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Working with Layers in Photoshop

Author: digitell

Tools Needed

  • Photoshop

Support Files


In this tutorial you will learn step by step instructions on how to work with layers using Adobe Photoshop. You can easily alter areas of an image without affecting other areas! Layers are wonderful!


Step 1 - Viewing layers pallet


You want to open the image you are going to be working with. This is you Base/Background layer. This layer should always remain on the bottom of all other layers. One you have opened your image, we are ready to begin.

Make sure you can view your layers pallet. Click on 'Windows > Layers'.

Step 2 - Add new layer


Now you want to create a new layer, so when you work with this element, you won't bother your base layer.

Click on the icon which is located next to your trash can. You will now have a new layer

Located on top of your base layer.

Step 3 - Painting onto new layer


With you new top layer active, you can now paint your base hair. No part of the bottom layer is bothered at all! Layers are wonderful!

Step 4 - Add another layer


Now after your base hair is painted, create another layer by clicking on your layer icon at the bottom of your layers pallet as you did in the previous step. Second layer now appears on top. You can now add another lock of hair.

Step 5 - Working on new layer


Paint your second lock of hair. It is a individual element now, so is your bottom base layer of hair, and your background/base image.

Step 6 - Creating additional layers


Clicking on the new layer icon again, you can now add an additional lock of hair. It is on its own layer now also and can be edited without bothering the other layers.

Step 7 - Adding to the layers


I add yet another layer and this time I change the color to be a little lighter than the others, so to add highlights. (you didn't know this was going to also be a hair painting tutorial, did you!) This is what is great about layers, you can use your dodge tool if you want to make it lighter or darken it with your burn tool, and it won't bother the rest of your hair layers.

Step 8 - Arranging layers


You can click and drag layers on your layers pallet. This way you can move elements to be top or on bottom of other elements. Just click on a layer and hold down, then drag to on top or below other layers on the pallet.

If you want to link layers to one another, you can do that by clicking on the square area beside the eye icon. Then when you move one element on your art board, the layer linked to it will move also.

If you are not happy at all with a layer, you can drag it to the trash can, or click on it and hit “delete”.

Everything else will stay the same.

Step 9 - Linking layers and adding effects


As you can see if you move your hair on the artboard now all the layers stay connected and move together as one. (I only moved the hair to show what happens!)

Now, with one of the layers selected, you can apply a drop shadow if you wish. Click on the little icon with the'f' at the bottom of your layers pallet. You drop down menu appears. Choose 'drop shadow' . There are many other effects you can use on your layers here too. But for this we will use drop shadow. Sometimes I apply drop shadows to my hair, not always.

Step 10 - Merging the linked layers


When you are done with creating layers, you can merge all of them into one layer. Click on Layers at the top on the menu, then choose 'Merge Linked'. You will now be back to having 2 layers, your background base image and a top layer.

Step 11 - Flattening image and saving file


You now can save this as a PSD file. Flatten the image and save as a jpg for uploading into your Gallery!

Or..If you are not happy with this hair layer, drag it to the trash and start all over..this is what I have done many times!! :)

This concludes the Working With Layers tutorial.

I hope this helps you.

Have Fun!!