Monday, September 29th, 2014

Merging two layers into one in Photoshop

Learn a handy keyboard shortcut to merge two layers in Photoshop

One simple trick but one that comes in handy constantly for me is merging two layers into one in Photoshop. This trick can save your life with so many Photoshop projects that require two images to be merged to a single layer.

Make sure the layers you wish to merge are on top of each other in the Layers palette. Click on the thumbnail of the top most layer of the two you want to merge.

Press Control/Command + E.

Now your layers are merged.

Something to keep in mind is the new layer when it does merge will take the name of the layer on the top.


Friday, September 19th, 2014

How to center a layer in a Photoshop document

Image Credit: © 2014, anitab0000

Help! How to center a layer’s contents in Photoshop

Whether you’re making a simple document, newsletter or editing a photo a necessity is being able to center your layers. This task took me by surprise as to how challenging it was but in a few steps it can easily be done.

First press Control + click (Command + Click on the Mac) on the layer thumbnail for the layer you want to center in your Layers panel.

Click Select > All (Control/Command + A). This selects the entire image. You can tell this is done by the marching ants around your full image.

Click Layer >Align Layers to Selection > Horizontal Centers.

Notice that your layer is now centered horizontally. You can do the same vertically by choosing Layer >Align Layers to Selection > Vertical Centers.

Press Control/Command + D to deselect your layers.

Now your layer content is deselected and aligned horizontally (and/or vertically) and you’re free to continue editing.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Photoshop Basics: Learning About Layers

image credit © 2008 lockstockb,
Guest post

Understanding how layers work is crucial to being able to work effectively in Photoshop and in this post I will cover everything related to Layers including,

How to Create a New Layer

How to Duplicate a Layer

Add a Layer style

Using Adjustment Layers

How to Merge Layers


This is a very basic function in Photoshop which is elaborated further in this Photoshop tutorial. On the menus choose Layer > New > Layer to create a new empty layer right above your image. On that brand new layer, you can paint, create shapes, etc… all in a non-destructive way. This means that if you don’t like what you just did, hide or delete that layer on your image underneath will still look like it did at the start.


To duplicate a layer click on the layer you want to duplicate then go to Layer > Duplicate Layer and voila, you now have two identical layers!


Say you added a button or some text on your image and you’d like to add a shadow to it. To do this, choose Layer > Layer Style and choose Drop Shadow. Other popular options are Inner Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Glow and Bevel & Emboss. I suggest you play with each of them to really understand how they can benefit you.


Adjustment layers are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop. Use these to change the look of your image in a non-destructive way by, for example, adjusting the colors as well as the shadows, highlights and contrast. To add an adjustment layer to any image, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer and choose the type of adjustment layer. Here is a list of the adjustment layers I use most frequently:

Brightness/Contrast: This lets you make simple adjustments to the tonal range of your image. In layman’s terms, when you move the Brightness slider to the right your image gets brighter, when you move it to the left the image gets darker. If you move the Contrast slider to the right, your image becomes more contrasty, you move it to the left, contrast is reduced and the image becomes more grayish.

Levels: A Levels adjustment allows you to adjust the intensity levels of shadows, midtones, and highlights in your image. Drag the slider on the left inwards to darken the shadows and drag the slider on the right inwards to brighten the highlights. If you drag the middle slider to the left you will brighten the midtones and drag it to the right to darken the midtones in your photo.

Curves: Use can use Curves to adjust the image tonality with more precision than by using Levels. By adding points on the curve, you’ll be able to adjust the brightness or darkness of the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows.

Hue/Saturation: This one is really helpful for adjusting colors. You can either adjust the saturation of all colors at the same time (this is the default and occurs when the Master channel is selected) or select individual colors from the dropdown menu to adjust the saturation of that color and also its Hue and Brightness.

In adjusting the hue you can, for example, with red selected, drag the slider to bring the red towards either pink or orange. The Brightness slider will either brighten or darken specific colors or the entire image – depending what you have selected in the dropdown menu.

Color Balance: Perfect for color correction, Color Balance changes the mixture of colors in a photo. You have the option here to adjust the colors in the Midtones, Shadows and Highlights. Let’s take the color blue for example, if you want to adjust the color of a blue sky, choose Highlights, a blue shirt, choose Midtones, a blushish shadow, choose Shadows. To color correct an image, I suggest you try each slider and move to the next slider once you like the look of the image.

Selective Color: This is another powerful tool for color correcting or color grading. Selective color will allow you in a very precise way to fine tune color. For every color (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas, Whites, Neutrals/Gray, Blacks) you’ll be able to fine tune them by adjusting the Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, Yellow/Blue, Black/White found in each of those colors.


Sometimes you want to duplicate a layer, other times you want to merge them together. To do this, from the Layer menu choose Merge Layers, Merge Visible, or Flatten Image:

Merge Layers: Use this option when you want to merge layers you have selected.

Merge Visible: Use this when you want to merge all the visible layers.

Flatten Image: Use this when you want to flatten the entire image/all the layers.

Helen Bradley

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Illustrator for Photoshop Users

Learning Illustrator is different and easier if you already know Photoshop

So, you’re pretty handy with Photoshop but Illustrator is different – isn’t it? It is not easy to understand when you first start and you might be scared off by an interface that looks both familiar and foreign at the same time. I certainly was when I started out. Illustrator was like a foreign language and it took a lot of time to learn it.

But learning Illustrator when you already use Photoshop can be simplified. You see you already know a lot about Illustrator so we can start out with that knowledge and build on it. You need to know what is the same and what is different between the two programs and you need to know what is important and what you can ignore for now.

So, to help you, I created this video. It’s for anyone who knows Photoshop and who wants to learn Illustrator. I will build on your knowledge so we don’t waste time on things you already know but so you learn quickly how Illustrator is different and how to get started with it.

No laborious “how to use the Pen tool” stuff here. Just quick and fun and interesting stuff guaranteed to get you on your way to loving the creative potential of Illustrator.



Helen Bradley

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

3 Photoshop Filter tips and tricks

Learn three things about using Filters in Photoshop – including how to control the colors used (and why sometimes the colors look horrible), how to combine and reorder filters and how to add them so you have maximum flexibility when using them.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley.

Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial we’re going to look at three things that you need to know about using filters in Photoshop. In this video I’m going to cover some of the important things that you need to know about filters.

And the first one is that what you have selected as the foreground and background color is critical when you’re using filters. Now I’m going to convert this layer into a Smart Object layer. So I’m going to choose Filter > Convert for Smart Filters and that makes this a Smart Object so that the filters will be editable.

If you’re using Photoshop CS4 or later you’ll want to do this. Now I’m going to choose Filter > Filter Gallery and notice that my foreground and background colors are sort of a lime green a bright pink. And they’re exactly the same colors that are being applied here with this halftone pattern filter.

Now you might come into this filter dialog and take one look at this result and say well this is not for me. Well the reason why it’s probably not for you is that you’ve got selected these foreground and background colors and if you weren’t using those colors then this halftone filter wouldn’t look like this.

Let’s just click Cancel to exit out of here and I’m going to press the D key which sets the default foreground and background color. Now let’s go back into the filter gallery and you can see that the halftone pattern looks very different this time.

It’s black and white. And it’s black and white because of this black and white here. Now again if I exit this dialog and if we switch black and white around and I go back into the filter gallery you’ll see that we’re getting this sort of negative look on our image. Because white is now the foreground color we’re getting the effect of a digital negative with a halftone on it.

So you can see how critical it is that you’re using these colors as black and white with the darker color in the foreground before you go into the filters if you want a sort of standard filter effect. So I’m just going to make this sort of a brown color so that I can use brown and white and I’m going into Filter and then Filter Gallery.

And now we’ve got a brown and white sort of color halftone effect. So that’s the first trick in Photoshop, always make sure that you have the correct foreground and background colors selected. And if things look funky in here then just exit the dialog and start again. Now this is not going to be the case for most of these effects.

The artistic effects for example do not generally rely on those colors the foreground and background color so you’ll probably find that most of these work just fine. For example sponge is working just fine. With brush strokes you might find that the colors are being used but you can always test this to make sure by choosing some really, really bright colors and see if you see these colors in the resulting filter.

If you do see the colors then you can say to yourself well yes these colors are being used by the filter and if I don’t like the effect then I’m going to need to exit this filter gallery and go and do something about it. You can see that the diffuse glow filter is using the background color, the pink that we have selected as a background color. Again, glass knot, ocean ripple knot, all the sketch filters, pretty much all of them use these foreground and background colors.

Chrome is an exception to that but all the others are using it. Water paper is different, again glowing edges will be different. The texture filters probably aren’t going to use these colors but certainly all of these sketch ones are. Now the other thing to be aware of here is that you can add multiple filters.

So for example I’m just going to set up this filter pretty much the way I want it to look on this image. I just probably want the size to be a bit smaller. But having done that to the image I can now click here on this New Effect Layer option and I can add a second effect. So for example I could go and put some sort of painterly effect over the top of this, for example accented edges. And this is accented edges over a halftone pattern filter.

But if I reverse these I may find that the result is quite different and it is in this combination. If I do the halftone first and accented edges second the entire result looks very different. So working these filters out the ones that you want to use and the order in which you want to use them is critical.

To turn a filter off deselect its eyeball here and that just turns its effect off in the image. You can add new effects layers, new filter layers by clicking New Effect Layer and if you to remove an effect layer just click it, for example accented edges, and click the Delete button and it’s now been removed. I’m just going to go back and put accented edges in and click Ok.

Now because of the way I set this up with Smart Filters there’s one option here for the filter gallery. When I open it I can then change both of these filters. It is also possible to create separate filters. So while this object has been created for Smart Filters I’m just going to trash my filters and let’s go back and put them in one at a time.

So first of all I’m going to go in and add my accented edges. So I’m going to remove the halftone filter. So I’m just going to click that and click Ok. And now I’m going to add a second filter. This one’s not going to be accented edges. This is going to be my halftone pattern. And then I’ll click Ok.

You’ll notice that what we’re seeing is pretty much the halftone filter. This is the halftone filter on top and this is the accented edges underneath. Now in this case these two filters can be dragged around inside the layer palette to reverse the order. So I get a bit more flexibility here if I add the filters separately because in this case I can drag to reorder them outside of the filter gallery.

I don’t have to go back into the filter gallery to edit them and I can also disable a filter if I want to by deselecting its eyeball here. So that’s another thing to consider when you’re applying filters to images inside Photoshop. Before we finish up let’s have a look at another reason why I like to add my filters one at a time and then reorder them as required.

At the moment we have green and pink selected as our foreground and background colors but I’m going to press the letter D to change these around so that they’re now the default colors. I have my image selected and I’m going back into the filter gallery. And this time I’m going to choose a different sort of filter effect.

I’m actually going to choose a sketch filter because I want to make use of the black and white. So I’m thinking graphic pen will probably be a good choice here so I’ll just click Ok. And now this is the filter that we’ve just applied and it’s been applied on top of the other filters. Now I can click here to change the blending on this filter and instead of normal I’m going to choose multiple so I get this darkening effect on the image.

But you’ll notice that this filter is using the black and white colors and these other two filters are using the original pink and green. And if I go in and try and edit this filter by double clicking on it you can see that we’re working with the pink and green filter. I’m working on accented edges. Although I’m seeing the halftone dots it’s the accented edges filter that I’m making changes to while I’m in here.

And I can change the edge brightness and the smoothness. I’ll click Ok. And now I want to have a look at the halftone filter and that’s this one here. I’m going to double click on it to open it. This time we’re looking at the halftone pattern filter and any changes that we’re making are to that pattern filter only.

So I’m going to make it a little bit larger size dots and click Ok. And you can see the result in the image. Halftone pattern filter, accented edges filter, both of these were they using a foreground and background color are using the original pink and green because that was the color combination when we applied those filters.

This filter is the brush strokes on the top and it’s black and white because when we applied this filter we were applying it using the then current black and white colors. So you can see that there’s really a lot more to filters in Photoshop than may first meet the eye.

I’m Helen Bradley.

Thank you for joining me for this YouTube video. Look out for more videos on this YouTube channel.

Subscribe to my channel and visit for more tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, Illustrator and a whole lot more.

Helen Bradley

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Photoshop – Hold your own photo collage

Learn how to make a collage effect showing a hand holding a Polaroid photo over the top of your own original photo. The process can be done in practically any version of Photoshop. It uses some simple masks and selections.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley.

Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how you can create a collage image that shows you holding your own photo. Before we get started let’s have a look and see the effect that we’re looking for.

What I have here is a Polaroid frame and I’ve extracted a portion of the image underneath to place inside the frame. And we have a hand here looking as if the Polaroid image is being held over the top of a scene.

So this is the image that we start with. We’re going to add a hand to it and also a Polaroid frame which we’re then going to fill with our image. We’re going to finish off with just a little bit of shading to help the realism of the situation. So, if you’re ready let’s get started.

To create this effect you’re going to need three images. You’re going to need your main starting image, an image of a hand and an image of a Polaroid frame. Now this image I shot on the street front in front of my house. All I did was hold  my hand up as if I was holding something and then shot it with a macro setting on the camera because that allowed me to focus at that hand.

Now the Polaroid image is from a website. I got it from this website.

There’s a person there who has a Polaroid image. You’ll just open the Polaroid image up, right click and choose Save Image as. And I’ve got the link for that in the description for this video. So once you’ve got all three images open you’re ready to go.

Now I’m going to start by just dragging and dropping the Polaroid image into my main image. So here’s my main image. I’m just taking the background layer and just dropping it in and then I can move it and resize it.

Now if I’m resizing it I want to do that with the Shift key held so it’s constrained in the correct proportions. I’m just going to place it loosely where it’s going to go. Now with the hand image I don’t want all of the detail because this is straight out of the camera. So I’m just going to crop it fairly tightly so the only bits that I’m going to work on are the actual bits that I need in my image.

So I’m just going to crop it there and then just drag and drop it into position. So once we’ve got the three images all in one we’ve got a lot less stuff hanging around on our desktop. So the first thing I’m going to do is deal with the hand. So I’m going to turn off the other layers, click on the hand layer and I’m going to use the Quick Selection tool.

It really, if it works for your job, it’s the best tool to use because it’s quick. And so I’ve just gone too far there and we’ve selected everything. But let’s just go and deselect the hand. If you select a bit more than you need you can Alt and drag with the Quick Selection tool to deselect an area. So now I have all this outside edge selected and I could either delete that or I could mask it.

And since I’m going to need a mask later on I may as well just mask it for now. So I’m just going to click the Mask icon. Now the mask has gone in the wrong way around but all I need to do is to tap on the mask layer and Ctrl I to invert it.

Now it looks like I’ve got a bit of extra here. So I’m just going to select the black color here and just paint out along this line to make sure that it’s all gone, ok, so I don’t have anything trailing and I’m just going to move my hand back into the very corner of the image where it’s going to go. Now we can go and focus our attention on the Polaroid frame. Again, I’m going to turn everything off, focus on the Polaroid frame layer and again I’m going to use the Quick Select tool just because it is so good.

So I’m just going to select around the edges of this Polaroid because it comes in with quite a bit of edge detail and we don’t want that. All we want is the white Polaroid frame itself. So I’m going to need to get rid of that edge and we’re also going to want to select everything in the middle here so that all that is left is the white frame. Now let’s learn from the last mask that we created.

The last mask we created when we selected the background and just clicked the Mask tool what we got was a mask that gave us the background, the selection and nothing else. So let’s just undo that and this time if we Alt Click on the layer mask we’ll get a layer mask that actually shows us the frame and not the excess.

Now again, we’ve got some trailing little bits around the edge which is a bit annoying. But with black as my paint color I’m going to click at one end of it, Shift Click at the other and there’s a bit of a strip down here too. I’m just going to get rid of those so that I have just the frame itself. And now we can go ahead and we can bring back in our hand and we can have a look at the frame over the top of the image. So you can see how everything is starting to go together.

The next thing to do is to position this frame pretty much where I want it to be.

Now I’m going to want to tilt it. Before I do that I want to grab a selection of the middle of the frame so I can then go and get the image of Sacre Coeur that I need. So I’m going back to my Quick Select tool. I’m going to make sure that the polaroid itself is selected, that layer, not the mask, just the polaroid and I’m going to click inside it with the Quick Select tool so I get a selection of the area that is the inside of the polaroid and turn everything back off again.

And you can see my selection is in place. Now if I just wanted exactly the same size I could go ahead and make a copy but I actually want my Sacre Coeur to be a slightly different size in the frame. So I need to transform this selection. So I’m going to Select and then Transform Selection because that allows me to make the selection bigger so the portion of Sacre Coeur that I’m going to take will be scaled down inside the Polaroid frame.

So I’ve not only scaled it by holding the Shift key as I’ve sized it up but I’ve also positioned the selection exactly where I want it and I’m going to click the Transform or the Commit tool here. Now I want this image but I also what my background so I sort of want my cake and eat it too. So then I’m going to make sure that I have the background selected and I’m going to do Layer > New Layer via Copy.

And what that gives me is not only my original background layer but also a layer that has just this image on it. And so now I want to size it and position it inside this frame. So I’m going to turn everything off except for the Polaroid frame and the image portion. I’m going to make sure that the image itself is selected and click the Move tool. And now I’m going to size it down. I want it just the right size for fitting inside this Polaroid frame.

So it can be a little bit larger than the inside of the frame because it’s in a layer behind the frame but I won’t want it so large that it’s falling over the edges. So we just need to get it in the right position. So having done that I’m going to select the Polaroid frame layer and the picture layer and just tilt it. And now when I turn everything back on we can see how it’s all fitting together. And you can see that it’s probably not in the ideal place still.

So I’m going to with those two layers selected – actually I think I’m going to move the hand. I think it’s the hand that’s the problem more than the image itself so I’m just going to move the hand back down. And now let’s go to the Polaroid and the image and we’ll just move them over a little bit and perhaps even square them up a little bit more.

So I want it where it is going to appear held in my hand. So now let’s go to the image itself and let’s make the image a little bit different so it’s obvious that it’s a Polaroid and not the image behind. I’m going to do this using an adjustment layer with Layer > New Adjustment Layer and I’m just going to choose a black and white adjustment because this allows me to convert the image into black and white.

In fact everything is going to black and white and I’m not worried about that. I’m only focusing on what’s happening inside the Polaroid because we’re going to limit this fix in a minute just to the Polaroid. So I’m going to darken the sky up and lighten up the building a bit. So let’s call that done. And now we’re going to create a clipping group of that which will limit this adjustment layer to only affect the layer below.

And to do that we select the adjustment layer and choose Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Now you can see that this is clipped to the layer below. Now I don’t want it to be black and white. I just want it to be a little less than full color. So I’m just going to drag down the opacity of this layer so that we get the distinct impression that this image inside the polaroid frame is a different image to the one that we’re actually seeing.

Now we just need to sort out the hand issue. And the problem with the hand is that the polaroid frame is behind the hand and we’re not getting that sense that the hand is actually even holding the frame. So we’re going to zoom in. So I’m going to click the Zoom tool with the letter Z and then just zoom into the image and move it around by holding the Spacebar. We already have our mask and the mask will be white where the image is showing and black where it’s not showing. So we want to start painting with black and I want a brush that is fairly hard.

So I’ve got a small, hard brush here and what I want to do is start painting on the mask layer in black to remove the finger where it shouldn’t be. Now it’s a little bit hard to see exactly where it shouldn’t be so I will generally paint out too much of it and then go back and fill it in again. And if I go too far I can just fine-tune that as I go.

And I may want to move even more closely into the image to do this. I certainly will want to size my brush down quite a bit. Now you’re going to do a better and more considered effect than I am because I’m just trying to do this for the sake of the video but you’ll be able to do a better job of this. You obviously – I’ve taken the wrong part of the finger out here.

Let’s just deal with my stupidity here. This is a much better idea. Let’s take the part of the finger that is in front of the Polaroid and then let’s get back the portion of the finger that is behind it. Hum, much better, ok. Now we’ve got some problems here.

Again, this time now I’m getting too much of the background in but I can just deal with that. And then I’m going to get in close here as well. And I would get a bit more of this skin because this is actually the second finger showing behind. We want to ease that off a little bit so we don’t get quite that effect. And part of this is the roadway too. Now having done that let’s just zoom out and see where we’re at.

We’re pretty near done on this. The only thing that concerns me is that there probably would be a bit of shadowing around here. So to put the shadowing in I’m going to add a new layer. I’ll just click the Add New Layer icon, I’m going to select a brush and then I’m going to select a sort of brown paint color. And you can sample this from the image if you want to. Just click on something that’s sort of brown. And then we’re going to paint in where we think that there would typically be a bit of a shadow. And there might be perhaps a bit of shadowing here as well and maybe even across the top of the Polaroid itself.

Now obviously the opacity is going to be reduced enormously. We’re going to take it right down. And we could use multiply if we wanted to just to blend it into the layer below. And then I would just get the Eraser in to just neaten up the edges so that you can take out the effect where you don’t want it to be.

This Eraser has got a reduced opacity which is not helping me here right now, just take out the effect where you don’t want it leaving it in where you do what it. And you fine-tune this. You can also go ahead and soften the edges of the brush so that you sort of peter out this effect so it’s not totally at 100 percent at the very edges. So you can soften the shadow effect a little bit and soften it under here.

But that shadow effect it might be very, very subtle but it will make a big difference in the final image. So let’s just zoom out again and here is our hand held photo. We’ve done this using a Polaroid frame that we downloaded from the web. We’ve copied a portion of the image and adjusted it within the frame so it looks as if it is a Polaroid image and then we’ve placed everything over the top of our underlying photo.

Now apart from a little bit of tidying up for example I can see I’ve still got a slight edge down here that I need to deal with, that’s pretty much the effect that we’re going for. I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this video tutorial. I encourage you to subscribe to my video channel so that you’ll be advised when new videos are release.

And visit my website at for more tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Photoshop Elements and a whole lot more.


Helen Bradley

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Photoshop Layers Tips and Tricks

Learn how to create and use layers in Photoshop, in all versions. Includes how to unlock the background layer and how to add and fill new layers.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial we’re going to look at some tips, techniques and tricks for working with layers in Photoshop. When you’re working with an image in Photoshop CS4 and later you’ll probably be working in this tabbed interface. It’s not my personal preference but we’re going to look at working in it and then also why you might look at other ways of working in Photoshop.

The first thing we’ll look at is the Background Layer. Now any image that you open from your camera is always going to have just one layer and it’s always going to be the Background Layer and it’s always going to be locked. In addition if you add a layer, I’m just going to add a filled layer to this image, I can’t drag this layer below the Background Layer. I can’t move the Background Layer above it. The Background Layer is in a sense fixed and there’s nothing much we can do with this image until we unlock the Background Layer. There are few a few ways to do that and the easiest I think is just to grab this little icon here which is the Lock icon and just drag and drop it into the trash and then this converts the Background Layer to a regular layer. Let’s just undo that and see some other ways. We can right click and choose Layer from Background. That has the same effect except that this time we get a chance of naming our layer. We can just click Ok. Let’s undo that again. We can also go up here with the layer selected and choose Layer, New and choose Layer from Background and again click Ok. But honestly I think dragging and dropping this Lock icon is probably the easiest way to convert a Background Layer into a regular layer.

Now you saw me earlier create a new layer. There are lots of ways again that you can create a new layer in Photoshop. You can do Layer, New, Layer or if you have a selection you can choose Layer, New, Layer via Copy so the selection will be copied to a new layer or Layer via Cut where your selection will be cut from the current layer and copied to a new layer. But another way of doing that is just clicking here on the New Layer icon that just creates a brand new layer. And you can drag it into position. You can also delete it by just dropping the layer onto the Delete icon. If I hold the Ctrl key as I click this New Layer icon the layer that I add is below the current layer. So just clicking on this icon adds a layer above. If we Ctrl Click on the icon we add a layer below. So you can target exactly where the layer goes. Let’s add one below this image, Ctrl and click on this icon.

Now I want to fill this layer with this green color which is the current foreground color. A quick and easy way to do that is to hold the Alt key and press Backspace on the PC. That’s Option and Delete on the Mac. That fills this layer with the currently selected foreground color. If I do Ctrl Backspace, Command Delete on the Mac, we fill this layer with the background color. Now we could do that just as easily using this Paint Bucket tool, target the layer and click on the layer that we want to add the color to. But it’s whatever suits you. I find those Alt and Option, Ctrl and Command, Backspace and Delete keys really easy to remember and very easy to do. I’m Just going to trash this layer.

Now I have another image open here and I want to start creating a collage from these two so I want to take this particular layer and drop it onto this image here. Now previous to Photoshop CS4 that used to be easy. Now it’s a pain in the neck but we live with it. I’ve created this as a new layer so it’s not the Background Layer any longer. I’m going to target the Move tool and I’m going to with this layer content selected I’m going to drag on it. And I’m going to drag it up here to the image that I want to paste it into and then I’m going to bring my cursor down. And because I want this centered I’ll hold the Shift key to center it over the middle. And now you can see I have two images, one on one layer, one on the other layer.

Now previous to Photoshop CS4 we didn’t have this tabbed interface. What we had was documents that were just floating and that made life just I think a lot easier. So I’m just going to trash this layer now and see. If you want to unfloat your windows by dragging them off the top bar here then you can simply target this layer and just drag and drop it into another image that easily. So I find that an easier way to work. If you do like the tabbed interface then let’s go back into this tabbed interface.

What we could do is choose Arrange two up Vertical and this would allow us to drag and drop. So in this case I’m going to take this Background Layer and drop it into here. So you can do it with the tabbed interface. It’s just your preference of ways of doing it.

Now we’re back with these two images. I’m going to close down one of them. Well actually I’m going to go back and arrange these images so I’m seeing just the images on a tab and I want this particular one which has two layers on it. I’m going to add a layer mask so I’ll just click the layer I want a Layer Mask on and click the Layer Mask. I’m just going to fill this mask with a Gradient because I want to show you a trick with layers. So let’s just blend these two layers together using a mask to do so. I’ve got my mask selected, a black and white gradient and I’m using a linear gradient. I’m just going to drag a simple linear gradient into the image. So we’ve now got these two images blended together, not particularly attractive, but that’s not really a big problem right now. I’m going to add an adjustment layer so let’s just add an Adjustment Layer. We’ll convert this to black and white just so that we have something to look at here. And I’m going to just make the blues a little bit lighter. Now we have this image.

Now if I wanted to sharpen it for example more appropriate to the web or something I would need to flatten it because you can’t sharpen multiple layers at once. So I would typically go and flatten this image. But if I hold Ctrl and Alt and Shift and press the letter E, that’s Command Option Shift E on the Mac, look what happens. I get a layer which is the merged image. It’s called stamp but what I also have is the original layers still underneath so I could use those later if I for example wanted to come back here and make this layer a little bit transparent so we got some of the color removed but not all of the color. So then I could go back and recreate my merged layer with Ctrl Alt Shift E, Command Option Shift E on the Mac. And then I could sharpen this layer. So this is a sort of have your layers and eat it too so you’ve got everything on one layer but you’ve also got the existing layers in case you ever need them.

Now up until now I’ve been dragging and dropping a layer onto the trashcan to remove it. Let’s just undo that. There’s also a way to delete a layer and that is just pressing the Delete key on the keyboard. You want to be in the layer itself. Right now I seem to be stuck in the opacity area here so let’s just click in the layer, press Delete and the layer has been deleted.

So there are some layer tips and tricks for you in Photoshop. I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this video tutorial. Look out for more of my tutorials here on this YouTube channel and visit for more tutorials, tips, tricks and techniques for Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and lots more.

Helen Bradley

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Trevor’s Photoshop tip of the Week – Working with Multiple Layers

(Image by: Helen Bradley)

Working with lots of layers and a cluttered Layers palette?  Find the layer that has the content you want to work with by targeting the Move Tool. Right click on a PC or Ctrl + Click on a Mac over the area that contains the content to work with.  A list of all the layers under the cursor will appear – to select one, click on it in the list..

Helen Bradley

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Layers in your photos

I’ve been photographing recently on the canals of Scotland. There has been so much potential for creative stuff I have really been glad that I photograph so regularly and I’m so familiar with my lenses and camera that I don’t worry too much about setup and can spend more time on the creative side.

Here I had photographed these industrial buildings already and I knew there were steers in the field but nothing had quite come into position. The secret is to wait, somehow if you wait, chances are that things just move to where you want them. This field had wonderful colourful scrub, green grass, black and white (friesian) steers and buildings belching smoke in the background. I just had to wait till everything lined up and, in time, it did.




So far as apertures are concerned this is a hard shot to get everything all in focus. It is just too much depth and it was early evening so the light was low. I settled for what I generally use when I want a big depth of field which is around 7.1 or 8 and then I focused on the steer. This brought the industry on the horizon into some focus but threw the flowers close to me out of focus. There was no where to move to as I was standing in the only place I could get everything in the picture and that put some flowers directly in front of my camera.

Turns out I love the effect and the colours in the foreground just work for me. The layers in the image from the out of focus flowers through the field and the steer and back to the industry on the horizon just makes this image for me.

Next time you are out, look for layers to capture. Look for something interesting to shoot and then ask yourself how can you position yourself to capture the shot and get some foreground interest too. You might be surprised at what you can find and what creative opportunities you encounter.

Helen Bradley

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Edit and Create on the go with Adobe Photoshop Touch

By Helen Bradley

On Monday, Adobe launched its Photoshop Touch application for the iPad. This long sought after app runs on the iPad 2, and not on the iPad 1, and it requires that you have iOS 5 installed. The app costs $9.99 which is at the high end of the price range for photo-editing apps in general but Photoshop Touch seems to have got the feature set about right so most people will probably consider it worth the money.

I use the iPad a lot for working with photos I’ve shot using a digital SLR camera in raw and which I’ve resized, converted to jpeg and downloaded to the iPad. Those images I have on the iPad are there because they are funky or because they lend themselves to some artistic play. So, I looked at Photoshop Touch in this light – I wanted to see if it would be part of my iPad image creative workflow. For heavy duty work, Photoshop and Lightroom will remain my tools of trade.

When you launch Photoshop Touch you get two options, viewing the tutorials or doing some work.

There are 10 tutorials that you can work through each of them is project based so you learn the program by learning a technique not by learning how individual tools work. These are text and image tutorials and not video ones, but they are interactive so you can learn as you go.

The second option is Begin a Project which is where I’ll start. You get the choice of adding an image from your iPad, the Adobe Creative Cloud, the Camera, Google or Facebook. I chose Local Photos then the Photo Library and an image from my iPad.

In the main editing area you’ll find the tools on the left, layers on the right and menus across the top. The program pays lip service only to Photoshop.  Some icons are familiar but others are more iPad than Photoshop so Photoshop users may find it a bit confusing where iPad artists will find it more familiar.

You can add multiple images and multiple layers. I wanted to texture this image so I clicked the Add Layer button and selected Photo Layer.

Once you select a second photo you get to size it as you import it – you can also rotate, flip or skew it too. Click Done to proceed to the editing area.

Now, with the layer selected, you can apply adjustments to it.

I chose Curves as this was a texture and I wanted more contrast. There are no adjustment layers so the Curves adjustment is being applied just to the targeted (top) layer. As you can see, you can adjust the RGB composite channel or the individual red, green and blue channels.

With the texture layer still targeted you can apply a filter to it by clicking the FX button. There is a range of filters including Basic, Stylize, Artistic and Photo. Some add things like drop shadows, blurs and glows and others are more artistic.

I chose Stylize > Old Photo, configured the settings and tapped Apply. Unlike Photoshop where the foreground and background colors need to be selected before you run a filter, here you can select the colors to use in the filter settings – this really is a feature that Photoshop should have.

To blend the layers you click the Layer icon and you get a choice of blend modes and the chance to adjust the layer opacity.

There are no masks but you can use a gradient to fade the effect – when you do the gradient is applied to the layer and you can only undo it by tapping Undo – you can’t go back and edit it.

You can also add a new Empty Layer and fill it with a gradient.

And then blend it using a layer blend mode as I have done here.

I finished by cropping the image and then saving it.

You can then email it or send it to the Camera Roll or upload the project to the Adobe Creative Cloud so you can access them from there.

There are limits to Photoshop Touch and one is the 1600 x 1600 pixel image size limit. The text tools are rudimentary and, as a long time Photoshop user, I’d like to see editable masks and editable text. That said, for fixing photos and tinkering with creative projects this program is a welcome addition to the Adobe family.

This app will appeal to a range of users. There are plenty of basic tools that are easy to use but also some more advanced features for working with images. The Scribble Extract tool does a reasonable job of extracting a subject from a background and you can tinker with gradients and fades to get some interesting effects. You don’t need to know how to use Photoshop to use the app but your knowledge won’t go astray.

Helen Bradley

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