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Chapter 4. Introducing Web and Graphics Software > Layers and the Layer palette

Layers and the Layer palette

One of the most important palettes is the Layers palette. The elements that make up your graphics are held in layers — think of them as sheets of paper stacked one on top of another. But the big difference between layers and actual sheets of paper is that the layers can interact with each other. Some layers can be transparent so that layers underneath show through, or you can use blend modes (layer attributes that specify how a layer interacts with other layers below it) and opacity (the degree to which an object is not transparent) to blend the elements of your graphics together. Figure 4-5 shows the areas of the layers palette, and this list gives you a crash course in working with layers:

Figure 4-5: The Layers palette and its many features.


  • To create a new layer, just click the Create New Layer icon.

  • Duplicate layers by using any of these methods:

    • Select the layer you want to duplicate and press Ctrl+J (Windows) or ⌘+J (Mac).

    • Right‐click the layer you want to duplicate and choose Duplicate.

    • Click the layer you want to duplicate and drag down to the New layer icon.

  • Re‐order layers by dragging them higher and lower in the window: Click a layer that you would like to move in the stacking order and drag it up or down the stack.

  • Create new layers by using the Text or Shape tool, as follows:

    1. Click the Text tool (the large T in the toolbox).

    2. Begin typing in the workspace.

      The text appears on its own layer.

  • Delete a layer by selecting the layer to be deleted and then clicking the Delete Layer icon (which looks like a trash can).

  • Make a layer invisible by clicking the corresponding eye icon for the layer you would like to make invisible. To make it visible again, click the empty box where the eye icon used to be. (The eye disappears when the layer is invisible.)

Playing with layers

If you haven't worked with layers much, follow these steps to get started playing with blend modes and opacity and see what the different settings do:

  1. Open a photo image.

  2. Duplicate the layer. (See instructions in the “Layers and the Layer palette” section of this chapter.)

  3. Select the top layer and then select a blend mode from the drop‐down menu at the top of the Layers palette.

    By default it will have Normal selected; when you click the menu, you will see the other options, like Multiply, Lighten, Darken, and Soft Light (to name a few).

  4. Experiment with the different blend modes to see what they do.

You can also make multiple duplicate copies, use different blend modes on each, and then change the layer order or opacity on the different layers.

You can undo the changes you've made with the History palette, which shows a list of the actions you've done to the file. Open this by choosing Window⇨History. To step backwards, select the step in your process you'd like to go back to.

Remember: As long as you keep at least one layer that holds the original image, you can always delete layers that don't look so good.



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