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Layers 201
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Layers 201 - Blend Modes,
Grouping and Moving Layers
Created by: Kawliga

In this tutorial we hope to cover layer blend modes, grouping layers and the use of the Mover tool when working with layers. If you are just starting to learn about layers then go to Layers 101 first.
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For demonstrating the different layer blend modes, you'll need the two pictures that are zipped up in the attached download file.

What are Layer Blend Modes?

The layer blend modes are methods of combining the pixels from the current layer with the ones under it. You are not combining the layers permanently; you are previewing the way they will appear if combined. To combine layers permanently, use the Merge command in the Layers menu.

The current layer whose blend mode you are changing is the Blend layer. The layer is blended into the result of the combination of underlying layers, not just the layer directly underneath it.

We will be using the layer palette for the most part of this tutorial. If the palette is not visible, there are several ways to display it:
  • Press <L>.
  • Click the View/Hide Layer Palette button on the toolbar – this is the red and blue button located next to the help button.
  • Go to View || Toolbars, and in the Toolbars dialog box, check "Layer Palette".
  • Right-click on any palette or bar and choose "Layer Palette" from the pop-up menu.

You should now be familiar with the various items on the layer palette, so we won't be explaining how to do each function.

Open the two images from your download. You will notice that for each image, there's a layer named "Background" in the layer palette.
Right-click on the background layer in the layer palette and select "Duplicate" from the pop-up menu. You should now have "Background" and "Copy of Background" layers. Do that and the following steps for both images.
Now, let's rotate this "Copy of Background" layer: Go to Image || Rotate:
Direction = Left
Degrees = 90
All Layers = unchecked
These two images are vastly different, and we will contrast the effect that different blend modes have on these images. We will begin with a simple exercise to give you an idea of what blend modes do.

There are a number of blend modes, each giving a different effect to the image. We will cover only a few of these, and leave you to discover the effects on your own.

First of all, there is the Normal blend mode. The pixels are blended with the underlying layers only by varying the opacity. Check your PSP help file for the details on what each of the blend modes does. We will cover multiply, difference, and burn in this tutorial, just to give you an idea of what blend modes can do.

Multiply combines the colors of the selected layer with the colors of the underlying layers to create a darker color.

Try the Multiply mode on your images. Applying the mode to the 2 images here gives the results shown on the left.

Difference subtracts the selected layer's color from the color of the underlying layers, depending on which is lighter.

Try the Difference mode on your images. Applying the mode to the 2 images here gives the results on the left.

The Burn mode is where the lightness values of the colors of the selected layer reduces the lightness of the underlaying layers, thus darkening the image.

You can see this clearly in the right image. It is a little harder to distinguish in the left image but gives an interesting result.


Moving the Layer with the Mover Tool

You can drag a layer anywhere in the image window without cropping it, even off the canvas.
Note: The Mover tool does not automatically move the current layer – it moves the uppermost layer that contains data. If you click into a transparent area of the top layer of an image, however, the mover tool ignores that layer and searches the other layers. When it reaches a layer containing non-transparent pixels, it selects and moves this layer.
To limit the Mover tool to the current layer, press and hold the Shift key when clicking into the image and dragging the layer.
Another trick with the Mover tool ... If you have selected a part of your image, take the Mover tool, and right-click and drag the selection. This moves the marquee but not the data underneath it. This is great when using the circle selection or floating option from the Text Tool.

Grouping Layers

The Layer Group option lets you group layers so that they move together or in unison. To group layers in an image, click on their Group buttons.
All the layers with the same number on their Group buttons belong to a single group.

Each time you click a Group button, it changes to the next valid number. A layer with the word "None" on its button does not belong to any group.

Mark both layers as 1. Now, use the Mover tool again, and you will see how grouping affects the layers. Both of the layers are being moved at the same time.
Well, I hope this has taught you a little more about layers, and how blend modes affect them, as well as moving and grouping, and how they can be used in your imaging.

Just a couple of notes on using layers:

  • Always name your layers. This saves confusion when you have a lot of layers.

  • The dark and light grey grid you see behind graphics on layers means that part of the graphic is transparent. When you create a new layer, it is automatically transparent.

  • Learn to "Paste as a New Layer". If you make a selection in one graphic and paste it into another graphic, go to Edit || Paste || As New Layer, and the background is automatically transparent.

  • You can view what is in a layer by placing the cursor over the layer name in the layer palette. This will show a thumbnail of the layer and allows you to view it without activating it. This is very handy with multiple layers and lets you easily identify the layer that you want.
When you have something on a layer, it is automatically selected. Say you add text to a layer and you deselect it. You can add a drop shadow or bevel the text without selecting it. By its nature, a layer is selected unless you make a specific selection of parts of the layer.