Using layers in Photoshop is an excellent way to experiment with and compare different special effects and discard the ones that don’t quite work. If you haven’t used layers much, they may seem mysterious. But this month we’ll show you how to use the Layer Styles feature to help you unleash your creativity.
Do you remember overhead projectors and the transparency sheets you could overlay to build upon an idea? The “layer” concept in Photoshop is similar, only imagine being able to overlay photographic effects. This month you’ll practice adding multiple styles on a single layer. Think of it as style layers within a layer.
The Layers Palette
If you don’t see the Layers Palette on your screen, go to the Window menu and select Show Layers. The Layers Palette lets you view and edit your layers, as well as adjust their visibility and change their order.
Prepare a photo. If you have a digital photo handy, open it now. If you don’t, use one of Photoshop’s sample images. From the File menu, select Open, Program Files, Adobe, Photoshop 6.0, and Samples. Open the Bear.psd or the Zebra.psd image.
It’s necessary to have a transparent background to perform the style changes we’re after. The best way to accomplish this is to copy your image into a new file, a file with a transparent background. Determine the actual size of your image by selecting Image Size from the Image menu. Write down the width and height. Now Click File, New to open a new file. Specify that the new file be 100 pixels wider and 100 pixels taller that the original. Most importantly, in the Contents section, select Transparent so the new file has a transparent background. Click OK.
At this point, you have two files open. Return to the original, and from the Select menu, choose All. Then copy the image you’ve selected by choosing Copy from the Edit menu. Now go back to the empty new file and choose Paste from the Edit menu. Save the file as Zebranew. Close the original file.
Style a shadow. To make a drop shadow, choose Layer Style from the Layer menu. Select Drop Shadow and you’ll see a range of options to choose from. Keep an eye on the preview image. Its shadow reflects the changes you make. Keep the blend mode as Normal. The Opacity slider lets you make a darker or lighter shadow. The Angle option lets you specify what angle the light is coming from, therefore moving the position of the shadow. Use the Distance, Spread, and Size sliders to position the shadow nearer or farther, specify the sharpness of the shadow, and determine the relative number of pixels in the shadow. Once you’ve made a perfect shadow, click OK.
To edit your work, just double-click the Drop Shadow effect in the Layers Palette.
Achieve an outer glow. An outer glow softens the edges of an image. From the Layer menu, choose Layer Style and select Outer Glow. Under the Structure section, specify the Blend Mode as Normal. Opacity determines the brightness of the glow; use the slider to determine what looks best in the preview image. The Noise option is often best set at zero. Just below that, you can choose the color of the glow by clicking the little square.
he Elements section lets you choose a soft or precise glow and how blurry and widespread the glow should be. Because we already have a drop shadow, we recommend a subtle glow. Our size and spread is merely seven pixels.
We’ve left the Quality section at its default, but you can use it to redefine the subtleties, such as the way glow pixels are arranged around a shape.
Overlay a color. Finally, we like to use the color overlay to give our photo a subtle, warm feeling. Once again, from the Layer menu, choose Layer Style. This time select Color Overlay. The default may be a bit much, so move the Opacity slider down to 10%. Now click the small colored rectangle and choose an appropriate overlay color. Click OK.
Looking in the Layers Palette, you’ll notice that each effect has its own “sublayer.” You can hide all the effects or one effect at a time by clicking the adjacent eye icon. To copy the effects to another layer, simply right-click the layer, select Copy Layer Style, select another layer, right-click, and select Paste Layer Style. To delete one or more styles, Paste Layer Style. To delete one or more styles, drag them to the trash.