Now I would bargain that many people find learning how to use layers quite confusing after reading a number of differing descriptions on how to start; I remember feeling the same. It was if those giving the instructions assumed a high level of basic processing skills when sharing their wisdom. In this blog I wanted to back track a little and give a basic intro into the use of layers.
The term ‘Layers’ is generic to a number of post processing programmes. Each programme can approach the use of layers slightly differently but in essence they all do the same job, so what is meant by layers? Layers are simply just that. When your photo comes into a programme, it automatically becomes a single layer on its own and it’s given the name of ‘background’. Each layer that’s introduced is given a name which you can change by clicking the named box and re typing. This is good practice if you have a number of layers, its easy to lose track of what you have done.
The first screen shot show that a photo has been loaded into the main central window of Affinity Photo. On the right you’ll the layers panel and your photo has been given its own thumbnail image with the title ‘background’. As I work with Affinity Photo, I’ll show screen shots (i.e. a picture of what’s on your computer screen) from this programme. If you use PS or any of the others you’ll find the layout almost identical.
So what’s the point of layers? By adding layers to a background image (ie your first layer) individually you have the ability to work on making additions to your photos separately; it’s referred to as 'nondestructive'. In essence, it gives you the opportunity to move the layers above or below each other, you can also turn all or some on or off and each can be renamed. When you become more confident, you can then start to change the opacity of each one and they can then be grouped together (very useful when you have a lit of layers). There seems to be no end to how many layers can be added to a photo (generally called a ‘file’) but I have read of 99 being used. However, if you add many layers, you add may start to slow your work flow down, or your computer depending on its power / speed. The next screenshot shows how to get to the adjustment layers.
When you need more than one, just go back to the same menu and load again. The layers will automatically load on top of each other and if you think of them as individual sheets of transparent paper, you’ll be getting the idea of how the system works.
So let’s say you have a number of photos that you would like to alter in some way. It could be that feel the images could be brighter or darker (i.e. you wish to change the exposure), or maybe you would like to bring out stronger colours or even remove a part of a photo that’s spoiling the composition, these are just the starting point of what you can do by using layers. In the next screenshot you can see that I’ve added a number of adjustment layers which are being stacked on top of each other.
Each of the layers can be moved up or down by clicking on one and dragging it. This is a good point for you to experiment as changes can be seen simply by moving them. around; remember that you have an 'undo' button under the 'edit' toolbar. The next fun part is using ‘Blend Modes’. If you look just above the top layer you will see an ‘Opacity’ slider and next on the right is the ‘Blend Mode’ slider. Just highlight a layer and then scroll through the list of blend modes, click on one to use it. If you change your mind, just click on that layer again and change the blend mode back to 'normal'
By now you can see that this is just a basic introduction into using Layers. You are encouraged to experiment knowing that until you save your work you can make alternations however, to be sure of that, Affinity Photo allows you to save a file with its history. This means it's like a ‘smart’ object seen in Photoshop. What this means is that you can reload and all your changes will come back and you make any further changes. To obtain a Jpeg or Tiff etc. from Affinity Photo, you need to ‘Export’ it which means you can’t alter what’s been done later.
The best option it to save an AF file and a Jpeg at the point where you think you have finished editing and that meets your needs. To conclude this brief introduction to Layers I would suggest you check out these tutorials provided by Serif (ie Affinity Photo). Also check out the videos provided on the AF site. I hope this gets you started, remember, you can only get better by practice, practice, practice.
Thanks for reading
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
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