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Understanding photoshop layers
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Eddie Russell


Eddie Russell
In this lesson, we'll learn how to create and utilize layers in our digital paintings. OK, so we just wrapped up learning about color and how we can mix that color here on our screen. Now, at this point I've got the project file zero five underscore begin open in front of me, and I'm going to bounce over to the layers panel. Notice that this is a brand new fresh document, and we've only got one layer. It's our background layer. This is the layer that's created by default any time we create a new document. Now, if you remember when we created a new document earlier, we had the option to specify the contents of the background being white. That's why this background layer is filled with this white color. Now, there's a little eyeball next to it and normally, if we click on that eyeball, we could actually hide the layer. But you'll notice here that I can't do that right now. We can't hide a background layer. So there's a little padlock here indicating that the background layer is locked. Now, if I were to grab my brush and paint on the background layer and then erase it with the eraser tool, notice what happens. It's leaving white wherever I erase. That's because white is set to my background color. If I were to come over here and change the background color that I have, let me give it this red color, and leaving my eraser set here, notice what happens when I try to erase now. I'm actually painting red. So I'll hit D and switch back to my default, and we'll just erase away the rest of that. Now, we can unlock the background layer here by simply clicking on the little padlock and dragging it down to the trash can button. Now, in doing that we can actually come over and hide the layer now. So what we're seeing here is known as Photoshops transparency grid. Any time you see this grey and white box grid, you'll know that transparency is currently being applied in that area. So we have no pixels that have any color applied to them. If we come over and reveal that hidden layer, you'll see that white is reapplied. Now, if we come in and paint a little bit of black and use our eraser tool to try to erase that, what happens? Now that that layer, that background layer's not locked, were actually erasing away the black and the white revealing that transparency grid here. So I'm just going to hit X on my keyboard and paint that back in with white. There we go. All right, so we've got this white layer floating around here. Let's give it some other layers to join it here in the layers panel. Let's create some new layers. We can create them with this new layer button right here. Now, in clicking this you'll notice that a new layer pops up titled Layer 1 right above that. And in the thumbnail preview here, we actually have that transparency grid. We hide our white layer. You can see that the new layer comes in, and it has nothing but transparent pixels on it. Let me go ahead and show you what happens when we Alt click the new layer button. Here we actually get some options for that. We can actually name the layer here. We can apply a color to it. Let's give it a red color. We also have blend mode settings very similar to the ones that we saw when we were looking at the brush tool. We can actually change the opacity of all contents on this layer right from the get go when we create the layer right here with this slider. Now, all of those things we can actually do once the layer's created here. The opacity slider is right up here in the top right hand corner, and we can actually name the layer just simply by double clicking on the layer name. You can see that we get that little entry. Let's just type in paint. All right, great. So we've looked at a couple ways to create new layers here. Now, let's go ahead and just drag these layers around because we can reorder these layers in our layers panel just simply by dragging them and dropping them. Now, honestly, the best way that you can look at layers here is a series of transparent pieces of paper or transparencies. So we can create our image in Photoshop on multiple layers here simply by stacking them and arranging the order of the layers. We'll look at an example here in just a moment. But I want to show you a couple other features. A lot of times you'll get a lot of layers here in your layers panel, and it'll be really hard to arrange them or navigate through them. Let me go ahead and show you how one way we can actually organize our layers. We can actually create a layer group. And you can see that button is right here next to the new layer button. Creating that just pops in a little folder that has a little arrow we can twirl next to it. But right now, there's no layers in there so let's go ahead and move this layer and this layer into the group. I just control clicked that second layer. So we'll drag those up here, and now they actually are inside that layer group. So if we twirl that little arrow you'll see here that we can actually collapse the layers that actually live in that group. So this is a really great way to actually organize the layers in your layer panel. We can actually double click again on the layer group name and call that color layers maybe? We can also Alt click on that button again from the bottom of this panel to bring up the new group options here. So we'll cancel that for right now. Now, let's go ahead and take a look at maybe this paint layer again. And up at the top you can see here we have the blend modes. Again, very similar to the ones we had on the brush tool. Hopefully, you got to play with those some because I'm not going to go into those in this course. But let's go ahead and look at these buttons below that. These are various ways that we can lock that layer. You see here that this padlock, in clicking that, we can make no changes to that layer. We can't paint on it. We'll get an error message. We can't move it around. Now, let me unlock that here, and I'm just going to paint a little bit. Let me just hit X to bring the black to my foreground, and we'll just paint in a shape here. So when I mention moving things around on a layer, I should probably go ahead and show you the move tool here in Photoshop. Up until now I've been using it to point things out, but it's right here. It's this little black arrow. This tool is used to move all of the objects that are on a currently selected layer. So you can see here we have this shape. We can actually click and drag and move that around our layer here. But this next locking button, if we click that, it's going to prevent us from moving anything on the layer. Now, we can grab or brush tool, and we can continue to add to that layer or even our erase tool and we can erase away from it. But we can't actually move anything on that layer when it's locked directionally. Now, to contrast that, we actually can lock just the pixels on the layer so that we cannot erase or modify those pixels. Now, we could grab our move tool by hitting the keyboard shortcut V and we can still move them around on the layer, but we can't paint or erase on those pixels. Now, the last type of lock here is a transparency lock. I'm going to hide our white layer here just to show you this. Now, the transparency lock is pretty neat. Because what that does is it locks any pixels that Photoshop sees on a layer that are transparent. So we can't modify those at all. So let me go ahead and grab my brush tool here. And we'll just select a color. Let me grab a red color. Notice what happens when I go to paint on this layer that has the transparency locked, we actually only apply paint where there are not transparent pixels. So that's what the transparency locks going to do. Now, I'm going to bring that white layer back here, and let me go ahead and undo that stroke here. Now, that we have looked at that, there's actually a lot more options here in the layers panel. We can actually come in and do things like double click on a Layer to apply a layer style. You can see that there are a lot of different layer styles here. Again, there's a lot of options. We're not going to go into all those. The fill percentage here is actually to control the contents of the layer and ignore the layer styles. So it works like opacity except it's going to basically only effective the pixels on the layer, not the effects. Experiment with that if you want to. Down here we have some options for adjustment layers which, again, we're not going to get into in this course. We have layer mask which we we'll talk about here in just a little bit. And then, we have our layer styles right there. Now, the one last thing I want to show you about the layers panel here is how we can create a clipping layer. Now, this is pretty cool so I want to go ahead and create a new layer above our paint layer and I'm going to hold down my Alt key and click the area between those two layers. So you can see here I get a little bitty, a little cursor change when I mouse over that with my Alt key held. It' looks like a white circle overlapping a gray circle. Let me just click that and you'll notice here that now this layer has a little arrow pointing to the layer below it. What we have done is we've clipped this layer to the layer below. Look at that kind of like we have paper clipped the two together. So now, anything we paint on this layer is only going to be visible where the pixels are not transparent on the layer below. So if we come in and paint, you'll see that the paint is only visible where we have the black pixels on that paint layer below. Now, if we want to unclip that, we can Alt click that same area. And you can see that those pixels were all painted but all of them that are not overlapping the layer below that are just hidden. Now, we're going to look at a workflow that utilizes this here towards the end of the lesson, but I just wanted to introduce you to this concept. Now, let me go ahead and open up a file here. I'm going to hit Control O on my keyboard, and let's open this creature layers file. Now, this is an asset that was used in the Getting Started with Photoshop cs5. Excuse me, Getting Started with Digital Painting in Photoshop cs5. Now, that course is actually probably a logical next step for you after you've gone through this course. We'll get a lot more in-depth with some of the features and some of the workflows that go into creating a piece like this. But I want to show you what's going on over here in the layers panel. If we look over here, there's actually two layer groups here. You can see in the colors group we have our creature separated on one layer, and we have a background texture painted on another layer here. Now, in the hidden group above that, let me go ahead and hide our colors. You can see here that we have a couple of different sketches here that we're used to paint that image. You can see kind of an initial sketch that is actually a locked with a lower opacity, and then we have more of a refined sketch. And again, we have our colors that were based on that refined sketch. So that's an example how we can implement layers in a digital painting. Now, feel free, at this point, to explore that layers panel some. Practice creating layers, deleting layers, and using some of the different features that I've just demonstrated for you. So in this lesson we'll continue on where we're leaving off here, and we're going to look at Photoshops history and how we can use that history to our advantage.
In this collection of lessons we will learn basic terms, definitions and workflows for digital painting in Photoshop CS5. We’ll start off by covering how to create and save new documents as well as how we can navigate around inside them. We'll then take a look at two of the most basic tools for digital painting being the brush tool and eraser tool so you begin creating artwork right away. After that, you’ll learn about several other features such as layers, selections and masks that will add a new dimension to your digital painting experience. And to wrap up this project, we'll go over one possible workflow for painting a digital image.