Friday, August 10, 2012

Powerful Layering Tools

So … now I have you adjusting the values almost every time you apply an effect. How on earth can you keep consistency across your image? That's easy! Photoshop offers the option to copy your effects from layer to layer.


When you have added effects to a layer, a symbol appears on your layer as shown at the left, highlighted with a yellow circle. Double clicking on this symbol opens the Effects window. Right clicking (Command click) will bring a valuable new menu to your fingertips. We will use this menu to provide consistency and speed to your work. Note: You can reach the same menu by choosing Layer>Effects in the main menu.


When you have the effects on one layer perfected, you can copy the effects to move to another layer. Simply open the effects editing drop-down as explained above, and choose Copy Effects. Activate the layer you would like to have the same effects applied to, open the drop-down menu and choose Paste effects. Yup, that's it. As long as you do not copy effects again, that setting will stay on the clipboard waiting for you to apply it to layer after layer. You can also paste the effect into a layer in a separate document.

Now for real power, what if you could apply an effect across linked layers? You can! Create your linked layers as described a few days ago in linking and merging. Activate the layer that others are linked to, open the effects drop-down menu and choose Paste Effects to Linked. That's it – you could apply an effect to 25 layers (or many more) at once as long as they were linked.


In the sample of the rectangles at the left, I decided to reduce the size of all the boxes. Linking them let me reduce the rectangles across the layers in one step. With the reduced size, the shadow was blurred too much. I corrected one of the layers, then copied and pasted the effects to the linked layers. Very powerful tools.


Time for some fun?
Let's take the layer effects' power and have some fun with it. You can separate the layer effect from the layer and manipulate it with all the power that Photoshop offers. The image below started as a ball with a layer effect shadow. I separated the effects to a separate layer, and using the transform commands, manipulated the shadow to make the ball appear to be floating well above the surface.


The first step here was to create the ball and then apply a shadow effect. I used the darkest Web-safe gray as the shadow color, a distance of 150 and blur value of 30. Not very realistic though.


Right click (Command click) on the effects symbol to activate the drop-down menu, and a powerful option is presented. Choose Create Layer, and the layer effect will be moved to a separate layer, as shown below.



You can now manipulate the shadow in the same way as any other layer. In fact, you can apply an effect to the effect if that will achieve the results you seek. Add texture, noise, scale, rotate, skew … whatever you wish, since it is a normal layer. It is wise to link the shadow layer to the object once you have achieve the right look.


This is how you can achieve perspective shadows on objects, making them appear to be standing up, or floating in the air. Experiment with the transform tools on a shadow layer and see what you can produce. You may have to play a while, but always keep light in mind. Where would the light be coming from, and what effect would that have? Place objects near a light source and observe the effects of the shadows.


We have the tool to create any three dimensional effect with effects layers, and you owe it to yourself to learn how to bring the dimension into your work.


Work with layers until you can accomplish all basic functions without thinking. Without understanding layers perfectly, you will not ever be able to master the power of Photoshop, and will find it difficult to create professional, highly editable images.


Finally, always, and I mean always, always, always – as in don't EVER forget – save a Photoshop format (PSD) copy of your files with layers intact. Even if you never work on that image again, you can use elements of it by dragging layers or copying effects.


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