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a guide to digital



Want to know about Layers?

Although simple in concept, layers are still confusing to a lot of readers. We are going to look at Paint Shop Pro layers in detail.

The Layers palette.

Create a new blank document 800 x 600 @ 72dpi will do, press the "L" key on your keyboard to display the Layers palette. On the Layers Palette there will be one Layer visible called Background, this is the base layer - any extra layers you create will be placed on top of this. At the top of the palette are three icons; the first is Create layer, click on this and a new layer is created. The Layer Properties palette opens showing a default name of Layer1. Click OK to accept the default settings for the time being.


The second icon, a small waste bin,  is to delete the current layer i.e. the one which is highlighted.  You will be prompted with an "Are you sure you want to delete the current layer?" message. Click Yes to proceed or No to cancel. The third icon is Create mask - we will come back to this later. To the right of the Layer name is the layer visibility toggle (a pair of glasses), click this to turn the layer On or Off. This does not delete the layer.

Moving to the right side of the Layers palette, the top three icons are Appearance, Mask, and Layer Groups.  Appearance  shows the Opacity and blending modes for each layer. On the right hand side of the blending modes is the Lock transparency icon which has a red cross through it by default. Click on the cross to lock the layer's transparency - now you can use any brush tool or flood fill to paint areas on a layer that has pixels (transparent areas on the layer will be unaffected). The second icon is for the Mask (more on masks later), the third icon is Layer Groups. Layers can be assigned to a group which will link the layers.  Moving any one layer in a group will also move the other layers in the same group (a handy feature if you have spent a lot of time lining up various elements. PSP 7 allows up to seven groups).

Paint Shop Pro supports three types of layers: Raster Layers - this is the layer type which you will be using for bitmap images; Vector Layers which covers text and vector drawings; and Adjustment Layers - use these to apply a colour correction or curve etc., to layers below. Adjustment Layers apply an adjustment to the appearance of the image without altering the pixels of the image.  The advantage is that you can re-edit any adjustment or cancel it at any later stage. As with most things digital it is often easier to work through an exercise than trying to explain and for this exercise you will need to download three files Rose, Violin, and Music. These are underlined at the start of each step.

The first Rose of Summer.

Step 1.

Open the file Rose. The image opens as a Background Layer by default, we are going to promote this to a normal Layer. From the menu select Layers > Promote to Layer or double click the name Background on the Layer Palette to open the Edit properties dialog palette. Rename the layer from Layer1 to "Rose" and leave all the other settings. Click OK. Create a new Layer by clicking on the Create Layer icon and name this layer "White Fill". Select the Flood Fill tool (press the letter F) and choose a White as a foreground colour and click on the image. The whole layer should now have turned White, click the "White Fill" layer name and drag it below the Rose layer. If you can't seem to get the layer to the bottom, then you could either drag the Rose layer up, or from the menu select Layers > Arrange > Send to bottom.

Step 2.

Make the Rose layer the active layer (click on the name), and on the right side drag the Opacity slider to 75%. The White Fill layer is now showing through the Rose layer.  At a later stage in this exercise you might want to try another opacity value to blend the Rose with the rest of the picture.

Step 3.

Open the file Music. This is a Greyscale image which is slightly larger than the previous image - don't worry about either of these, the larger size will give us more room for placement and the Greyscale will automatically convert to RGB. Click on the Background layer title and click - drag it over to the Rose picture and release the mouse. You have copied the Music layer and created a new layer on the Rose picture. Rename the new layer to "Music". Select the Mover tool (press the letter V) and reposition the music so that the Quasi Presto title is just out of the picture area and the Treble Clefs on the left side are all in. Select the Layer Blend Mode on the Layers Palette and select Multiply from the drop down list and set the Opacity to 15%.

Step 4.

Open the file Violin. I have prepared this image for easy selection. Select the Magic Wand (press the letter M) and then open the Magic Wand options palette (press the letter O). Set a tolerance of 12 and a Feather value of 1. Click on the White area surrounding the violin and the selection Marquee should surround most of the Violin Scroll.  There will be a couple of areas that will need a little extra help. Hold down the Shift key and click on the area just below the Scroll to the right of the Peg.  Still holding down the Shift key, click on the small white triangle between the strings and the fingerboard. Press Shift + Ctrl + I to invert the marquee selection, the violin is now selected and not the white background. Press Shift + Ctrl + P to promote the selected area to a new layer, or you could press Ctrl + C to copy the selection to the clipboard. Drag the promoted layer to the Rose picture or press Ctrl + L to paste the clipboard as a new layer. Anytime you paste an image from the clipboard it automatically becomes a Layer. Rename the new layer to Violin.

Step 5.

Make the violin layer active, press Ctrl + R and enter Direction Left - Degree 90 and make sure the All Layers box is not checked. Click OK to rotate the layer. Select the Mover tool and move the violin to the right hand side of the picture. The picture is coming on, but the Rose looks too flat. Select the Rose layer and from the menu select Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. Tweak the curves so the Rose gains some more contrast. Click OK.

If the Rose doesn't look right then double click the Curves name in the Layers palette and readjust the curve. You can see straight away the advantages of using an adjustment layer - if you hadn't used it, you would have thrown away image detail, the adjustment layer keeps all the original image detail in tact. Apply another Adjustment Layer to the violin (be careful as this will affect all layers underneath too).  The Rose layer will now have two Adjustments applied. You can get round this problem by readjusting the Rose Adjustment Layer curve (you will have to tweak this until it looks right). I changed the Rose layers opacity to 45%.


Step 6.

Just to finish off the picture, I have used a Photo Edge around the image. From the menu select Image > Picture Frame and select Photo Edge No 2. Make sure the Frame goes around the outside of the image in the next step. Click Finish and the Picture Frame appears as a new layer. Save your picture as a PSP image to keep the layers for future editing or from the menu select  Layers > Merge > Merge all to combine all the layers. To selectively combine layers, turn of the layer visibility on the layers you want to keep, then from the menu select Layers > Merge > Merge visible. This combines only the layers that are visible.

Text and photographs © Vincent Oliver photo-i 2002

January 5, 2008

© Vincent Oliver 2008
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