PSDs & Layers in Photoshop.

I use Photoshop Elements 5. The Editor Window is the name of the main working window in Photoshop. That is where you will do the work on your picture.

The Photo Bin contains a thumbnail of each picture you loaded into Photoshop. The Layers Bin displays all the layers for whichever photo is in the Main Editor Window.

When you click on a photo in the Photo Bin, it becomes encased in a blue box, displays in the Main Editor Window and all of its layers will display in the Layers Bin. All three are interrelated.

The entire right column, containing both the “Arts and Effects Bin” and the “Layers Bin” is called the Palette Bin.

Refer back to this picture if you are not sure of something when I am directing you to these areas on any of my pages. You can download the picture using right click, save image. That way you can just open it on your computer rather than having to return here.

In Photoshop each picture is broken down into layers. A picture will begin its Photoshop life as a single layer.

As an example; this is the final picture

of this collection of layers.

It began life as the bottom layer. The picture is torn in half. Each side is a layer as well as having an underlying layer. All layers automatically align perfectly. The offset alignment in the above torn bike picture is intentional; not from misalignment by Photoshop.

Also, each piece of masking tape has its own layer. That way I can move them around, change the size and make other custom changes to each one individually.

The highest layer in the Layers Bin is the top layer in your picture. It will obscure whatever is beneath it in the other layers. It works just like having a stack of physical sheets of paper on your desk.

You can change the order of the stack by dragging any layer higher or lower in the Layers Bin. You can show through a layer by making it partially or fully transparent.

Photoshop Effects such as “Old Paper” create an extra layer automatically when you apply them.

Some effects will not allow you to apply them to the “Locked” Background layer. Linear Burn is one of those.

To create a nighttime scene you will use the Linear Burn effect.

The original layer of a picture will be the locked background layer unless you change it. That means many available effects cannot be applied to it. That is for your protection.

When I load a picture into Photoshop, the first thing I do is make a copy and turn off the locked background layer.

I recommend always maintaining one original layer of the photo you are currently editing.

That way you always have a backup just in case. I recommend that you turn off the locked background layer. When it is turned off it will not display in the Main Editor Window, thus you will not make changes to it.

Periodically watch to make sure you are not changing the locked layer. It is your insurance policy. In general the only layer that you are making changes to is the one highlighted in the Layers bin. There are exceptions to this rule. Cropping is an example of an exception; all layers will be cropped to maintain alignment.

You can recognize the locked layer by the padlock on the right side. And you’ll know it is off when you do not see the little eyeball to the left. Click in that square and you will see the eyeball change status each time you click.

Don’t be fooled, you can still do enough damage to the locked layer to lose it as an original. I stay away from it almost entirely and use it only for emergency backup. And then I make a copy of it rather than make changes to it.

There are exceptions. There are things you can do with it that will not change the layer; those effects will simply duplicate it for other purposes. These things you will learn as you go along.

“Drag and drop” is a term for clicking and holding your mouse button while the cursor hovers over an object you want moved; moving the mouse to a new location and then release. Whatever you clicked on will move to the new location. This is a general computer term.

As you work on the picture you will be creating layers. Some times you will manually create a layer; some times Photoshop creates a layer.

You can manually duplicate a layer in two ways. You can either drag and drop a layer from the Layers Bin to the “Create a New Layer” icon or right click and choose “Duplicate Layer.”

You can also create an empty layer merely by clicking on the “Create a New Layer” icon. The stars layer for the above nighttime scene is a good example of a reason to create an empty layer.

The only thing I have in that layer is the stars. When you work your photos this way, should a problem arise, you can simply delete that one layer rather than having to scrap the entire project. I learned this lesson the hard way. :) Now you don’t have to.

A Photoshop PSD file is one in which all the layers of a particular picture are saved just as you see them in the Layers Bin. When you’re working on a picture with more than one layer and click “File” and then “Save As”, Photoshop’s default is to save it as a PSD file. You will have to change that when you choose to save it as a jpg.

This is what a PSD which I have saved looks like on my computer screen.

Windows cannot open a PSD file so it does not appear as a thumbnail. That is why I store a thumbnail along with each PSD file. That way I have a visual of what it contains. When you reload the PSD, Photoshop opens it up with all the layers just like you last saw them.

One thing to note is that Control z does not work on a reloaded PSD file. You can only move forward. So before you do a final save to a PSD, realize there is no turning back once you close it out of Photoshop.

If you are unfamiliar with “Control-z” don’t worry about it right now. I describe it and its function on many of my pages.

I save the PSD as I go as well as the jpg; that way if something happens you have all the layers safe and sound; not just a jpg file which you would once again have to break down into the layers you had before the catastrophe.

The next day, when I look at any finished picture, I am not happy with it. Having the PSD file I easily reload it into Photoshop, make an adjustment, save both the new jpg and the new PSD and I’m done. Now the picture is perfect - - - until next time I see it. Catch my drift?

That’s all I can think of right now concerning layers & PSDs in Photoshop. If you have any questions or suggestions; please go to my contact page and write me. Thank you.

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