Photoshop Tips for using Layers
44 Converting Layer Styles
Converting a Layer Style to a normal pixel-based layer gives you greater control to edit the contents. To do so, add a style then right-click Effects and choose Create Layer.
45 View one layer
If you’re working with multiple layers and you want to view one layer on its own, there’s no need to hide all the others manually, simply hold down Alt and click the Eye icon of a layer to make every other layer invisible. Hold down Alt and click again to reveal them.
46 Invert a Layer Mask
After adding any Adjustment Layer, hit Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the Layer Mask and quickly hide the effect, then paint back over the image with white to selectively reveal the adjustment.
47 Unlink layers and masks
You can move either a mask or an image independently of one another by clicking the link between the two thumbnails in the Layers Panel. Highlight the thumbnail you want to reposition, then grab the Move tool.
48 Quick copy
Hold down Alt and drag a mask, style or layer to quickly duplicate it.
49 Convert the Background
Double-click the Background Layer and hit OK to convert it to an editable layer.
Always use Adjustment Layers rather than directly editing a layer. This gives you three advantages: you can edit it at any time, control the strength with Opacity, and use a mask to make it work selectively.
51 Move query
When using the Move tool, right-click over a point in the image for a list of all the layers you’re hovering over.
52 Panel Options
The Layers Panel is the most important box in Photoshop, so you’ll want to make sure it’s set up properly for your needs. Choose Panel Options from the Fly-out menu to select different thumbnail sizes and content.
53 Move layers up or down
You can move layers up or down the stack in the Layers Panel while watching the image change. Hold down Cmd/Ctrl and press ] or [. Add in Shift to move a layer right to the top or bottom.
54 Fill shortcuts
You can press Alt+Backspace to fill a layer or selection with the Foreground colour, Cmd/Ctrl+Backspace to fill a layer or selection with the Background colour, or Shift+Backspace to quickly access the Fill Options.
55 The 50% grey layer
A new layer filled with 50% grey is useful in lots of situations. For example, you can dodge and burn with it, add texture, or manipulate a Lens Flare effect, all in a completely non-destructive way. To create a 50% grey layer, make a new layer then go to Edit>Fill, then set the Blend Mode to Overlay.
56 Layer Group shortcut
Layer Groups are incredibly useful, but don’t bother clicking on the Layer Group icon, as you’ll have to add layers to the new group manually. Instead, you should highlight several layers and either drag them to this icon or alternatively hit Cmd/Ctrl+G.
57 Edit multiple type layers
To apply a change of font or size to multiple type layers at once, hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click the layers in the Layers Panel to highlight them, then simply select the Type tool and change the settings in the Options Bar.
58 Layer Mask views
Hold down Alt and click a Layer Mask thumbnail to toggle between a view of the mask and the image. Hold down Shift and click to turn the mask on or off.
59 Select similar layers
To quickly select all layers of a similar kind, such as shape or type layers, highlight one of them and then go to Select>Similar Layers.
60 Change Opacity
When not using a painting tool, you can change layer Opacity simply by pressing a number key. Hit 1 for 10%, 5 for 50%, and 0 for 100%.
61 Quick masking
You may be familiar with Color Range in the Select drop-down menu. But did you know that you can access a similar command through the Color Range button in the Masks Panel? (Window>Masks). This allows you to quickly make a mask by sampling colours, which can be used for making a quick spot colour effect.
62 Step-by-step Blend fire effects
01 Copy in the fire Open our files ‘fire_before01’ and ‘fire_before02’, then grab the Move tool and check Auto-Select Layer and Show Transform Controls. Drag the fire image into the girl image to copy it in, then change the Blend Mode of the layer to Screen.
02 Position and warp Click the bounding box to transform the fire layer, then resize, rotate and position the layer. Right-click while in Transform mode and choose Warp to wrap the fire around the body. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the fire layer and transform again to build up the effect.
Tips for using Photoshop Tools
63 Right-click for contextual menus
Almost all tools have a contextual menu that’s accessed with a simple right-click. This usually gives you the tool’s major controls and a few handy shortcuts. As well as the tool you have active, where you right-click affects the menu, too. For example, a right-click over a layer thumbnail or mask thumbnail gives different options.
64 Speedy navigation
Being able to quickly and easily move around your image and zoom in or out will speed up your workflow more than anything else. Use Cmd/Ctrl and + to zoom in, Cmd/Ctrl and – to zoom out. Hold the space bar to temporarily access the Hand tool and drag around the image.
65 Crucial selection shortcuts
With any selection tool, hold Shift to add to an existing selection and Alt to subtract from it. Shift+Alt together allows you to intersect selections.
66 Paste in place
Cut and paste a selection to a new layer and Photoshop will place it in the middle of the screen. If you want to paste it to a new layer, but keep the position the same, use Cmd/Ctrl+X to cut and Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+V to paste in place. Similarly, you should hold down Shift while dragging layers between documents with the Move tool to keep the same position.
67 Hide the Marching Ants
Press Cmd/Ctrl+H to hide or reveal a selection’s ‘marching ants’ line. Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+H does the same for a Path line.
68 The amazing
Use the Cmd/Ctrl+click shortcut on any layer thumbnail, mask thumbnail, Channel or Path to load its shape or contents as a selection.
69 Switch lasso
When using the Lasso tool, hold Alt then release the mouse button to temporarily switch to the Polygonal Lasso tool.
70 Fixed Ratio selections
The Rectangular Marquee tool has a useful ‘Style’ setting in the Options Bar that lets you make a selection at a fixed ratio or size. This is helpful if you want to select a specific area to use as a wallpaper or for web pages.
71 Transform a selection
You can transform a selection in just the same way as a layer. Just go to Select>Transform Selection. Right-click to choose from familiar transform modes like Skew and Warp.
72 Pen tool rubber band
If you’re a newcomer to the Pen tool, it can be frustrating when plotting anchor points, as often you’re not entirely sure how your next curve will behave. There’s a useful feature hidden in the Options Bar that can be a godsend for beginners. Click the ‘Geometry options’ drop-down (next to Auto Add/Delete) and check Rubber Band. Now, as you use the Pen tool you’ll see an interactive preview of your next curve before you add it.
73 Non-destructive crops
A little-known feature of the Crop tool allows you to hide, rather than delete cropped areas. To do this, you’ll need to make the Background Layer editable first, so double-click it then hit OK. Next, grab the Crop tool and drag a crop window, then instead of applying the crop, check Hide in the Options. Now you can re-crop at any time by dragging outside the window to reveal the previously cropped areas.
75 Add a point
To add a point, hover over the existing path line and the Pen tool will automatically change to the Add Anchor Point tool.
76 Remove handles
Remove handles from a point and make it into a sharp angle by Alt-clicking over it.
77 From selection to path
Turn any active selection into a path by clicking the ‘Make Workpath from Selection’ icon at the bottom of the Paths Panel.
78 Add handles
Add handles to a point by holding Alt then dragging outwards from the point
79 Path options
Once you’ve made a path with the Pen tool, right-click for lots of options, including Make Selection, Fill Path and Stroke Path.
80 Magnetic Pen
For a magnetic Pen tool that behaves just like the Magnetic Lasso tool, choose the Freeform Pen tool from the Tools Panel then check ‘Magnetic’ in the Options Bar.
81 Step-by-step Select sky with Channels
01 Copy Blue Channel
Go to Window Channel then drag the Blue Channel to the New Channel icon to duplicate it. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+L to access Levels, then drag the white and black point sliders in dramatically to make the sky totally white and the land black. Now use the Brush tool and paint with black to tidy any bits in the land.
02 Load a selection
Hold Cmd/Ctrl and click the Blue Copy Channel to load a selection of the white areas. Click back on the RGB Channel then go to the Layers Panel and add a Curves Adjustment Layer. The selection is automatically turned into a mask. Drag down on the curve to darken the sky.
Tips for using Brushes
82 Try Adobe Eazel
For tablet owners, Adobe Eazel is both fun and a serious painting tool. Finger-painted brush strokes have a fluidity that’s difficult to create on a computer. Wireless transmission between tablet and Photoshop streamlines the painting process.
83 Change the brush angle
When using a non-circular brush, you may find the need to change the angle of the brush tip. To do this, click the Brush Panel in the Options Bar then highlight Brush Tip shape and drag the circle to change the angle of the brush. You can also flip it horizontally or vertically with the check boxes.
84 Rotate the clone source
Clone around corners by rotating a clone source. To do so, use Shift+Alt+ < or >. It helps if you have Show Overlay checked in the Clone Source Panel, so that you can see the rotation.
85 Real paint ridges
The Bevel and Emboss filter is often used by digital painters to make brush strokes look like ridged layers of paint. Merge a copy of all the layers, then set the Blend Mode to Overlay and apply the Bevel and Emboss filter.
86 Interactive brush settings
When using the Brush tool, hold down Alt and the right mouse button for a preview of the Brush tip’s size and hardness. Drag down and up to increase or decrease hardness, and drag right or left to change the size.
87 Tilt Canvas
When painting, it’s often easier to rotate the canvas rather than try to bend your wrist into an uncomfortable position. Just as a sketcher would angle a piece of paper, you can angle your canvas by holding down R then dragging it around. Release R and you’ll flip back to your original tool. To revert back to normal, hold down R and click Reset View in the options.
88 Smudge painting
Smudge painting is quick and immensely satisfying. To paint with the Smudge tool, fill a layer with an off-white tone, duplicate the Background Layer and set it at the top of the stack, with Opacity at about 13%, then highlight the Smudge tool, check Sample All Layers, and start painting. It’s that simple.
89 Add texture to paintings
As a finishing touch, you can make your paintings look much more authentic by adding a paper texture. Copy a texture on top of your image, then experiment with Blend Modes and Opacity until you get the right effect. The Darken or Multiply modes will usually provide you with good results.
90 Draw straight lines
To draw a straight line with the Brush tool, hold down Shift and then click two points.
91 Sample a colour
With the Brush tool selected, hold down Alt and click to sample a colour and then set it as your Foreground colour.
92 Precise painting
Press Caps Lock to switch your cursor to a crosshair.
93 Cycle through the brushes
Use , and . to cycle left or right through the brushes in the Brush Preset Picker.
94 Dodge or Burn
When painting with the Burn tool, you can hold down Alt to switch instantly to the Dodge tool.
95 Get a pen and tablet
If you’re into digital painting, but don’t own a graphics tablet, you’re missing out on a whole new world of creativity. There are plenty of good, entry-level tablets available, but if you want mid-range features that include multi-touch input, treat yourself to a Wacom Intuos 5.
96 Change hardness
As you probably know, the ] and [ bracket keys change your brush size, but you can also use Shift+ ] or [ to change the brush hardness.
97 Quick Opacity change
When using the Brush tool, press any number between 0 and 9 and the Brush Opacity will set to it. 1 for 10%, 9 for 90%, 0 for 100%. Press Shift and a number to adjust Flow.
98 Create a brush
You can create a brush tip from any image you like. Simply convert to monochrome, then make a selection and go to Edit>Define Brush Preset. Only dark parts are recorded; any parts that are pure white aren’t included in the brush tip. So if you want the shape of the brush to be clear, you need to isolate the object or shape against a white background.
99 Make sketch lines
If you want to turn a photo into a painting, adding sketch lines can make the effect look more realistic. To do so, duplicate your layer then go to Filter>Stylise> Glowing Edges, then invert the colours, desaturate and use the Darken or Multiply Blend Mode.
The Brush Panel is the control centre for hundreds, if not thousands, of different brush effects and settings. The best way to find out how it works is to grab the Brush tool, choose a colour, open a new document and start painting. To take it further, try painting on different layers and use different Blend Modes, or add Layer Style effects to your painted layer.
101 Step-by-step Quick brush effects
01 Set up the Brush
Open your original image, then hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate the background. Load Square Brushes from the Brush Picker drop-down menu. Select a square brush, then open the Brush Panel and use these settings: Brush tip shape: Spacing 631%. Shape Dynamics: Size, Angle, Roundness Jitter – all 100%. Scattering: Scatter 638%, Count Jitter 50%. Colour Dynamics: Foreground/Background Jitter 20%, Saturation Jitter 20%. Brightness 30%.
02 Paint mask and colours
Use the Lasso tool to select the girl then hit Shift+Backspace and choose Fill: Content-Aware. Hold down Alt and click the Add Layer Mask icon then set Foreground colour to white and paint on the mask over the girl to hide parts of the body. Next, add a new empty layer and hold down Alt to sample colours from the girl, then paint to add coloured fragments. Add a second new layer, paint larger strokes, then blur slightly with Filter> Gaussian Blur.
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