Have you ever wondered how people achieve such great results with Photoshop? While there are many different image editing techniques, there's one tool Photoshop professionals use with almost every project: layers. Learning how to use layers is probably the most important thing you can do to become better at Photoshop. In this lesson, we'll talk about how layers work, the different types of layers, and the basics of creating and using layers.
If you'd like to follow along with the lesson, you can download our example file. We're planning to send this file as an email attachment and post it on the Web.
What are layers?
You can think of layers as transparent panes of glass stacked on top of one another, which allow different parts of each layer to show through. There are many types of layers you'll use in Photoshop, and they fall into two main categories:
- Content layers: These layers contain different types of content, such as photographs, text, and shapes.
- Adjustment layers: These layers allow you to apply adjustments to the layers below them, such as saturation or brightness. Adjustment layers are a type of nondestructive editing because they don't actually change anything about the original image.
When using layers, it may be helpful to turn individual layers on and off to see how they affect the image. You can do this by clicking the eye icon next to each layer name.
Click the eye icons in the interactive below to practice turning different layers on and off. Notice how hiding content layers like the Background layer has a more noticeable effect than hiding adjustment layers like the Adjust Levels layer.
Why use layers?
At this point, you may be wondering why you even need to use layers. Wouldn't it just be easier to work with everything in your image at once? The truth is, layers give you an amazing amount of flexibility and control because you can edit each layer independently from the rest of the image. Once you become comfortable with layers, you'll use them all the time.