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Layers with Photoshop Elements 4.0

Photoshop Elements, Shortcut Keys

When working in Adobe Photoshop Elements, one of the first things you have to learn about is layers. When you start a blank project or image the white background that you start with is your first layer, or titled background. When you add to this you can do one of two things, you can add right on top of this layer or you can use other layers for your drawing, images or touch ups so that later on you can add or import things into the background.

Each layer is like a page stacked up on top of each other made of totally clear paper that you can draw on. The background is your clean white paper that you start with. You can add many layers when your working so that you can do certain things to a layer and if you don’t like it or if you want to move those things around, it will not affect the rest of your image.

For instance, if you have a photo of a friend or family member and you want to add some palm trees and a beach, you would do this on a new layer so you could edit the trees and move them where you want them without disturbing the rest of the picture. You would also want the beach separate from the people and the trees so you could adjust them on their own. You can choose a layer and do things only to that layer and it will not alter the other layers or you can adjust and alter all the layers at the same time.

On the side space of the editing window is the smaller working windows; How To, Styles and Layers. The layer window is the one that you will be using to make sure your editing the correct layer and not the others. So when you work with layers you have to make sure your using the right layer, or your drawing on the one you don’t want to. After you get to working with Elements awhile it will become second nature to glance at the layers window to ensure your working on the correct layer.

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I have been playing around with these features and can quickly see the benefits to having and working on the different layers of a picture. Try it yourself. Import or get a photo with a person on it. You can just open the Elements and use the file open menu to open a picture with someone on it. Then use the erase tool to get rid of everything in the picture but the person. You can see that this would be difficult if you had to use the erase tool on the full size picture but try zooming in by using the mouse wheel and the movement bars to erase and get closer to the different parts of your picture. You can also use the pixel size of the eraser on the top of your editing window to change the size of the eraser, use a bigger one to get the large areas and a smaller one with the zoom to get close to the subject.

When you get closer to the picture using the zoom erasing will be easy. Use the erase tools at 1 pixel size and zoom in close enough that you can see each pixel as a square. Then erase everything but the person. It will take some time and you may want to take a break while you getting this done. When you go to save your project I, you should save it as something other than it was when you started. You may also want to create a file on your computer that you can save your projects and name it something like Adobe Working Folder.

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While erasing the original or background layer of your picture, it should erase the picture and leave behind a gray blocked checker pattern to tell you you are getting rid of everything in your picture and not just painting over it. Once you have removed all of your picture other than the person save it using the File menu, Save As and name it something. Then click on the Layer menu, New, and then Layer, or you can use the shortcut keys and press shift Control and n keys to add a new layer. A naming box will pop up asking what you want your new layer named. Just leave the name as layer 0 or whatever it comes up as for now. You can name layers anything you want when working with pictures, things that tell what the layer is. Look in the side working space and a new layer will be added under the background of you picture.

Now open the Styles window by clicking on the arrow under Styles, if this window is not open check it under the Windows pull down menu and it will open on the right side of the work space. Click on the arrow and then highlight Effects and All just under the Styles header. In the window select one of the effects that is not in a letter. The letter or text effects require a text, they will apply to the letters and numbers of text. I chose the lizard skin that comes with the program for my layer effect. Ensure the new layer that is not the person is highlighted and then click on the effect. You will probably not see the person on your working space, you should see a lizard skin pattern though. If you don’t see the person you need to rearrange the layers, just highlight the person layer on the layers window. Then click on the layers menu across the top, then Arrange, then Bring Forward. Now your person should be standing in front of a lizard skin pattern.

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Using this type of editing you can put people into different scenes or get rid of distracting backgrounds to highlight or put focus onto your subject. You can also find different styles and backgrounds to use on your program other than the ones that came with the Elements. On the Internet at many different sites they have layer effects and styles that you can download and use for free. Try these web sites here for some free ones to get you started. Instructions are at the site to help you use them and load them into the correct folder on your computer.


You can also find more brush and action downloads here or at other sites by searching the web. Try going to Adobe’s site first or using your search engine to find other layers and effects to download.

Using Adobe’s Photoshop Elements you can create unique and easy effects using the layers of your images. Layers is a great way to be able to add things to your photo and not mess or alter the original photo or parts that you have worked hard on. You can experiment with different layers and add different things to your photos and images.