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Lesson 2: Layer Nuances

Advanced Adobe Photoshop Tutorials

Table of Contents

Layer clipping paths

Layers are the most essential tools in Photoshop, especially when creating collages, paintings, and other effects. Layer clipping paths are new to version 6.0. Before we can discuss them in full, I need to tell you about Fill layers . Also new to 6.0, a Fill layer is a layer that is filled with a solid color, pattern, or gradient.

To create a Fill layer, choose Layer > New Fill Layer or click on the black-and-white circle at the bottom of the Layers palette (Figure 2-1).

Figure 2-1: Create a Fill layer by clicking on this icon and choosing Solid Color, Gradient, or Pattern.

Figure 2-1: Create a Fill layer by clicking on this icon and choosing Solid Color, Gradient, or Pattern.

For this example, I'm going to choose Gradient Fill. The dialog box shown in Figure 2-2 appears.

Figure 2-2: The Gradient Fill dialog box.

Figure 2-2: The Gradient Fill dialog box.

Choose the gradient from the Gradient dropdown menu and the type of gradient you want: linear, radial, or a few other choices from the Style dropdown menu. Then you can choose the angle and scale for the gradient with the remaining choices.

After you click OK, you'll see a fill layer icon on your Layers palette (Figure 2-3).

Figure 2-3: The Fill layer icon on the Layers palette.

Figure 2-3: The Fill layer icon on the Layers palette.

If you want to change the position, color, scale, or type of gradient (Pattern or Color) at any time, simply double-click on the Fill Layer icon on the Layers palette.

The white square to the right of the Fill Layer icon is called a layer mask . We will discuss those later in this lesson. For now, let's move on to layer clipping paths.

The tools that are associated with layer clipping paths are the Shape and Pen tools (Figure 2-4).

Figure 2-4: The Shape and Pen tools on the tools palette.

Figure 2-4: The Shape and Pen tools on the tools palette.

When you choose the Shape tool, a few things are going to happen. First, you'll notice a change in the Options bar at the top of the screen. Yours should look like Figure 2-5.

Figure 2-5: The Options bar includes these items.

Figure 2-5: The Options bar includes these items.

I'm going to briefly explain what each item on this bar is, from left to right:

  1. Create New Shape layer : This option will create a layer clipping path, which is a vector shape. (Remember the brief discussion about vectors in Lesson 1.)
  2. Create New Work path : This option will allow you to draw a work path that will appear in the Paths palette. (We will discuss Work paths in a later lesson.)
  3. Create Filled region : This option will create a raster, or pixilated, shape. (Remember the brief discussion about rasters in Lesson 1.)
  4. You have your choice of lots of lines and shapes here.

Since this section is about layer clipping paths, I'm going to choose the Create New Shape layer option from the Options bar. To use this tool, simply click and drag anywhere on the canvas. When you let go of the mouse button, your shape will be visible and your Layers palette should look like Figure 2-6.

Figure 2-6: The new Shape layer is comprised of a Fill layer and a layer clipping path.

Figure 2-6: The new Shape layer is comprised of a Fill layer and a layer clipping path.

A Shape layer is comprised of two components: a Fill layer and a layer clipping path. The icon in the left section of the "Shape 1" layer is the Fill layer icon that I mentioned earlier in the lesson. To the its left is the layer clipping path thumbnail.

Essentially, a Shape layer is a layer that is filled with something; in this case, the layer is filled with the foreground color. If I deleted the layer clipping path, the foreground color, which happens to be red, would show throughout the layer. But because of the layer clipping path, the color appears only within the bounds of the path. Drawing more shapes on this layer would continue to reveal the color of the layer. These shapes in the layer clipping paths are vector objects (refer to Lesson 1 for the definition of vector).

Why You Need to Know About Blending Modes

As I mentioned earlier, Blending modes are awesome, but rather than having you take my word for it let me show you why. Blending modes control the way two layers affect one another. The Blending Mode dropdown menu is located at the top of the Layers palette (Figure 2-7).

Figure 2-7: The Blending modes are located at the top of the Layers palette.

Figure 2-7: The Blending modes are located at the top of the Layers palette.

There are a whole lot of mind-bending explanations about how each mode works, but I feel it best to show you a few so you can see for yourself. I'm starting with two pictures on two separate layers: flowers in buckets and a guitar. Figure 2-8, the first example, shows the layers in Normal mode (the default). I'm also including examples in Multiply , Screen , Overlay , Color Dodge , and Color Burn modes so you can get an idea of how the different modes work.

To apply a Blending mode (if you want to work along with me), all you have to do is get two images on two separate layers. Make the top layer active by clicking on it and then choose a Blending mode from the dropdown menu.

Figure 2-8: Guitar and flowers with several Blending modes applied.

Figure 2-8: Guitar and flowers with several Blending modes applied.

Blending modes are different from opacity. Blending modes control the way the colors in each layer affect one another, while opacity simply makes the active layer more transparent.

The Multiply Blending mode is often used when creating shadows because it makes the shadow blend with the object it is cast upon. The Screen Blending mode is a great tool for color correction. If you have a dark picture, simply make a duplicate of the image in the Layers palette and set the top layer's Blending mode to Screen. Watch those details come alive!

Adjustment Layers

Just as layers are essential for keeping images separate, Adjustment layers are vital when doing color changes and corrections. I want you to take a look at some options located under the Image > Adjust submenu. (In order for this menu to be active, you must have a file open.). Figure 2-9 shows the menu.

Figure 2-9: The Adjust submenu contains all color adjustment tools.

Figure 2-9: The Adjust submenu contains all color adjustment tools.

Now click on the little black and white circle at the bottom of the Layers palette (Figure 2-10).

Note to Photoshop 5.5 users: You will not see this menu at the bottom of your Layers palette. You should Command-click (Mac) or Control-click (PC) on the New Layer icon to reach the Adjustment Layer dialog box.

Figure 2-10: The Adjustment Layer menu at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Figure 2-10: The Adjustment Layer menu at the bottom of the Layers palette.

Notice any similarities between the two menus? Of course you do! This menu at the bottom of the Layers palette contains all of the color adjustment tools that appear on the Adjust submenu. If you were to click on one of the choices in Figure 2-10, a new layer would be created that would affect the color of the image only. And what do you think this new layer would be called? But of course! It's an Adjustment layer! But wait: you haven't been exposed to the sheer genius of this layer yet, so let me be the one to show it to you.

Open any old image and choose the Curves Adjustment layer from the dropdown menu at the bottom of the Layers palette. After choosing Curves, you will see the Curves dialog box, which will look somewhat like Figure 2-11. (I say somewhat because by default the box has a diagonal 45 degree line going through it.)

Figure 2-11: The Curves dialog box.

Figure 2-11: The Curves dialog box.

I want you to click and drag inside the box containing the 45 degree line until the curve resembles the one in Figure 2-11. Then watch what happens to your picture. Then click OK. Pretty cool, huh? This is what mine looked like (Figure 2-12).

Figure 2-12: A picture of a dune before the Curves Adjustment layer is applied, and after.

Figure 2-12: A picture of a dune before the Curves Adjustment layer is applied, and after.

The beauty of this type of layer isn't what I showed you in Figure 2-12. The best part is that these adjustments can be turned on and off, deleted, or redone because they are on their own layer (Figure 2-13).

Figure 2-13: The Curves Adjustment layer is called "Curves 1" in the Layers palette.

Figure 2-13: The Curves Adjustment layer is called "Curves 1" in the Layers palette.

The "eye" icon at the left of the layer will toggle the layer on and off. That way you can see what the layer looked like before and after adjustments. The next icon is similar to the Fill layer icon, but it has a curve inside it (for Curves Adjustment layer). And the layer will automatically be named for the kind of Adjustment layer it is. The blank white box between the Curves icon and the name of the Layer is a layer mask , which we will be discussing next. To make further adjustments to this layer, you need only double-click on the Adjustment Layer icon.

Note to Photoshop 5.5 users: Your Adjustment layer will look very similar to the one in Figure 2-13. There will not be a Curves Adjustment layer icon. Instead, you will see a black and white circle on the right hand side of your layer.

Layer Masks

I've pointed out layer masks a couple of times during this lesson. A layer mask is the white box that automatically appears next to a Fill layer and an Adjustment layer as shown in Figure 2-14.

Figure 2-14: Layer masks automatically appear next to Fill layers and Adjustment layers (of all kinds, not just Curves).

Figure 2-14: Layer masks automatically appear next to Fill layers and Adjustment layers (of all kinds, not just Curves).

Although layer masks are applied when you create Fill and Adjustment layers, they can be applied to any transparent layer. To do this, click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette (Figure 2-15).

Figure 2-15: Click on the Layer Mask icon to add a mask to any transparent layer.

Figure 2-15: Click on the Layer Mask icon to add a mask to any transparent layer.

When you are working in a mask, you can use only these colors: black, white, and shades of gra y. Did you notice that the mask is totally white? That's because the whole layer is being revealed .

These are guidelines you need to remember when working with masks:

  • Black hides
  • White reveals
  • Gray makes the layer semitransparent
  • To get a clearer picture, imagine that you have a piece of black mat board. If you were to lay this board over a picture, would you be able to see through the board? No, of course not. The same is true with a Layer mask. If you took scissors and cut a hole in the board, the picture would be revealed.
  • Take a look at Figure 2-15 to see what icon is next to the "eye" icon in the Layers palette. It is the Layer Mask icon, which indicates that you are working within the mask, not the actual layer. (If you're working within the layer, you will see a paintbrush icon.) Now you can paint with black, white, and shades of gray to hide or reveal parts of your layer (Figure 2-16).

Figure 2-16: Black hides the layer completely while gray makes it semitransparent. On the right, you see what the Layer mask looks like in the Layers palette.

Figure 2-16: Black hides the layer completely while gray makes it semitransparent. On the right, you see what the Layer mask looks like in the Layers palette.

What Are Layer Styles?

Do you remember layer effects from Photoshop 5.0 and 5.5? They're gone in version 6, but have been renamed Layer Styles . Adobe has also added a new palette where you can save your styles. Layer Styles are found at the bottom of the Layers palette on the left (Figure 2-17).

Figure 2-17: The Layer Styles icon is located in the bottom left of the Layers palette.

Figure 2-17: The Layer Styles icon is located in the bottom left of the Layers palette.

If you click on the Layer Styles icon, you'll see a wondrous array of effects such as drop shadow , bevel and emboss , and pattern overlay , to name just a few.

Figure 2-18 shows the Drop Shadow Layer Style. It's a huge dialog box (the figure only shows the main portion).

Figure 2-18: The "nuts and bolts" of the Drop Shadow Layer Styles dialog box.

Figure 2-18: The "nuts and bolts" of the Drop Shadow Layer Styles dialog box.

You have lots of options in this dialog, a couple of which we covered earlier in this lesson. You can choose a Blending mode and the opacity of your shadow. Click on the black box to bring up the color picker and choose any color you want for the shadow.

  • Angle is the direction of the light source; if you check Use Global Light , every layer that uses the Drop Shadow layer effect will use the same light source. This is great if you're trying to do a realistic collage from different pictures.
  • Distance is how far the shadow is from the object.
  • Spread intensifies the shadow while size blurs it.

As with many effects in Photoshop, Layer Styles work only on transparent layers. And they work on the whole layer. Let me show you what I mean. Figure 2-19 is a picture of a rubber ducky on a white background. Looking at the picture, you'd think the shadow would appear only around the ducky. But this is not the case.

Figure 2-19: The Drop Shadow Layer Style is applied to the whole layer.

Figure 2-19: The Drop Shadow Layer Style is applied to the whole layer.

This is because there are still white pixels surrounding the image of the duck. I must delete those pixels before I can make the shadow appear behind the duck. The easiest way to do this is to use the Magic Wand.

Figure 2-20 shows a much more radical ducky (one that Sesame Street's Ernie would have loved, I'm sure).

Figure 2-20: Five Layer Styles have been applied to Layer 1.

Figure 2-20: Five Layer Styles have been applied to Layer 1.

The coolest thing about Layer Styles (remember, this feature is new to Photoshop 6) is that if you come up with a combination you like, you can save it in the Styles palette! Here's how.

Make the layer containing all the effects active (in this case, Layer 1) then click on the New Style icon in the Styles palette. The new style will automatically appear in the palette (Figure 2-21).

Figure 2-21: The combination of Layer Styles from Figure 2-20 has been added to the Styles palette.

Figure 2-21: The combination of Layer Styles from Figure 2-20 has been added to the Styles palette.

Now anytime I want to use the psychedelic bubble style, I just have to click.

Our next lesson covers the History palette. Remember when there was only one undo? The History palette gives you lots of them, but that's not the only cool thing about it.

Your instructor will be checking the message board for your questions and comments.

Other Resources

Try Real World Photoshop 6: Industrial Strength Production Techniques by David Blatner and Bruce Fraser.

If you're looking for something a little less advanced, try Photoshop 6 for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, by Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas.

Also, check out these sites:

www.photoshopuser.com -- Become a member!
www.planetphotoshop.com -- Contains resources and tutorials
www.designsbymark.com -- Tutorials and tips gurus.onlinedesignschool.com -- Tutorials and tips

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