An Almost Pain-free Introduction to Layers


This post was published February 3rd, 2010 by Dory on Blissfully Domestic in Photography.

*in a fierce, booming WWF voice* Howduhya like me now?!?! Huh?!?! HUH?!?!

By the way, you should run over and leave a quick comment on my post. It’ll help me perpetuate the rumor that I’m popular or something.

By the way squared, even if you don’t give a rat’s patootie about Photoshop, you should comment anyway. We don’t discriminate against non-Photoshoppers, so feel free to just say anything, such as what year you discovered Britney Spears was actually pretty lame. Or maybe just apropos of nothing, name any color a la that Facebook craze that reigned for six crazy days where we told the color of our bras and giggled like sixth graders. Don’t be boring and just red. Meh. Say, Burnt Carrot! Or, Used Coffee Grounds Sienna! Or, Open Herpes Wound Crust! Or… uh…

*runs out of the room*


Welcome to another edition of Photoshop Phriday with your hostess, Dory!

*applause sign lights up and the crowd goes wild*

By the way, if there’s anyone out there that’s all Photoshoppy, I would love for you to join in the fun and bring Photoshop Phriday to your bloggy casa. Just let me know. Or hold Glenda the Good Witch’s hand, click your heels together three times and chant, “There’s no place like blog, there’s no place like blog, there’s no place like blog…” Ya know, whatever. It doesn’t have to be a fancy shmancy lesson. Maybe you just Photoshop one of your images and throw up your before and after pic. That’s all. C’mon, play wiff me!

Anywho… buckle up… here we go.

An (Almost) Pain-free Introduction to Photoshop Layers

Let’s talk about a layer.

Hey, now, get back here! Let me at least try!


Now, a lot of people think this a big, hard, kind of spooky concept and turn off their brain as soon as someone tries to explain what a layer is. But if I can understand it, anyone can understand it. So stick with me on this.

A layer is like a transparency you put on an overhead projector.

Let’s pretend that you’re holding two sheets of transparencies.

And that I’m rich and famous and wearing a lavender tutu.

Draw a box with a red marker on one and on the other, draw a circle with a green marker.

Now put one on top of the other (your choice; go wild!) and you’ve just created two layers! Yay, you!

Ok, I’m going to open a flat image (that means one layer). See in the Layers palette, there’s just one layer called “Background.”

Oh, look, it’s me! Hi, me!

Let’s also greet my zit which is large enough to be its own entity.

Oh, Dory, you lament, what with all your mad Photoshop skillz, why on God’s polluted earth would you put up this photo without making that monster of a zit disappear?

Because I’m a lazy bum. Moving on.

See the button in the lower right hand corner that looks like a little garbage can? Ok, now see the button to the left of it? Ok, now be the button.

Or just click it and shun my little Zen vibe I had going there. Thanks a lot, there, Killjoy.

With that one little click, you’ve created a new layer! Go, you!

Did you ever draw a mustache and beard on someone’s picture with a Sharpie? You’re about to!

Before we draw, ‘D’ makes sure the default colors are on; black foreground, white background.

Now to illustrate how your layer works, we’re gonna draw on it. Grab the pencil tool. ‘B’ grabs the brush and Shift + B will switch that to the pencil tool.

You now have a virtual black marker in your hand. How’s it feel? Mighty and powerful? Fabulous.

Just how big do you want that marker to be? Right click anywhere in the image to bring up this handy, dandy little box. I chose 20px, and 100% will make it not fuzzy at all. Now let’s have some fun! Go ahead and draw away!

Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Very nice. I now feel very manly and rugged. I have an irresistible urge to scratch myself inappropriately and belch loudly.

See the eyeball next to our new layer? Click that.

The layer that we drew the mustache and beard disappeared! I am again my very feminine and facial-hair-free self. Well, mostly. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my ancestors for my polish heritage that means I have to get the proof of said heritage waxed off every 6-8 weeks.

I could go nuts here with all the mustache and chin hair and hot wax jokes, but you’re very busy and important and have many things yet to get done today. I can respect that. Moving on.

For my next trick, I’m going to show you yet another way to add a layer. There’s only roughly eleventy-jillion.

Ok, here’s my husband. Ain’t he a handsome feller, though?! I sure think so!

I grabbed the Marquee tool (shortcut ‘M’) to select Tom’s mustache and goatee. If you want to switch Marquee Shapes, Sh+M cycles through.

Next I hit Cmd-C to copy the selection and then go back to my original image and Cmd-V to paste it.

Oh, wow. WOW. That’s just nine kinds of WRONGNESS. It’s just sitting there stewing in its own WRONGNESS being WRONG.

But see how it automatically makes a layer for your pasted selection? Pretty groovy, huh?

Now click the eyeball next to Layer 1.

Just like I told you earlier, it’s like a stack of transparencies. The drawn mustache is under the real one, just like it shows in the palette.

In the Layers palette, where it says Layer 2, click and drag that layer so it’s below Layer 1 and drop it.

See, now the drawn mustache is on top of the real one!

Well, now you understand layers! I told you it wasn’t too scary!

THAT, however, is. *shudders*

Oh, see, now that’s just disturbing on so many different levels.

Speaking of levels… That’s what I’m going to talk about next time; Levels!

I just know I’m going to have nightmares about this.

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