Paint Shop Pro Part 3: Layers, Photographic Effects, and More

Paint Shop Pro Training Course Part 3: Section 1

In this section, you will learn about:

  • Using layers
  • Selecting layers
  • Adding and deleting layers
  • Changing layer order
  • Viewing and hiding layers
  • Adjusting the opacity of layers
  • Masking
  • Creating a mask


About Layers

Paint Shop Pro images are composed of layers, transparent sheets on which you add objects, brush strokes, text, masks, and other pieces of the composite image. Layers can be envisioned as pieces of tracing paper laid on top of the background. They let you work with each distinct element of your image separately, and can be named, duplicated, deleted, rearranged, made visible or invisible, and set to any level of opacity.

An image’s layers are listed in the left panel of the Layers palette:

The arrangement of the layers in the palette is referred to as the “stacking order.” Layers appearing near the top of the list cover, in the image, layers appearing near the bottom of the list. Each layer appears with an icon representing the layer’s type. The right panel displays options of each of the layers.

New images—whether created or imported—begin with a single layer. For photos you import, this layer is labeled Background and contains the raster data that comprises the image you imported. The background layer is the bottom layer and, unlike new layers, cannot be renamed or moved up in the stacking order—it must remain at the bottom. New layers are placed on top, and any objects you add to these layers will appear on top of the image contained in the background layer. You can, however, promote a background layer to a raster layer, which you can then move up in the stacking order.

When you create new images, you can specify the kind of background you want to use—raster, vector, or Art Media. These layers are not considered background layers and can be arranged as needed within the stacking order.

In addition to the background layer (when it exists), images may be composed of several types of layers:

  • Raster layers contain raster data, and must be used with the raster tools and the effects commands.
  • Vector layers contain vector objects and vector text. Objects on a vector layer are displayed separately beneath the layer name; to view and work with a specific object, click the plus (+) sign next to the layer in the Layers palette to expand it, and then click on the name of the object you want to work with.
  • Art Media layers are used with the Art Media tools, and simulate the effect of creating original artwork on canvas. Art Media layers can be “wet” or “dry,” which impacts how the strokes you apply interact with each other. If you think of these layers as you would art on a real canvas, oil paint, when you apply it, is wet, and will naturally smear with other wet paint. Pencils won’t smear, and so are considered “dry.” You can dry a “wet” Art Media layer, or make a dry layer wet, using commands available in the Layers menu. Note that these layers can be converted to raster layers, but not to vector layers.
  • Mask layers are used to show or hide parts of underlying layers. Note that mask layers cannot reside at the bottom of the stacking order.
  • Adjustment layers are used to correct the color or tone of layers beneath them. Note that adjustment layers cannot reside at the bottom of the stacking order.

Paint Shop Pro automatically creates a layer of the appropriate type when you select a tool to use. Some other commands may cause Paint Shop Pro to prompt you to convert the current layer to another type appropriate to the command you’ve selected. Keep in mind that converting a layer type converts the data on that layer. For instance, you may convert a vector layer to a raster layer, but any vector objects on that layer will be converted to raster data and will no longer be editable using the vector tools.

To maintain layer information, you must save images as Paint Shop Pro files (using the .pspimage extension). Generally, when you save an image as another format, the layers are merged into one.

Selecting Layers

To select a layer, click on it in the Layers palette.

Adding and Deleting Layers

Use the buttons along the top of the Layers palette to add new layers and delete existing ones:

  • Click the New Raster Layer button to create a new raster layer.
  • Click the New Vector Layer button to create a new vector layer.
  • Click the New Art Media Layer button to create a new Art Media layer.

Each of these buttons opens a specific New Layer dialog, with options for that type of layer:

Enter a name for the layer that reflects the contents you’ll place on it, define any of the other options, such as opacity and visibility, and click OK. The layer appears in the Layers palette, and can be dragged to the location you want in the stacking order.

To delete a layer, click on it in the Layers palette and then click the Delete Layer button.

Changing Layer Order

You can change the stacking order of the layers in your image simply by clicking and dragging each layer to the position you want in the Layers palette:

The cursor changes to a pointing finger over locations where you can drop a layer. The cursor changes to a null sign over locations where layers can’t be moved.

Layers appearing near the top of the stack will cover those appearing near the bottom of the stack. Keep in mind that certain layers, such as background and mask layers, cannot be moved.

Viewing and Hiding Layers

When you hide a layer, you hide all the data on that layer, rendering the data “invisible.” To show or hide a layer, click the Visibility button next to it. When the layer is hidden, an X appears over the button.

You can also hide individual vector objects on a layer the same way. Simply expand the layer containing the objects, and then, for each object you want to show or hide, click the Visibility button next to it.

Adjusting the Opacity of Layers

Layers can be transparent, opaque, or somewhere in between. Use the Opacity slider on right panel of the Layers palette to adjust the opacity of a particular layer:

The following image shows all layers at 100% opacity:

Now, notice the change in the top-most petal of the rosebud when its layer is changed to 76% opacity:

BY varying the opacity of different layers, you can create a number of interesting effects in your images.

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