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13 Working with Layers
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Working with Layers

Created by: Quiltress
Modified by: PSPUG Learning Center
and the Prof

Learning to use The Layer Palette and Layers is very easy. And, mastering the use of layers allows you to create exciting, unique and wonderful image.

Layers make it possible to edit different sections of your images without changing other sections. Think of layers as transparent sheets that can be placed in a stack allowing parts to show through or be covered up. The end image is a composite of all the sheets. You can add, delete, rearrange and edit layers with different tools. PSP allows you to view all layers together or hide individual layers.

We will be using the five images from the Download to explore and use Layers. The first image, basicexample.psp will give you a working image of five layers to learn using the various options available. The last four images will be used to create a very delightful image that combines each of the four other images.

Exploring the Layer Palette

Open the 13laybasic-01.psp image.

Let's explore the Layer Palette by using your mouse and placing it over various parts of the layer palette. (We will only discuss the basic features in this lesson. Those not discussed are advanced features which are presented in future tutorials.)

  • The Icon Bar:
    • Create Layer - creates new layer above highlighted layer
    • Delete Layer - deletes highlighted layer
  • The Layers:
    • The Layer Property: (Name)
    • On/Off Switch (eye glasses)
  • The Opacity Switch: (Currently set to 100)
  • The Mode Options: (Currently set to Normal)

When using RIGHT CLICK on a Layer, its Context Menu Appears and the following functions (operations) may be selected:

  • New Raster Layer: (Basic Drawing Layer)
  • New Vector Layer: (Layer to change curves)
  • New Adjustment Layer: (controls various color alterations of image)
  • Duplicate: Duplicates highlighted layer
  • Delete: Deletes highlighted layer
  • Properties... (Allows setting layer properties)
  • View ... Current or all layers
  • Merge ... Visible or Flatten all
  • Convert to Raster: If a layer is BACKGROUND will convert it to a Raster layer (though not listed, there is a transparent layer underneath the bottom layer).

Using the Layer Palette

Explore how each Layer Appears.

  • Turn Off All Layers: (Click on Eye Glass and it turns to a Red X)
    Note that you see a transparent layer.
  • Turn On each Layer, one at a time, to view the way the PSP image was created. (Click on the Red X, or on the layer wanted, and it returns to eye glasses to make the layer visible.)
  • You could also use the context menu, (right click and select VIEW || Current Only).

Then Right Click on a Layer for the context menu, and select PROPERTIES and see where you would enter a Name for that layer to identify it.


The Opacity Switch lowers the opacity of a layer. Doing so blends this layer with the layer below it. We will now blend this image in various ways and produce the basic color wheel.

There are two ways to use the Opacity Switch.

  • Place your mouse cursor on the switch at the right of the opacity area, hold mouse button down and drag the switch to change the opacity value.
  • Click on the switch and then use the ARROW KEYS to change the opacity value.

  • Next, Turn Off the BLACK layer (Click on eye glasses in black layer)
  • In the RED Layer, set Opacity to 50% using either the drag method or the arrows method.

Now, also Set the GREEN and BLUE Layers to 50% Opacity.

You have now blended the Red, Green, Blue Layers with the White Layer and created six new colors. If you use your Eye Dropper you will see these colors values. Play around with the Opacity Switch and you are able to create many variations on the basic color scheme.

If you would like a set of pastel colors set Red, Green and Blue Layers to 25% opacity.

Explore the MODE OPTIONS

In this exercise, we will explore how the Mode Options also blend the layers.

  • First, set all layers Opacity = 100%
  • Click in the Mode Options Area for the Options Menu
    • Normal will not blend the layer with those below
    • Each of the other Options will cause the layer to blend in a particular way dependent upon the colors used in that layer and those of the lower layers.
    • The best way to learn how each of these Options work is to just experiment with them by exploring different options and different combinations of options with various layers.
    • There are an unlimited number of possible outcomes.
    • Some outcomes will be spectacular, and some less so.
    • Some options with some color combinations will not produce much if any change in the layer.
    • Again, just experiment.

Three Examples:

  • First:
    • Set Red, Green and Blue Layers Mode Option = Lighten
    • Set the White Layer Mode Option = Soft Light
    • Turn ON the Black Layer and view the results.
  • Next:
    • Then turn OFF the Black Layer and view the results.
  • Third:
    • Then Set Red = Difference
    • Green = Difference
    • Blue = Dodge

These brief examples give you an basic idea of how layers, Opacity and Mode Options all for many creative results. Again, just experiment, explore and discover how these options will bring about wonderful results.

We will now use these skills with four separate pictures to create a very neat Picture.

Creating a Picture

We will create a Stormy Weather picture from four (4) separate pictures and using the Layer Blending Techniques discussed above. Open these four images from the download:

  • 13laybasic-02.jpg (Night Sky with Tree)
  • 13laybasic-03.jpg (Clouds)
  • 13laybasic-04.psp (lightning)
  • 13laybasic-05.psp (lighthouse)

  • Use: Window || Tile Vertically
  • Select Each image Individually
  • Use Shift + D to Duplicate it and not overwrite the original
  • Close the Original to preserve it

Again, use: Window || Tile Vertically

  • Select 13laybasic-03.jpg (Clouds)
  • Click on the 'Background Layer', hold down mouse button and drag to the 13laybasic-02.jpg (Sky with Tree) Image. Place mouse in the image and release button.
  • The Clouds image now covers over the Tree Image and has as a property 'Layer1'.
  • Double Click on that layer and in the Properties Menu, label it Clouds.
  • Double Click on the Background Layer and label it 'Tree'
  • Activate the 13laybasic-04.psp (lightning) image and drag it also to the 13laybasic-02.jpg (Tree) image.
  • Double click on that layer (layer2) and label it Lightning
  • Similarly, Activate the 13laybasic-05.psp (lighthouse) image and drag it to the 13laybasic-02.jpg (Tree) image.
  • Double click on that layer (layer3) and label it 'Lighthouse'
  • If you do not see the lightening and lighthouse on the clouds layer drag the clouds layer to be the second from the bottom layer (over the tree layer).
  • The four layers top to bottom:
    • Lighthouse
    • Lightening
    • Clouds
    • Tree

Let's create the picture by using various settings in the Mode Options and with the Opacity Switch.

  • First, Turn Off the Light House Layer and the lightning Layer to temporarily hide them and only see the Clouds (Click on the eye glasses in each of the two top layers)
  • Highlight the Clouds Layer
  • Use the Mover Tool and align the clouds to cover completely if necessary the Trees Layer

At this point, there are a number of options we could use to develop the picture. The following is one set:

  • Highlight the Clouds Layer
  • Set the Opacity Switch to about 68% (Click and hold on the switch and drag it. And, use the Arrows to refine setting.)
  • In the Mode Options, set to Lighten.

At some point, you may want to experiment with other Mode Options such as Saturation, Overlay, Soft Light, and Dodge (and lower opacity to around 50%). Also vary the opacity switch with settings. There are a number of Mode Options and Opacity settings that create most interesting pictures.

  • Highlight the lightning Layer and if it does not show up, then click on the eye glasses to turn it on
  • In the Mode Options, set to Lighten
  • Use the Mover Tool and move it to where you want on the picture. You might have to turn off the Clouds Layer first. Also, if other layers move, just use Control + Z to reset and start again.

At some point, you may want to experiment with other Mode Options and Opacity settings as well as where you position the lightning.

  • Highlight the Light House Layer and if necessary, turn layer on with eye glasses.
  • The Light House is too large for our perspective.
  • Make sure the Light House Layer is highlighted and use:
    • Image || Resize
    • Percent of Original = Checked
    • Width & Height = 50
    • Resize All Layers = Unchecked
    • Maintain Aspect Ration = Checked
    • Click on OK
  • Use the Mover Tool and move light house to where you want it.
  • Set Mode Option = Overlay
  • Set Opacity = 80
  • And, if wanted, move the lightning and Light house again to your suit your taste.

If you think you might like to work on this picture again, just save it now as a PSP file with a filename of your choice, such as Stormy.PSP

At a later point, you might decide to add Text to the picture. If you had not saved it as a PSP file, you could still add text. However, if you saved it as a PSP file, you could add a new layer, labeled Text, and then add any text you want with various colors and options available. There are endless possibilities.

Adding Text using the PSP file.

  • Add a new Top Layer Labeled 'Text'
  • Click on the TEXT TOOL
  • Click on your image for the Text Entry window
    • Name = Arial MT Black
    • Size = 18
    • Create as = Floating
    • Antialias = checked
    • Script = Western
    • Auto Kern = Checked
    • PSP6: In Text Effects, Click on the Single Box for the color wheel and select color = Red
    • PSP7: In Styles, Stroke = Null and Fill = Paintbrush and in Textures, both = Null. Click in the Fill Box for color wheel and set color to Red.
    • Enter Text: Stormy Weather
    • Click on OK
    • Move the Text to where you want it by positioning the mouse cursor over the text, hold down button and drag to position wanted.
    • Use Selections || Save to Alpha Channel to preserve this text selection.
    • If, in the Layer Palette you see a top layer 'Floating Selection' Right click on it and DEFLOAT which now sets the text in the Text Layer

At this point, you could just save the image again as a PSP file and then save it as a JPG file for use on a Web Page. However, there are two additional techniques to make the Text stand out just a bit that are fun to use at this point.

  • Add a new Top Layer Labeled 'Text Shadow1'
  • If the Text Selection is not showing, use: Selections || Load From Alpha the selection
  • We will use the Drop Shadow:
    • PSP6: Image || Effects || Drop Shadow
    • PSP7: Effects || 3D Effects || Drop Shadow
    • Color = Purple (255, 0, 255)
    • Opacity = 100
    • Blur = 40
    • Vertical and Horizontal Offset = 0
    • Click on OK
    • Add a New Shadow Layer
  • Again use the Drop Shadow with these settings
    • Color = White
    • Opacity = 100
    • Blur = 6
    • Vertical and Horizontal Offset = 1
    • Click on OK
    • Deselect (Control+D)
  • If you wish to move any part of picture, just use the mover tool on the respective image.

Once again, save your work as a PSP file in case you wish to make any additional changes. To use this image on a web page, you want to convert it to a GIF of JPG file. Often a GIF file size is less than a JPG file. However, sometimes the GIF file quality is less than a JPG file quality. You can save your PSP image as a GIF and then as a JPG file and compare the two for file size and quality.

As you learn the Ins and Outs of using layers, you will find many creative ways to develop images.

Here are some additional examples from Quiltress of using layers in making Buttons.

Using layers works great for making buttons. I first develop a Template PSP file.

  • I use a Background Layer,
  • An Image layer if desired,
  • and a Text Layer on top
  • I then save it as a Button Template.PSP file

Then, I create a button background color, Buttonize it. Then if I want an image I create that image. Finally, I create the Text I want with any enhancements such as shadows or cutout effects.

I then save that file as a GIF or JPG file to use on my Web Page. When I want a different background color, or image, or text, I just change that particular layer to reflect the changes.

The type of changes I might use are different Fonts for the text, perhaps adding a texture for the background color, or adding shadows and cutout effects as well.

There are many ways to use layers either in creating a picture or image, or creating a template. The more you experiment and explore the more you find your own unique style of using PSP.

Using a PSP file with layers, one also wants to know how to MERGE them when necessary for saving as a GIF or JPEG file. The following information will provide you some additional insights for using PSP.

  • To MERGE Layers, Use: Layers || MERGE
  • Method 1:
    • File || Save As and select either GIF or JPG and save with a file name wanted such as Stormy.gif or Stormy.jpg
  • Method 2:
    • PSP6: File || Export || Transparent GIF or File || Export || JPEG file and just save with a file name wanted.
    • PSP7: File || Export || GIF optimize or File || Export || JPEG optimizer and just save with a file name wanted.
  • When using Saving as a Transparent GIF or the GIF optimizer, make sure you set the various tabs (Transparency = none, &, Colors = 256, dithering = 0, and Optimized Octree = Checked)

A Brief Explanation of Merging Layers:

  • Merge All (flatten) causes your image to merge into one layer and produce a white background.
  • Merge Visible merges only visible layers. You can hide those you don't want merged. It can be used when all layers are visible. It does not change your background to white.
  • Most times when you save layers are automatically flattened.

Some effects can be obtained as if layers were merged even when they haven't been.

  • If you choose Edit || Copy Merged all visible layers will be copied as if they were a single layer.
  • If you check Sample Merged in the Tool Options palette before using either the Magic Wand, the Clone Brush, the Retouch tool or the Flood Fill tool, that tool can be used on a layered image as if it were a single image.

-- Enjoy -- :o)

Our final lesson will Explore Creating Transparent GIF Files.