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Using layers in Photoshop



Jinx

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Subject: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 09 May 2007 - 13:11 ET



I was asked to explain the processes I used in an image I completed recently, and I figured rather than let the progress images and explanations just sit on my drive collecting dust, I would share them with you all. This is a beginner's tutorial, meant for people who don't understand transparent layers, and shows some general processes I use for making art (even though this isn't typical of my style).

In this image, I was provided a sketch that I had to paint over entirely, leaving no pencil marks or anything behind. For reference's sake, I have hidden the wings layer in this tutorial.



Picture layers in Photoshop like animation cels. You have your background on one cel, one character on another, possibly the shading on another, etc. Layers allow you to isolate certain aspects of a picture so that you can alter them without affecting other parts of the picture. I tend to put different areas on different layers. In this picture, for example, I had a separate layer for the griffin's head as its body and another one for its beak, its wings, etc.



The layer for the griffin's head is behind, or below, the layers for its eyes, beak, and talons, but is on top of the layer for its body. Whatever information on the layer for the head that's beneath the beak or eye is irrelevant, as the eye and beak cover it up. The same goes for any information of the body layer beneath the head. As you can see, layer order is important.

So, I start by putting down the base colour on the head layer, using primarily the paintbrush and eraser tools, though if I want to be especially precise, I can use the pen tool. When I shade my images, I tend to use grouped layers. A grouped layer will only show information on it that is visible on the layer it's grouped to. As in this example, I used a grouped layer set on Multiply to put down the shadows on the griffin's head. This allows me to easily modify and erase the shadows without messing up the original colour. It also keeps the shadows contained to the griffin's head; I can colour as much as I want outside of the head on the shadows layer, but none of it will show up.



I started out with a grouped layer set on Multiply to trace the feather definition provided in the original sketch. The Multiply mode essentially darkens what you're painting over to the value of the colour you're using. I generally use a darker and less saturated version of the base colour to put down my shadows. Because this entire layer is set to Multiply, any colour I put down will darken the image, so I use this grouped layer solely for shadows.

I use the airbrush to paint down the basic lines I'm following, then use the smudge tool to give it a fluffy appearance. I start out smudging with a medium sized brush at around 40% pressure, then switch to a smaller brush at 50% or 60%, then go to a really small brush at 70% or 80%. By using several steps to do my smudging, it ensures that the final effect isn't static and uniform.



I duplicated the layer, hid it, then began altering the duplicate to provide the detailed shadows on the head. Here, I simply used the airbrush to add more depth to the feather definition I painted before. I kept the original definition layer as a safeguard in case I messed up the definition in this first shadow layer.



I created another grouped layer, also set on Multiply, to give the entire head a bit more shape. It doesn't look like much on its own, but combined with the detailed shadows layer, it gives the whole head a lot more depth.



After painting the two shadow layers, some areas still looked a little flat, so I created another grouped layer set on Color Dodge at a very low opacity to add in some highlights. Color Dodge is a very sensitive mode, so you usually don't need much opacity at all unless you're highlighting something very shiny, like metal.



You can see how putting two Multiply layers on top of each other darkens the layer below that much more. This is the head as it appears in the final image, although I hid the shading in another layer to show, again, how I separate my layers. You can see that the inside of the griffin's mouth and its beak are on separate layers. Also, to conserve file size, I tend to combine layers where possible, as is the case here with the beak and talon. If you look closely, you'll also notice that the shading in the eye is hidden as well, as I put it on the same layer. The shine of the eye, however, was done on a separate layer, so it's not hidden here.

The completed image is viewable here. I hope this tutorial helped and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Thanks for reading!


"Finally, I can save the world with deadly lasers, instead of deadly slide shows." ~Al Gore, Futurama

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BadKarma

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Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 11 May 2007 - 09:19 ET



This is a great tutorial!

When v4 is launched, there will be an on-site tutorial section. Would you like to submit this tutorial for that?

-- BK


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Jinx

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Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 11 May 2007 - 10:59 ET



Sure! I'm glad you thought it was helpful.


"Finally, I can save the world with deadly lasers, instead of deadly slide shows." ~Al Gore, Futurama

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Jinx

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Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 23 Sep 2007 - 13:50 ET



On second thought, this tutorial might not be as useful as initially perceived. I've since discovered that Photoshop CS2, at least, does not do grouped layers like previous versions did. In fact, grouped layers in CS2 is nothing more than a method of organizing one's layers. This is causing great headache for me, as I can't even select the contents of a layer so I can shade on a separate layer like I used to...


"Finally, I can save the world with deadly lasers, instead of deadly slide shows." ~Al Gore, Futurama

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BadKarma

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Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 24 Sep 2007 - 00:38 ET



Jinx wrote:
On second thought, this tutorial might not be as useful as initially perceived. I've since discovered that Photoshop CS2, at least, does not do grouped layers like previous versions did. In fact, grouped layers in CS2 is nothing more than a method of organizing one's layers. This is causing great headache for me, as I can't even select the contents of a layer so I can shade on a separate layer like I used to...


Actually, I know that you can group things in CS2. I'll have to do some review, since I've only got it at work, but it's possible. They've just changed the way that it works, or how you do it.

-- BK


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Jinx

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Total Posts: 1010
Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 24 Sep 2007 - 18:01 ET



That's a relief. I always like having my backup plans in case colouring goes south.


"Finally, I can save the world with deadly lasers, instead of deadly slide shows." ~Al Gore, Futurama

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Jinx

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Total Posts: 1010
Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 31 Dec 2007 - 14:44 ET



The grouped layers spoken of in this tutorial are called "clipping masks" in Photoshop CS2 (at least). They work the same way, you create a new layer above the layer you want to edit, then go to Layers > Create Clipping Mask. Then, any colour/information you put on the clipping mask will only be visible in the confines of the information on the layer below.

However, I do have a question for those more familiar with Photoshop than me. In previous versions - I used 5.5 for a while - you could hold Ctrl and click a layer to select the contents of that layer, preserving the layer's transparency in the selection, but that doesn't work on CS2. Is there another way to do this?


"Finally, I can save the world with deadly lasers, instead of deadly slide shows." ~Al Gore, Futurama

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Subject: RE: Using layers in Photoshop Posted: 16 Nov 2016 - 05:41 ET



Really well done. I have never used Photoshop before but now feel so much more confident. Sincere thanks



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