Photoshop Layers

Layer Basics

About Photoshop layers

Photoshop layers are like sheets of stacked acetate. You can see through transparent areas of a layer to the layers below. You move a layer to position the content on the layer, like sliding a sheet of acetate in a stack. You can also change the opacity of a layer to make content partially transparent.

Photoshop layers representation

Transparent areas on a layer let you see layers below.

Layers Panel

Layer Explanation

Go to Window - Layers to show the panel.

Each layer can be named by double clicking on it.  The light gray color shows that the layer is selected.  The eye on the left means the layer is visible.

Opacity and Fill:  both affect the transparency of the layer.  Opacity is used the most.

The difference between Opacity and Fill

An adjustment layer applies color and tonal adjustments to your image without permanently changing pixel values. You can discard your changes and restore the original image at any time.

Adjustment layers provide the following advantages:

  • Nondestructive edits. You can try different settings and re‑edit the adjustment layer at any time. You can also reduce the effect of the adjustment by lowering the opacity of the layer.
  • Selective editing. Paint on the adjustment layer’s image mask to apply an adjustment to part of an image. Later you can control which parts of the image are adjusted by re-editing the layer mask. You can vary the adjustment by painting on the mask with different tones of gray.
  • Ability to apply adjustments to multiple images. Copy and paste adjustment layers between images to apply the same color and tonal adjustments.

Layer Mask

Layer Mask Explanation

Layer Masks Show or Cover up what you did on the layer.  

White Reveals

Black Conceals

Meaning a White layer mask shows what you did to the layer.   A Black layer mask covers up and conceals what you did.  

Painting White or Black with a paintbrush will let you selectively cover up or show what you did.  

When I painted black on the layer mask it concealed the effect of the layer, which turned the entire photo black and white.