Understanding Layers

Contents

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General Info

Layers constitute one of the core elements as to why photoshop is so revolutionary. The Layer menu can typically be found in the lower right corner in photoshop. In this tutorial we will go over layer creation and manipulation.

Image:layers1.jpg
Layers are essentially transparency sheets that the user can stack to form an image. Portions of a picture can be selected using the lasso tools, and be edited individually of the entire picture.

Image:lasso.jpg

Creating a Layer

To create a new layer:

  1. Engage the Lasso tool and trace a portion of your image that you want to edit independently.
  2. Go to the File menu and select the Copy option.
  3. Under the File menu select the Paste option and a new layer will automatically appear in the layers menu.

Layers on the top of the layer menu will be displayed on top of other layers below it. You can arrange the order of layers by drag and dropping them within the layer menu. The eye that is displayed next to a layer turns a layer on or off when you click on it. The scrumptious sandwich below demonstrates what it looks like when various layers are selected and turned on or off:

Image:layers2.jpg

You can also delete and copy layers within the layer menu by dragging a layer into the copy or delete icon:

Image:layers3.jpg

Manipulating Layers

Here we will cover manipulating color, contrast, and effects

Contrast Manipulation

Sometimes when you take a digital photo or use a digital file, the exposure is under or over. Perhaps even the image might need a little umph…

  • Under the layer menu select the curves icon:

Image:Layers4.jpg

  • In the layers menu you will be presented with a graph.
    • If you give the graph one anchor point in the middle (click on the center of the curves graph to give the line an anchor point) then slope it downwards and right the curves option will underexpose your image, meaning that it will get darker.
    • If you give the graph one anchor point and slope it upwards and left the curves option will overexpose your image, meaning that it will get lighter.
    • If you give the graph a shape with two anchor points, the contrast or general “pop” of the image will be effected. The subtler the shape of the s curve in the graph will dampen the contrast as opposed to having a well defined s curve.

Image:layer5.jpg

After you click the ok in the curves menu a curves layer will be placed in your layers menu. If the curves layer is located on the top of all of the other layers, everything below it will be affected by it. The curves layer can also be situated to only affect certain layers. To accomplish this: place the desired layers below the curves layer, and all other layers on top of the curves layer. Notice the subtle shift in color on the sausages below as a result of shifting the curves layer order…

Image:layer_order1.jpg

Image:layer_order2.jpg

  • you can also adjust the contrast with less control by selecting the contrast option under the layer menu (same place you found the curves control)

Color Manipulation

Sometimes when photos are loaded into Photoshop the coloring appears to be off, or perhaps you desire to enhance the color of your image. Photoshop offers many fine-tuning color menus that allow the user to achieve any desired effect.

Different Types of Color Alteration

All of the color alterations can be applied to specific layers, just like the curves manipulation covered in the above section. These non-permanent alterations can be found in the layers menu (they are non-permanent because the user can turn them off like a standard layer by clicking on the eye icon located next to the layer).

Image:color1.jpg
permanent manipulations performed to the entire image, or only layers that are selected can be found under the Image menu:

Image:color2.jpg
There are three different methods for altering color:

  • Hue/Saturation
  • Color balance
  • Curves

Hue/Saturation

Hue/Saturation basically shifts the image hue and saturation with a simplistic set of controls. The Adjustments can cause dramatic results.  Look at the sandwich in the image below:

Image:hue.jpg

Color Balance

Color Balance is a more feature rich set of color modification controls. Here you can modify not only the specific color channels of the image, you can also change the color of specific areas within the image. For instance, you can modify the colors of only the shadows, highlights or mid-tones as found under the Tone Balance section of the menu.

Image:colorb.jpg

Curves

Aside from contrast, curves can also be used to subtlety modify color channels. To alter the color of separate channels (red, green, and blue) instead of RGB as a whole, click on the RGB in the Channel Setting area of the curves menu:
Image:rgb.jpg

Red Channel: adjusts images that are too red or cyan.

  • If your image is too cyan, create a single anchor point in the curves graph and pull the curves graph line so that it is slightly up and left from its original position (similar to the picture above).
  • If your image is too red, do just the opposite to correct the color: pull the curves graph line so that it is down and right.

Green Channel: adjusts images that are too green or purple/violet.

  • If your image is too violet, crate a single anchor point in the curves graph and pull the curves graph line so that it is slightly up and left from its original position.
  • If your image is too green, do just the opposite to correct the color: pull the curves graph line so that it is down and right,

Blue Channel: adjusts images that are too blue or yellow.

  • If your image is too blue, create a single anchor point in the curves graph and pull the curves graph line so that it is slightly up and left from its original position.
  • If your image is too yellow, do just the opposite to correct the color: pull the curves graph line so that it is down and right.