Layer Palette BASICS. I have yet to figure out EVERYTHING about the Layers Palette, but hey, it’s early yet in this blog. Let’s just talk about some beginning stuff. (Be sure you have read my Palettes Intro, two entries back, for this all to make sense.) I've tried as much as possible to give you a screen shot with red circles to point out which function of the layers palette I'm talking about -- remember that each picture will enlarge if you click on it.
Ok, here is what the layers palette looks like. By default it will be on the right side of Photoshop screen, should automatically be open when you open Photoshop. If you don't see it, go to "Window > Layers."
Within the layers palette, you can: organize, create new, duplicate, and apply attributes to layers.
For most edits, only one layer can be edited at a time. To edit a layer, it must be the active layer. (Click on the layer’s name in the Layer Palette and its area will highlight – all the layers are gray, except for the active one, which is blue.)
If from the toolbox, the Move Tool is selected and the boxes in the Tool Options bar next to “Auto Select Layer” and “Show Bounding Box” are checked, clicking on a layer in the Layers Palette will select that layer within your image and you will see its bounding box appear. This is an easy way to select a layer when clicking on it in the image with the mouse is difficult because of transparency or close proximity to other elements. (In this image, the red "E" at the top right is the selected layer, you can see its bounding box. I have the "move tool" in a red circle, and the two boxes that should be checked in a red oval.)
The eye icon on the left of each layer name means that layer is visible in your image (lower circle on left in picture.) If you want to hide a layer for a while, click in that space – the eye disappears and the layer is no longer visible (but it’s still there.) When you want to view the layer again, click in the eye area and the eye will reappear as the layer reappears.
If you want to lock a layer – prevent it from being moved or changed – there is a space in the Layers Palette to accomplish this. (See picture, at right -- the top red oval.) There are four icons that show locking options, to the right of the word “Lock:” Holding your mouse over these icons will show a pop-up that tells you what they do – lock transparent pixels, lock image pixels, lock position, and lock all. (I think that “lock position” is REALLY handy once you are happy with an element’s placement – so you don’t accidentally move it when trying to move something else! And you can always unlock it later if you change your mind. If you DO accidentally move a perfectly placed unlocked layer, use Edit > Undo.) Once you choose a locking option, a lock icon will appear to the right of that layer’s name.
To duplicate a layer, right click within the layer’s box, choose “Duplicate Layer” from the pop-up, and hit “ok” (or enter). This is nifty for (1) making a light or slightly transparent layer darker, or (2) to avoid having to drag and drop an element multiple times (like an eyelet you know you’re going to have four of,) then just hold mouse over the original element, click and drag the duplicate away, (3) making a copy of the "background" layer that you can actually work with and move around.
To change opacity of a layer, select the layer and use the transparency slider at the top right of the box. Play with the percentage until you like what you get. (The transparency can be changed over and over while you are working with the image, and even once you save out of Photoshop and get back into it (having saved as and using a Photoshop file), you are able to up the transparency of that layer, those pixels aren’t lost! [At least in the images I was just playing with!])
Drop shadow functions are accessed by the pop up menu at the bottom of the layers palette (see image, left.) When you’ve added an effect to a layer (like a drop shadow), that effect shows up below the gray layer level as a white level (see image, right.) Double-click on this white level to bring up the Layer Styles options box to change it. A drop shadow effect can be deleted in this box by deselecting the checked box on the left. I’ll talk more about drop shadows in a later entry.
You can create a new, blank layer by clicking on the “Create a New Layer” icon to the left of the trash can. (It looks like fanned paper.)
When you create a new layer by dragging from another Image, the placement of that layer – both in the Layers Palette, AND on the image -- depends on which layer is currently active (if it’s at the top or bottom of list.) If I have a 20 layer deep document I’m working with and the lowest layer on the list (thus the lowest layer in the image) is selected, my new layer will be located just above the currently selected layer. If you want your new layer to go to the top, make sure before you drag it on to your image, you have the top layer selected.
When a new layer is created (or an element dragged over to the image, thus creating a new layer), it will automatically be given a new name based on what number layer it is that has been CREATED in this image during this Photoshop session, not what layer comes next numerically. (If I have 5 layers, create #6, #7, and #8, then delete those 3, the next layer I create will be #9, even though there are only 5 layers currently in the palette.)
Sometimes you can’t move a background layer because it’s locked, but you CAN duplicate the layer with right click > duplicate. Then you can move around the duplication.
There is an entire menu section in the file menu for the layers palette – it’s the 4th one over, called “Layer.” I’m not going to get into all the options right now, but I will point out that if you have an element selected you can go to “Layer > Arrange” and have a choice of 4 ways to move that layer around (bring to front, bring forward, send backward, send to back.) (See screen-shot at right for example.)