91. About Layers and the Layers Palette
92 Create a New Image Layer
93 Create a Layer Filled with Color, Gradient, or Pattern
94 Create an Adjustment Layer
163 Mask an Image Layer
All images in Photoshop Elements have at least one layer, the Background layer. You will see this layer with any new image that you open in Photoshop Elements, including photos that you import from a digital camera. The Background layer is always locked, which means that you cannot change the stacking order, blend mode, or opacity of the Background layer in an image. You also cannot delete pixels on the Background layer and make them transparent. If you try, those pixels are filled with the current background color. If you want to make any of these changes to that layer, you must first convert the Background layer to a regular image layer.
By adding additional layers to the image, you can stack elements of the image to create a more complex image. Each layer you add to your image is stacked on top of the previous layer. For example, if you have an image of your daughter in her Easter outfit on the Background layer, you can place a little white bunny in front of her feet by just putting the white bunny on the layer above the Background layer. If you have a layer above the white bunny that contains a brown bunny, you can position the brown bunny so that he sits in front of the white bunny. If you change the order of the layers, the white bunny appears in front of the brown bunny.
The objects on the uppermost layer appear in front of whatever is on the lower layers.
You keep track of the layers in your image using the Layers palette. But first, let me explain the types of layers you might find there:
These various types of layers are listed in the Layers palette in the order they are stacked in your image, from bottom to top. If the image contains a Background layer, you will always see the Background layer on the bottom of the list because it is the first layer in your image. If you've converted a Background layer to a regular layer, it might appear with the name Layer 0 in the Layers palette. After it has been converted, the former Background layer can be moved up in the layer stack to appear in front of the layers below. It can also be renamed to reflect its contents.
The layer that is highlighted in the Layers palette is the layer you are currently working on; it is called the active layer. Typically, the changes you make affect only that layer of the image. You can switch between layers in the image by clicking the desired layer in the Layers palette. You change the order of the layers in the palette by clicking a layer and dragging it up or down within the Layers palette.
Each layer in the Layers palette contains information about that particular layer. A layer is visible in the image when the Visible icon (the eye) displays in the left column. Keep in mind that, even though the layer is marked as visible, you might not see its contents if an upper layer contains data that blocks all or part of the lower layer.
The Edit icon (a paintbrush icon) displays next to a layer when you click the layer on the Layers palette; it indicates that the layer is ready for editing. If a layer is fully locked, the Lock icon displays to the right of a layer's name. The Background layer is always fully locked (until you convert it to a regular layer). When the layer is fully locked, you cannot change its blend mode, opacity, or layer style. You also can't make any changes to the layer or remove it from the image. You fully lock a layer by clicking the Lock All button at the top of the Layers palette. Click the icon again to unlock the layer.
You can also lock just the transparency of a layer. When a layer is partially locked, you can edit only the fully opaque pixels on that layeryou cannot modify the semi-opaque areas or change their opacity level. Text layers and shape layers are partially locked by default, and you can't change their transparent pixels unless you simplify the layer first (convert it to raster data.) The Lock Transparency icon looks like a small X and appears in the same place the Lock All icon would appear if the layer were fully locked. To partially lock a layer, click the Lock Transparency button at the top of the Layers palette. Click the icon again to unlock the layer.
When you select a layer in the Layers palette, any layers linked to the active layer display the Link icon (chain). When layers are linked, they work together as a group. You can make adjustments to all linked layers simultaneously. You can also move, copy, rotate, resize, skew, or distort the linked layers as if they were one. See 101 Group and Organize Layers for more information on linking layers and organizing them within the Layers palette.
The Layers palette uses various icons to show which characteristics apply to each layer in the image.
At the top of the Layers palette are some buttons that provide shortcuts to common layer commands. You've already learned about the Lock and Lock All buttons; the other three buttons enable you to create a new image layer, add an adjustment or fill layer, or delete the selected layer. New layers are inserted above the current (active) layer in the palette, so always check to see which layer is active before clicking one of these buttons.
When you add a layer to your image, you have the option of setting the Opacity of the layer. The Opacity setting appears on the Layers palette and indicates how opaque or transparent the contents of that layer are. For example, if the layer has a default Opacity value of 100%, anything in that layer completely covers contents in layers below (assuming that the contents on that layer are completely opaqueif they are partially opaque, the Opacity of the layer effectively lowers the pixel opacity even more). If you want to make a layer more transparent so that it will only partially cover the pixels on layers below, reduce the Opacity value of the layer by dragging the slider on the Layers palette.
Another way you can change how an upper layer's data affects the layers below it is through that layer's blend mode. By default, the blend mode for each new layer is set to Normal, which means that layer's pixels block data, but do not blend with the data on layers below. You can change a layer's blend mode by activating that layer in the Layers palette and selecting the blend mode you want to use from the Mode list at the top of the Layers palette. See 111 About Tool Options for a description of each blend mode and how it causes the pixels on the layer to blend with pixels below.