Become a Photoshop Expert in a Day by Mastering Layers
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Become a Photoshop Expert in a Day by Mastering Layers

To be an expert and create cool effects, you need a strong understanding of layers. Course updated December 2015.
5.0 (24 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
282 students enrolled
Created by Bob Flisser
Last updated 12/2015
Current price: $10 Original price: $50 Discount: 80% off
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  • 4.5 hours on-demand video
  • 3 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What Will I Learn?
Learn to be a Photoshop expert! I'll show you how to create, use, and modify different types of layers. You'll get the strong background necessary to create image composites and effects.
View Curriculum
  • Basic knowledge of any version of Photoshop.

Do you want to know more Photoshop techniques than just cropping and resizing? The key to getting the most out of Photoshop is understanding how to create and manipulate different types of layers. Learn how to composite pictures, make non-destructive adjustments and corrections, and blend images to create cool effects. All project files are included, and the course is in plain, jargon-free, understandable English.

I will take you step-by-step through exercises, introduce you to key concepts and give you many time-saving shortcuts. It is taught by an expert instructor and published author who has been teaching Photoshop since 1995. If you have questions about anything in the course, you can contact him on his web site. At an intermediate level, this course should take you one day to complete on either a PC or Macintosh.

Who is the target audience?
  • If you want to use Photoshop to manipulate, combine, and correct images, this course is for you.
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Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 36 Lectures Collapse All 36 Lectures 04:38:17
Understanding Layers
7 Lectures 47:04
Course introduction, and a demonstration of what layers are

Photoshop has many features and you can create a lot of cool effects, combine images, edit videos, change colors and more, but the key to all this is understanding how layers work.

In the introduction, we'll relate Photoshop's layers to layers in the real world. This sets the stage for the rest of the course: understanding how the Layers Panel works, how to select pixels and layers, how to change transparency and opacity, changing brightness, contrast and colors, using pictures from a digital camera, using special types of layers, and a lot more.

Some Photoshop features we'll discuss in this course:
  • How to change exposure
  • Making a picture look brighter or more vivid
  • Changing specific colors
  • Converting to black & white
  • How to mask images
  • Putting pictures inside text
  • Drawing shapes
  • Embedding Adobe Illustrator files
  • Blending one image into another image
  • How to organize layers
Preview 02:03

Using the Layers Panel

The Layers Panel looks simple, but it does a lot. We'll see how to make layers visible or invisible, how to see just one layer and hide all the others, and we will also look at stacking order: how to put one object in front of another one or behind another one. We will also see how to make thumbnails bigger or smaller.

Overview of the Layers panel

How to select a layer

When you have a lot of layers in a document, it isn't always obvious how to select the one you want, or even which is the layer you want. In this video, we'll see how Photoshop can tell you immediately which layer is the one you want, and it can even automatically select layers for you..... although you might not want to do that. To do all this, you'll get some handy shortcuts and a right-click menu.

Selecting the layer you want

How to change transparency or opacity

Transparency and opacity are just two sides of the same coin: the more opaque something is, the less transparent it is, or the more transparent it is, the less opaque it is. To be consistent, Photoshop always talks about opacity.

In this lecture, we'll adjust the opacity of layers using a slider in the Layers panel, and also with a couple of cool shortcuts.

You can also lock layers, so you don't edit them by accident. So we will also see how to lock and unlock layers, how to use locking and unlocking to your advantage, and which attributes you can lock.

Editing opacity and locking layers

Dealing with pixels that are silhouetted on a transparent background

If you have an object (or an area of pixels) on a transparent background, there are several ways of selecting it. One of the main reasons you might have something on transparency is that you want to copy the pixels into another document. But things might not go the way you expect, so you'll see how to get what you want.

Selecting pixels on transparent backgrounds

Sometimes it seems that you can't unlock a layer

When you open a JPG or Camera Raw file, it will have only one layer, and that layer will be locked. And the lock icons are grayed out, so you can't unlock the layer. So there's a trick to unlocking these layers. Photoshop will also unlock these layers when you copy and paste.

Two ways of unlocking JPG or camera RAW layers

How do you delete a layer?

Creating and modifying layers is great, but sometimes you just want to delete one. In this lecture, we'll see a few quick ways of deleting layers.

Deleting layers

Test your knowledge of the basics of Photoshop layers.

Quiz for Chapter 1 -- Understanding Layers
3 questions
Creating Regular Types of Layers
4 Lectures 29:52
When you have pixels selected, you can create a new layer out of them a couple of different ways. When you do that, the original layer might or might not have a gaping hole in it. If it does, there are a few ways to fix it.
Creating a layer from selected pixels

There are several ways of duplicating layers. You can use a button, a menu item, or a couple of keyboard shortcuts. In this video, we'll see a few examples of how and why you would do this.
Duplicating layers

Why would you create an empty layer?

You might want to draw on top of something or behind something, and do it without altering the original layer. Maybe it's for a temporary alteration, or you just want to try something out. This is another way that you can make non-destructive changes to your images.

Creating empty layers and drawing on them

Sometimes, you'll want to treat multiple layers as though they're one layer. It could be to make the image easier to edit or easier to move things around, or you might want to make a change permanent. You can group or link layers so they move together but retain their original identity, or you can flatten an image and combine all the layers into one.
Linking, merging and flattening layers

Test your knowledge of creating layers in Photoshop

Quiz for Chapter 2 - Creating Regular Layers
3 questions
Often-Used Adjustment layers
7 Lectures 39:37
Changing brightness and contrast is a common adjustment. When you use the Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer, you adjust the tone of all the pixels in the entire image. This is the easiest and most basic adjustment available.
Modifying Overall Brightness and Contrast

The Levels adjustment is usually a better way of adjusting brightness and contrast.Rather than change all the pixels all the same way, Levels lets you change shadows, midtones and highlights separately. It gives you a lot of control, but the Levels panel can look complicated when you first start using it. This video should make it easier to understand.
Adjusting with Levels

Why use Curves instead of Levels? The Curves adjustment is similar to Levels, but it gives you more control, and it can do things that Levels can't. The price is that it's more complex.
Preview 11:22

Changing the exposure of a picture after you take it: If you have a DSLR camera and take pictures in Camera Raw format, it's best to adjust the exposure on the Raw file or digital negative. (Beyond the scope of this course.) But what if you want to change the exposure on an image that's already been processed, like a JPG? That's what the Exposure adjustment is for.
Modifying Exposure

Vibrance and Saturation: similar ways of changing intensity

The Vibrance adjustment layer has two similar controls: Vibrance and Saturation. Both adjustments can make an image look more (or less) intense, but when it comes to reds, these controls work a little differently.

Enhancing Vibrance

There are several ways of removing color, but one method is better than all the others. Simply removing color or reducing the color saturation will both turn a color image into black and white. But the Black and White adjustment layer will let you control the grayscale tone of each individual color. This produces a much better result than the other methods.
Converting Color Layers to Black & White

Changing the levels of individual colors in an image

Whereas the Vibrance adjustment changes the intensity of all colors in an image, the Selective Color adjustment changes the intensity of the individual colors. And it does this for both CMYK and RGB images.

Changing Selective Color

Test your knowledge of adjustment layers.

Quiz for Chapter 3 -- Often-Used Adjustment Layers
3 questions
Special Types of Layers
10 Lectures 01:43:27
Text in Photoshop gets its own layers. When you add type to a document, it goes on its own layer, and you can have as many type layers as you want. And it remains editable. The Character and Paragraph panels provide a lot of formatting control.
Creating and editing type layers

How to fill text with pictures

Type masks are one of the coolest features of Photoshop. You can fill text with an image, and both the text and image remain editable. This effect works best when you use a thick bold font, so the image shows through.

Preview 08:17

Combine effects to create a custom style

At the bottom of the Layers panel is a button that brings up an effects menu. In this lesson, we'll create some effects, and combine them to create a custom style.

Turning effects into layer styles

Once you create a style, you can use it over and over. The best part of creating custom styles is that you can reuse the styles as often as you like. And not just in the same document, but in other Photoshop documents, also.
Re-using layer styles

Layer masks are one of Photoshop's best features. Every layer can have its own mask, and layer masks are one of the foundations of creating special effects and compositions. In this lesson, we'll see how a layer mask can make it look as though we're slipping one image inside another, almost as if it had depth.
Using layer masks to simulate depth

Even though Photoshop is for bitmaps, it can still create vector shapes. If you need a simple vector shape in a Photoshop document, you can draw one or use a ready-made symbol. The vector tools aren't meant as a substitute for a drawing program, but for basic squares, circles and arrows, the tools are more than adequate, and you can modify and combine them in interesting ways.
Drawing vector shape layers

Smart Objects are a way of embedding another file in your document. A typical reason for using a Smart Object is to take a drawing from Adobe Illustrator and embedding it in a Photoshop document. You can then edit the artwork inside Illustrator, and it will get updated in Photoshop immediately, and without any loss of quality.
Taking advantage of smart objects

Fill layers are another way of applying color to a layer. Although you can manually create a blank layer and fill it with the foreground or background color (we did this earlier in the course), a Fill layer makes this process faster and more interactive. We'll see some examples of when you might use them.
Making overlays with fill layers

There are several ways of getting video into Photoshop. You can open a video file just like you open an image file, you can create a new video layer in an existing file, and you can bring a video file into Photoshop from Adobe Bridge. We'll do each of these methods, rearrange the clips, and also adjust the timeline.
Creating video layers (Photoshop Extended)

You control video clips on their own panel as well as the Layers panel. We'll see how to change the start and end points of a clip, change the volume and insert background music, fade in and fade out, apply transitions and filters, and more. Although Photoshop isn't a full-featured video editing program, you can use it for simple projects.
Editing video layers (Photoshop Extended)

Test your knowledge of other types of special layers

Quiz for Chapter 4 -- Other Special Layers
3 questions
Using Blend Modes to Create Special Effects
3 Lectures 20:48
A simple use of blend modes is to apply a color tint. The Multiply mode is one of the most useful ones. A common practice is to multiply layers to add a solid color to blank areas without having to erase pixels, or to add a color tint. We will also use the Divide mode to create an intense, artificial brightness to dark colors.
Adding color to a layer

Color interactions can have dramatic effects. Using the Vivid Light and Subtract modes, we can use an overlay to make certain colors change. We will apply these modes to text using a clipping group for a great special effect. Then we'll apply the Darker Color mode and reduced opacity to another clipping group to imprint a pattern onto a common object.
Creating effects with interacting colors

Blending modes, brushes and layer masks can produce dramatic lighting. We will combine several techniques in this lesson: the Soft Light blending mode, a layer mask, opacity adjustment and the Gradient tool. When we apply a gradient to a layer mask and apply Soft Light, some parts of an image will change from too bright and low contrast into very sharp relief, and another part of the image will stand out.
Creating and adjusting lighting effects

Test your knowledge of Blend modes

Quiz for Chapter 5 -- Using Blend Modes
3 questions
Managing Layers
4 Lectures 25:28
The Layers panel has several ways of letting you get organized. The more layers a document has, the more important it becomes to keep the layers organized so you can find what you’re looking for. It can be time-consuming and frustrating to have to keep scrolling up and down to select the layers you want to edit. That's where groups and colors come in. (The colors get applied only in the Layers panel, not to the image itself.)
Creating groups, and coloring layers

Searching and filtering a document with many layers is a very helpful feature. When you have a file that has many layers, it can be hard to find the layer you want, even if you've grouped layers and applied colors. So starting with the CS6 version of Photoshop, you can sort and filter the layers. For example, you might want to find layers that have the word "cat" or maybe you want to see only adjustment layers, or only layers that have vector masks, or only layers that have the Overlay blend mode applied. This feature can save you a lot of time and frustration.
Filtering and searching layers

The Layer Comps panel lets you define sets of layer states (visible/hidden), so you can quickly show multiple design possibilities of a single document with just a mouse click.

Organizing layers using Layer Comps

Thank you very much for taking this course! I had a lot of fun presenting it to you, and I hope you had fun taking it and will find the material useful. I'm always learning new things about Photoshop, and the more you use it, the more you'll learn new things, too. So I invite you to read my blog at, and follow me on Twitter @BobFlisser and on Google+ at I frequently post helpful info, and if you find something interesting, be sure to let me know!

Thank you and goodbye

Test your knowledge of how to manage layers

Quiz for Chapter 6 -- Managing Layers
3 questions
Artboards - new feature in Creative Cloud 2015
1 Lecture 12:01
How to use artboards
About the Instructor
Bob Flisser
4.9 Average rating
34 Reviews
332 Students
4 Courses
Trainer, author, web & multimedia developer

Bob Flisser has been a trainer and technical writer since the 1980s. He currently has over a dozen video courses released by several commercial publishers, and was the co-author of a series of books of tips and shortcuts for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Windows. He has also written magazine articles and training manuals, and created training centers for companies large and small.

Since 1995, Bob has been the vice president and the web and multimedia developer at Software School, Inc., a software training and graphic design company in New Jersey. He is also a board member of the Mediatech Foundation, which provides free technology access to his community.

Bob is a graduate of The George Washington University with a degree in financial economics and international business.