Photoshop has been a dominant graphic design tool ever since the dawn of the Internet. The program is 30 years old already, but it remains a common choice among both amateurs and high-level designers. The reason is simple – this software is versatile, reliable, and easy to use.
Layers are one of those features that make Photoshop so popular globally. In general, layers are nothing more than images designers combine so as to form meaningful compositions. But it doesn’t mean that layer combinations are simple.
On the contrary, there are so many ways to use them. In this post, we will show you 10 amazing things you can do with layers in Photoshop.
1. Play with Opacity
Adding one more image to the canvas is easy if you use Fill/Opacity. This way, you can blend in more visuals without losing quality in the process. Just add this image and alter the blend mode to Screen. You also need to make it a more subtle, so enter Opacity settings and set it to 50%.
2. Convert to Smart Object
If you want to maintain the original resolution of a pasted layer, you need to convert it into a Smart Object. The action is simple: go to the targeted layer, use the ctrl-right click combination, and select Convert to Smart Object. This move allows you to keep the same image size and then resize it however you want.
3. Use High Pass Filter
You can sharpen the entire composition by selecting every layer and merging with the cmd/ctrl+alt+shift+E function. Once you’ve done that, follow the path: Filter → Other → High Pass. There, you should set to 2px and choose the Soft Light blend mode.
4. Add textures
Kaleigh Aquino, a web designer at Careers Booster, shared a nice Photoshop idea with us: “Texture effects often make illustrations more beautiful, so I strongly recommend you use the Overlay blend option. The procedure is everything but complicated – add an image and use the Overlay blend mode. Duplicate it afterward (function cmd/ctrl+J) and set Opacity to 80%.”
5. Improve Composition Atmosphere with Filters
A lot of artwork looks more compelling if you add a little bit of atmosphere to the composition. This hack takes a few actions and we will divide it several steps here:
- Select the background, choose complementary components, and isolate them
- Merge all layers by selecting the top one and clicking cmd/ctrl+opt/alt+shift+E
- Go to Filter → Render → Lens Flare
- Enhance the stack in Filter → Camera Raw Filter
- Make adjustments that fit your artwork style
6. Use a Clipping Mask
Photoshop has a clipping visual which displays hands holding a blank smartphone mask. You can play with it and add new layers to create unique illustrations. Set the design area using the Pen Tool and put the targeted image atop of the shape you’ve just created. You can move the visual any way you want to make it perfectly compatible with the mask.
7. Create an Isometric Scene
Another practical possibility is to use the existing Photoshop elements and give them a brand new form. For instance, you can design a cube-shaped mask with the Rectangular Marquee Tool. Here’s how it goes:
- Make a square in RMT and select New 3D Extrusion from Selected Layer in the 3D Menu
- Then make a new layer and select one side of the square with the Pen Tool
- Activate the selection (alt+enter), form a layer stack (cmd/ctrl+G) and click Add Layer Mask
This way, every visual component will fit into the mask shape you created.
8. Play with Typography
Another interesting Photoshop solution is to combine unorthodox typography with layers. You can choose from the existing font palette or even design unique letterforms on your own. If you want to test different solutions, take advantage of the Move Tool and Free Transform. That way, you can enrich the artwork with some nice typography and also delete or hide redundant layers.
9. Digital Coloring with Layers
Colors can also breathe new life into your illustrations. There are many ways to exploit this feature, but here is one example:
- Open an image file and go to the Gradient Fill adjustment layer
- Choose the Color blend mode to make a color transition
- Duplicate the targeted layer and put each one atop of the Gradient Fill layer
- Use the Color Balance option to create different hues for each duplicate
After that, everything you do with the layers depends on your specific needs, inspiration, and creativity.
10. Add Depth Using Layer Styles
Photoshop gives you the opportunity to apply all sorts of styles to the individual layers. These are basically special effects that can make your digital art more beautiful and compelling. The best thing about layer styles is that they don’t jeopardize the resolution of an image because all pixel data remain intact.
If you want to change the layer style, go to the Layers unit and double-click the “fx” symbol next to the layer you want to adjust. Some of the most common layer styles are Drop Shadow, Satin, Color Overlay, and Bevel.
The next step is to enter Layer → Layer Style and choose the special effect of your choice. Always remember to save the changes upon completion. There are a number of good-looking styles available by default in Photoshop. To check them out, go to Windows → Style.
Photoshop layers represent a powerful feature that can enrich your design projects. They give you all sorts of different possibilities, so it’s up to you to exploit their potential to the fullest extent. This article presented you 10 amazing things to do with layers in Photoshop. Give them a try and let us know in comments which hack is your personal favorite!
About the Author
Eugene is an Australian-based blogger for Careers Booster, who is into stand-up comedy. His favorite comedians are Louis CK and George Carlin. A good morning laugh is what keeps Eugene upbeat and motivated through the harsh day.