Working in Layers is fundamental to working in Photoshop because it enables you to work non-destructively and gives you incredible power to control the appearance of each and every part of your image as well as the ability to composite images. If you don't work in Layers then every change or adjustment you make immediately changes the corresponding pixels. The more changes, the more often the pixels are modified, sometimes undoing and-or redoing earlier changes. With each change the quality of the pixels may be degraded slightly. Working in Layers ultimately is more efficient and can yield a higher-quality output since the changes are only applied to the pixels once when you output the image; that's what we mean by non-destructive. There are two types of layers: Pixel Layers and Adjustment Layers. Pixel Layers contain, as you might guess, pixels, which means they control the content or subject matter in your image. The Background Layer is a Pixel Layer. Adjustment Layers affect the way those pixels look, making them darker, lighter, more or less contrasty, changing their color, et cetera. Now matter what the subject matter, Adjustment Layers just affect the subject's appearance. So if I were to add a Hue-Saturation Adjustment Layer right now, and I'm going to just change the Hue dramatically, and yes it's making it ugly, but we're not going to worry about that right now, all I've done is to change the way the image looks. Of course I could add any of the adjustments and if I want to change my mind about it I can open up the Adjustment again and turn it closer to the way it was originally, or I could have even deleted the Layer. Pixel Layers control what you see and Adjustment Layers control how the image looks. You can have multiple layers of pixels and adjustments. The Eyeball Icon controls whether that Layer is visible or not. When the Layers are in normal Blend Mode, right up here, whatever is on the topmost Pixel Layer and has its Eye Icon visible is what you're going to see. It's just as if you had a stack of prints. You see whichever one is on top. If I click here and turn this Layer on, this is another Pixel Layer, and now all we see is that Layer. If I were to cut a hole in this Layer then I would see the image underneath. I'm going to add a Layer Mask quickly to this Layer and essentially cut a hole in it to show you exactly what I mean. We'll talk about using Layer Masks in detail in another movie, but you can see as I'm working that I'm revealing the image that was underneath. If I turn this off there's that underneath image. I'm going to turn off the visibility of this Layer and now we're going to look at a Layer that is mostly transparent but just has a few pixels on it, the layer with the birds. If I turn off the visibility the birds disappear because this is a composite image. Now when I turn it on the birds reappear. There are other Blending Modes, other than Normal, that you might use and we talk about those in a different movie. The Blending Modes determine how the Layers interact with each other. Adjustment Layers, such as the Hue-Saturation Layer that we made, affect all the layers beneath them but not layers that are above them. As we mentioned in the movies on Adjustments, you also have the option to clip an Adjustment Layer to a Pixel Layer beneath it so that that Adjustment Layer only affects that one layer rather than all the layers beneath it. Note that you can make Adjustment Layers from the Layers Palette by using the half-black half-white Icon and choosing any of the different adjustments, or from the Adjustments Panel as we saw in the Adjustments movie, or by coming up here to Layer, New, Adjustment Layer. The problem with coming up to Layer, New, Adjustment Layer is that it's all too easy to accidentally go to Image, Adjustments, and make your adjustments there. If you make them here they're made directly on the pixels without all the advantages of layers, so I highly recommend you get in the habit of making your Adjustment Layers from the Adjustment Panel or from this Icon in the Layers Panel. One other thing you need to know about Layers is that every layer has an Opacity Slider and you can turn it up or down. I'll use the Layer with the zebra on it to show you this. When I click the Opacity I'm going to make the Layer translucent. The Opacity Slider works with both Pixel Layers and with Adjustment Layers to tone back the effect. You can also reorder Layers by clicking on them and dragging them into a different position. Learning to use Layers will increase your power in Photoshop exponentially.
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