Mastering Simple Layers
With Photoshop Elements

Lets work through some simple layers with Photoshop Elements.

This is a picture of my Miniature Bull Terrier, Tabitha, enjoying a cooling seat in her little pool on a hot summer evening.  Tabitha, her sister and her mom had been playing vigorously and this was break time for Tabby as she watches the other two continue with their game.

simple layers start

I really like this image because it really captures Tabitha but it has a few flaws that can be fixed with some simple layers.

   1. There are too many leaves and broken sticks in the grass just behind Tabs.
   2. The area at the top of the image is under a pine tree and looks somewhat messy
   3. The grass in front of tabs is missing or sparse.

There is some simple layer work required here ...!

Fixing The Sticks And Leaves
And Mangled Dog Toys

The first thing to be addressed are the dead leaves and pieces of broken stick in the grass and that nasty dog toy in the upper left part of the picture  just behind Tabitha.  They will be removed with the Clone Tool on a simple layer.

Here are the steps ...

  1. Make a copy of the Background by dragging the Background onto the New Layer icon or Layer > Duplicate Layer ... or Ctrl-J/Cmd-J - too many choices!

  2. Activate (click on) the Background Copy and create a New Layer directly above - eithersimple layers clone click on the New Layer icon or Layer > New Layer.  Double click on the name of the new layer (Layer 1) and change the name to something really imaginative - like - oh say - Clone.

  3. Select the Clone Tool from the toolbox and then confirm that All Layers is checked.

  4. Choose a good Source point and start cloning out the unnecessary junk using your exceptional cloning skills.  Change the Source every so often and check your progress by turning the Clone Layer visibility off and on.

  5. When completely satisfied with your cloning skill it is time to move on - but not before merging the clone layer with the Background Copy.  This is done by clicking Layer > Merge Down.

What this does is merge the clone layer with the Background copy so now we have a new Background copy without the untidy leaves and sticks and gnawed up dog toys.  Here it is ...

simple layers after cloning

Just doing the cloning made quite a difference as the image somehow seems more alive, don't you think?

The Merge Down is necessary for the next step which is fixing up the grass ...

Fixing The Grass

What the Merge Down did was put the cloned layer into the Background Copy and now the ugly little pieces of stick and leaves and chewed up dog toys are gone (they are still part of the original image - Background - however).

That is a good thing because the Background Copy will be used to create "patches" to fill in the areas where there is no grass wihtout adding those other distracting things.

This can be done with the Clone Tool as well but not easily so lets use something that is easy - making patches and promoting them to their very own layers.

There is a nice clear patch of grass near the top left so a rectangular selection was created on the Background Copy layer.  To eliminate sharp edges a rather large feathering was applied - 50 in this case.

simple layers first selection

Copy the selection (Ctrl-C/Cmd-C), create a new simple layer by clicking the New Layer icon and then paste the selection (Ctrl-V.Cmd-V).

The nice little patch of grass is now on its own layer but it is in the wrong position.  To move the patch select the Move Tool and drag the patch down to a position where it covers an area with missing or ugly grass.

simple layers grass layer The Steps
  1. Make a selection on the Background Copy.
  2. Apply some Feathering to the selection.
  3. Copy the selection.
  4. Create a new layer above the Background Copy and give it a name.
  5. Paste the selection into the new layer.
  6. Move it to a new position with the Move Tool.

This is simple, isn't it?

Do It Over And Over and ...

At this point the layers could be Merged Down again and then the same procedure could be started all over.

Rather than do that I just left all of the simple layers intact so it would be easy to understand..

The first time you work through something like this may be a bit of a challenge but it will soon become very easy and straightforward.

It sure is a lot easier than trying to Clone out all of the dead grass patches with nice grass without getting a nasty pattern all over the image.

Checking For Boo Boo's

It is a good idea to turn off all of the layers at the end and then turn them on one at a time. When I did this I discovered that the Feather setting picked up the right side of the pool on one of the layers and when that patch was moved the faint image of the pool came with it.  Here it is ...

simple layers feathering

This is easy to fix!  Grab the eraser, make sure you are on the correct layer and eliminate the offending ghost image.

Overall Image Integrity

After all of the grass was replaced I checked the before and after image and discoverd that the grass at the top of the image was different from the rest of the grass.  This was fixed by lowering the opacity of that particular layer until it matched the rest of the grass.

That's pretty much it for some simple, and very useful layers.  The different techniques used on the layers were:

  • Cloning
  • Pasting
  • Erasing
  • Moving
  • And Text (the Feather problem)

Here is a shot of the final image and the ending layers palette is in the right column.

simple layers final


Working With Simple Layers
In Elements

Simple Layers really are our Friends!

Simple Layers

Layers are useful because they let you add components to an image and work on them one at a time, without permanently changing your original image.

layers thumb

For each layer, you can adjust color and brightness, apply special effects, reposition layer content, specify opacity and blending values, and so on. You can also rearrange the stacking order, link layers to work on them simultaneously, and create web animations with layers.

(from Photoshop Elements Help)

Tools Used In
This tutorial

simple layers marquee selection
Marquee Tool

simple layers move tool
Move Tool

simple layers eraser

simple layers all layers

 learn photoshop elements

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