Home | The Graphics | Tutorials | PSP8 Information | The Tube Collections | Blade Pro Presets | Resources | Terms | 


If you'd rather have the convenience of working with these tutorials in your own time and at your own pace, well now you can. Every single tutorial on this website has been adapted for inclusion on CD-rom. You now not only have the opportunity to have your own permanent copy of these tutorials, but there's also a few surprise goodies I've included as well (for instance, the CD includes 9 new tutorials not available online and a large number of royalty-free tubes). For more information, you can check it out right here.

Understanding Layers in PSP - a Basic Guide for Beginners (Part 1)

This tutorial is my fourth in the Absolute Beginners series and is the first part of a series of tutorials I have planned to introduce the layer palette.

Note: This tutorial may be downloaded or printed out for personal use only. It must not, under any circumstances, be taken from this site in its entirety or in parts and passed around Yahoo or MSN Groups, re-posted on other websites or passed on to other individuals. Placing a link on your Group's site or your own site is fine, and passing links around is also fine. But links ONLY please. There are logos available on my resources page if you wish to use one. Thank you for your co-operation.

As always, if you have any questions about this tut, or any comments or suggestions in general your feedback is always welcome. Just click on the link above to contact me.

WARNING: this tutorial is a long one for an Absolute Beginner tut (3 pages in all - and that's just the first part :) and it's also quite wordy at times. However it's directly aimed at new users of Paint Shop Pro who want a clear, concise and easy-to-understand introduction to how layers work in PSP8. So if all that hasn't put you off, let's get going. :)

Introduction: Many newbies starting off in Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop (not to mention a lot of intermediate users as well!) are puzzled by layers - and it's not hard to understand why. In my opinion, it's because working with layers means you're dealing in multiple amounts of something, and just the idea of that can lead to a lot of confusion. However DON'T be intimidated because layers are so much more easy to understand than you think, and like everything else in this world, the more you use them the more expert you will become with them.

Layers are one of the most powerful features of PSP because they give you SO much more flexibility and control in creating graphics. They can be great time-savers and you will come to depend upon them more and more. When you get used to them believe me, you'll never wnat to go back to not using them again. Remember, they can be as complex or as simple as you want them to be. You're in control. Unless it's a particularly complex and sophisticated graphic that calls for it, you won't ever need to create an image with dozens of layers to create something eye-catching (although believe it or not PSP8 supports up to 500 layers!) Most of the time just a half-dozen or so can do the trick (and in many cases, even less).

So just what are layers and how do they work? Imagine you're standing on a building site. You see several glass windows stacked on top of each other on the ground, ready to be installed into the house frame. If you're standing over them, you can look straight down from above through the window (or 'layer') on top, and see all the way down through the transparent glass (the 'layers' beneath) to the grass beneath them (or the 'background'). They are all transparent because nothing has been placed on any of them yet. But what if you were to pick a nearby flower and place it on the top window? It would block out not only a transparent portion of the top window (or top 'layer'), but also your view to the (back)ground beneath.

Say you have 5 windows in the stack. If you decide to remove the flower from the top window and place it on the window immediately beneath it, then you'd be able see the flower through the top window. However you won't be able to see any further into the stack because the flower is blocking your view to the bottom. You will be able to see around the flower and through all the other window layers to the grass below, but you won't be able to see through the actual part where the flower is. PSP layers work in exactly the same way.

What if you decided to remove the window with the flower on it completely? Once you've removed that layer, then you'd be able to look down from the top and see straight through all the layers/windows beneath it again to the (back)ground.

Why do you need to use layers? Quite simply, you use them in order to keep different elements of the image you are creating (tubes, drop-shadows, filter effects etc.) completely separate from one another as you work with them. This gives you much more control over how you can manipulate them. Don't like that fuzzy, pink drop-shadow you gave your text, but it's too late to undo it? If you've created it on a separate layer, all you have to do is to delete that layer and boom - it's gone. (Just like we did with our window with the flower on it, remember?)

Another great thing about layers is that you can move them around on the palette and change the order in which they are stacked. Imagine you have an image of a woman standing in the doorway of a house but you've struck a problem. You decide to add a front-door to the house and this (of course) will cover the woman completely. Herein lies the problem. You still want to be able to see her, but if all the elements of your image have been created on just the Background then you're in trouble. However if you've placed her on a layer of her own then all you need to do is to move that layer on top of the layer with the door on it and voila - your lady will magically re-appear again. Problem solved. Okay, so without further ado . . .

1.  To work with the layers palette, we need an open image. So, first of all create a new image by going to File>New, or just click on the shortcut icon:

It doesn't matter what the measurements are, however make sure that the Raster Background box is checked and the Transparent box is UNchecked. Hit OK to create it, and now just forget about it :-)

2.  OK, let's check out the layer palette. If it's not already showing, go to View>Palettes>Layers, or just hit the 'F8' key. This will open the layers palette, and here is a brief description of what some of those confusing-looking things actually are:

3.  OK, now as this is a beginners tutorial, you'll be very relieved to know that even though I've shown you what all the icons are called, we're only going to concentrate on a couple of them in this tut. So, here's a brief run-down on all you need to know for now: The Active Layer (as shown above) is the layer you are actually working on at the current time. PSP always highlights this layer so you know where you are - this comes in handy when you're working on an image with several layers. We haven't created any new layers yet, so the background is the only thing that appears on the layers palette for now. To select any layer to make it the Active Layer, all you have to do is click on it with your mouse. You can't do any work on a layer unless you have selected it first. This is a very important thing to remember (especially for newbies), because the majority of questions asked in PSP forums regarding layers are usually because the user has neglected to make sure they're actually on the right layer in the first place. A simple, but very frustrating mistake to make!

(Note: Don't worry if your palette has scroll bars or doesn't look exactly the same as mine - I've resized mine and changed the look of it a little to suit my tastes).

The New Raster Layer icon (from now I'll just refer to it as just the "new layer" icon) is what you'll be using most of the time to create new layers. The New Vector Layer icon (which obviously creates a new vector layer) won't be used as often unless you intend to work a lot with vectors. (Forget about Vector anythings for the time being...they are for advanced beginners....very advanced beginners :) So in the future, whenever you do other people's tutorials and they ask you to 'open a new layer' or 'create a new layer' what they will really be saying is 'open a new raster layer' and this is the icon that they will mean: 

(Oh, and while I think of it, you can also create a new layer by going to Layers>New Raster Layer).

Tip: As I pointed out above, PSP always highlights the current layer you're working on. However what do you do when you want to see the contents of a different layer without leaving the one you're on? All you need to do is to run your mouse over the layer on the list that you want to view and a thumbnail image will pop-up of the layer's contents, showing you what you've done on that layer.

© Graphic Allusions 2003-2005.