the opacity slider to alter it.
4) Add a border
A border can really add a “feel” to an image - open the image to which you want to add a border. This will be the Background Layer. Go to the File menu, click Open and navigate to where the border image is. Click Open and the image will open.
Paste the image in (see separate instructions - “Pasting another Image Into the Project”). The border image is obscuring the Background image so go to the Blend modes arrow and choose Screen. This mode causes lighter parts of the top layer image to remain and so block out what is on the layer beneath but darker parts of the top layer image are discarded and therefore whatever is on the layer beneath shows through – therefore the Background image shows through the black area of the border image but not through the white areas of the border image. So the final effect is an image with a roughened edge and white surround.
5) Add a warming filter
Images can sometimes have a cool, blue cast e.g. landscapes taken in the middle of the day. A warm filter can improve it. Open the image which you want to “warm up” - this will be your Background layer. Go to the Layer menu, click on New Adjustment Layer and click on Photo Filter. The New Layer window pops up, just click OK and the Adjustments box opens. By default the Photo Filter is usually a warming one. Click the “X” at the top right - the Adjustments box will close. In the layer stack you will see the Photo Filter at the top. Click the eye icon on and off to see the effect of the filter. (For now ignore the white mask). As before you can alter the opacity to weaken the effect of the filter and you could change the blend mode if you want to.
6) Add a texture
Like borders, a texture can transform an image. As a start, find textures at home - grass, wallpaper, carpet, rust, paint, bricks etc. and take a picture. Then follow the same method as adding a border - experiment with the blend modes and opacity.
After trying out these straight-forward techniques, practise saving the layers of the image as a PSD file (use File, Save As and choose PSD in the Format drop down list), then flatten the layers (Layer menu, Flatten Image) and save as a jpg with the same name as the PSD file (File, Save As and choose jpg in the Format drop down list). You can end up with several PSD versions of one image (or PSD’s of several images) but PSD files have no picture on to differentiate them. By saving a jpg version with the same name as the PSD file you can easily see what each image is.
Then practise re-opening your PSD files and see the layers reappear intact as you left them.
PASTING ANOTHER IMAGE INTO THE PROJECT
- In Elements, click on File – Open and navigate to where the image is stored, click on the image to select it and then click on the Open button and the image appears in the Edit workspace. Note that this image is still a separate image – if you look at the Layers palette it has replaced the original image.
- Click on the Select menu and click on All (or use the shortcut Ctrl+A) - note the “marching ants” around the edge of the image meaning you have selected the whole image.
- Click on the Edit menu and choose Copy (or use the shortcut CTRL+C) Note that nothing visual happens but the image is now stored in the computer’s memory.
- Because the image is in the memory you can close the actual image down - go to File menu and click Close (or use the shortcut Ctrl+W). The image disappears and you are back to the original image.
- Now go to the Edit menu and click Paste (or use the shortcut Ctrl+V) - the pasted- in image reappears on top of the original image but look at the Layers palette and you will see that there are now two layers in the stack.
- This method needs to use “floating documents” so go to the Edit menu and choose Preferences at the bottom of the options and choose General. Click in the box next to “Allow Floating Documents in Full Edit Mode”. Then click OK to exit Preferences.
- As for 1 in Method 1
- Click the icon for the Move tool (top of the icon list)
- Left click and hold anywhere in the image (not the top bar or it will not move) and drag the icon over the original image. When the icon turns white with a plus sign release the left mouse button. The second image is now in the Layer stack.
- Close down the second image by clicking on the X.
Differences between the two methods – Method 1 will exactly match the images together whereas in Method 2 you match by eye. In Method 2 you can hold down the Shift key while you use the Move tool which is supposed to exactly match the images but it does not always work.
Once you get used to using the shortcuts (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+W, Ctrl+V) it is very quick to add an image.
Using the Move tool in Method 2 is a quick way of adding and positioning a selection.
MAKING YOUR OWN BORDERS
Competition images, whether for club or external competitions, must be all your own work. So while using borders from say, photo magazines, is OK for practising with, it is not OK to use them for images entered into competition.
Making your own borders is easy.
- Click on File menu, choose New, then Blank File. In the New window you can name the border, make it the pixel size you want, keep Resolution at 300, RGB Color and specify the Background Colour you want i.e. white or black. (To check what is currently the Background Colour – look for the two boxes underneath the tool list, one is white, the other black. The top box is the Foreground Colour, the underneath box is the Background Colour. Click on the arrow by the boxes to swap them round if necessary). To start with choose black. Click OK and the new document opens in the editor. It will be a solid black rectangle. NB if the new document appears as portrait format and you are adding it to a landscape format image then go to the Image menu, choose Rotate then 90˚ Left or 90˚ Right.
- Click on the Brush tool icon and click on the small right hand arrow by the image of the brush wavy line. This gives you access to all the different brushes. Choose one with a ragged design.
- Make sure the Foreground Colour box is set to white – this means the brush will paint white.
- Paint along the edges – experiment with brush size (use the square bracket keys to alter brush size) and with opacity. When finished Save As a jpeg.
- To use your border follow either method in “Pasting Another Image Into the Project” – choose Screen as the Blend mode.
Note: a white border with black inner results in a white border on the final image when used with the Screen blend mode.
a black border with white inner results in a black border when used with the Multiply blend mode.
You can use one border and swap (ie invert) the black and white so you do not have to make two borders to get each effect -
To invert a border – have it open in the edit workspace – click on the Layer menu, choose New Adjustment Layer, then choose Invert, click OK and the colours will be swapped. Resave with a new name.