Layer groups provide a simple and quite intuitive way to create a sophisticated masking effect in Photoshop Elements. Any object placed on a layer, including photographic images and lines of editable text, can be used as the basis for masking any number of layer objects above it. Think of the lower, or base layer, as a window through which the upper layers are allowed to show through. So, for example, you could have a favorite fishing trip photo framed within the shape of a boat or fish, or a photograph of a forest placed within the word TREES (Figure 5.55). Once grouped, any layer within the group can be repositioned independently of the others, or the entire group can be linked and moved as one.
Figure 5.55. This project is composed of two layers: a photograph of cedar branches and the TREE text layer. The branches photo completely covers the text layer in the image on the left, but when grouped with the TREES layer, the branches peek through only where the text is visible.
To create a layer group
On the Layers palette, identify the layer that you want to use as your base layer (Figure 5.56).
Figure 5.56. In this figure, the TREES text layer serves as the base layer. It will soon be grouped with the branches layer (Layer 1), which is selected directly above it.
Your layers must be arranged so that the layer (or layers) you want to group are directly above the base layer.
Still on the Layers palette, select the layer above the base layer; then from the Layer menu choose Group with Previous (Figure 5.57), or press Ctrl+G.
Figure 5.57. Choose Group with Previous to create a layer group.
The two layers are now grouped, and the upper layer is visible only in those areas where the base layer object is present.
On the Layers palette, the base layer's name is underlined, and the grouped layer's name and thumbnail are indented. An icon, placed to the left of the thumbnail, further identifies grouped layers (Figure 5.58).
Figure 5.58. A Grouped Layer icon appears after a layer group is created.
To ungroup layers
On the Layers palette, select the base layer.
From the Layer menu, choose Ungroup, or press Shift+Ctrl+G.