Using Layers to Produce Hot Designs

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If you are a seasoned graphic artist you already know the
power of Layers in Adobe Photoshop. If you are new to Photoshop you will
be amazed at how easy it is to create a stunning image using Layers. This
article is for basic to intermediate computer users. It is designed to
show how to build a photorealistic image in Adobe Photoshop 5.0.

Generally, when you see a HOT photorealistic image on a
shirt it was “built” in Photoshop using the Layers Palette. In fact, if
you could have an artist loan you his original pieces for the image, chances
are it consisted of a number of Layers. Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the final
image and the layers that were used to create the image. The Layers palette
allows you to piece together different images – almost like a collage
– on the same page and move them around, change the stacking order, apply
effects to them and much more.

To open the Layers Palette simply go to the Window pull
down menu and choose Show Layers. If you have an image open on the screen
you will see that you only have a single “background” layer. Every image
starts off this way in Adobe Photoshop.

Using Pieces of Art for a Complete

The power of Layers is the ability to piece together images. To really
make this effective you need to have each piece floating on the layer
so you can move it around. Also, if your image is going to be separated
for light and dark shirts (using a program such as FastFilms), you will
need two versions of the art – one with a Black background and one with
a White background.

Here are the steps to building an image.

  1. Create a new file (File/New File). Make sure it is RGB
    and around 200dpi and the correct final size with Contents of White.
    (The file will be blank at first).

  2. Open the Layers Palette (Window/Show Layers). Create a
    New Layer (upper right arrow in Layers Palette, New Layer).

  3. Open the file that contains one of the elements of the
    image. In this case I am using a stock photo of cheetahs. This image
    should be the same resolution as the new file. Select around the chetas
    by using the Marquee tool, Pen tool or Magic Wand and then copy this
    selection to clipboard (Edit/Copy) (figure 4).

  4. Go back to the New file. Select the new layer you made.
    It should be called Layer 1. Paste the cheetahs into this layer (Edit/Paste).
    You will notice that the new layer has a checkered background. This
    means that is has a transparent background (figure 5). The chetas will
    be floating on this layer. You can move them around using the Move Tool.
    You can also resize them (Edit/Transform/Scale).

  5. Make another new layer (Layer 2).

  6. Open a file that has another element of the image. In
    this example it will be a sky background. To copy the image into the
    file with the Chetas you can Select/All and then Edit/Copy.

  7. Select Layer 2 in the New file and then paste the background
    to this layer (Edit/.Paste). Move this new layer down below the tiger
    (click and drag the layer). See figure 6.

    There is actually an easier way to combine images from
    one file to another. In fact, you don’t even have to make a new layer.
    Simply click on the Background layer of the new image and drag it to
    the Cheta image. If the image resolutions are not the same you will
    have to resize or scale the image on the layer (Edit/Transform/Scale).

  8. Make another new layer (Layer 3).

  9. Open another element of the image. This example will be
    a rolling landscape. Use the Marquee tool and select around the image.
    Again, copy this the clipboard (Edit/Copy).

  10. Go back to the New file. Select Layer 3. Copy this additional
    element (Edit/Paste) to the new layer. Use the Move Tool to place it
    where you want.

    You have just created a complete image (figure 7).

Using Type Layer

Photoshop really improved the Layers Palette in version 5.0 when it added
the Type Layer. You can now add text to an image and then apply certain
effects to the image.

To use the Type Layer to add text to an image, simply click
on the “T” Type tool and then click with the Text cursor on your image.
This brings up the Type Tool dialog box. Type in Photoshop is not as powerful
as Corel or Illustrator but if the image needs straight text then it is
very easy to add to an image right here.

In the Type Tool box simply type in the word or words you
want and then click and drag to highlight these words and apply the correct
color, typeface and point size. In fact, you will notice that you actually
see the text on the page change as you do this and you can move the text
around and place it in the correct location.

You can even move the Type Layer to a different location
in the Layers Palette. In this example I have put the type Chetas behind
the animals but in front of the landscape and sky to give the image more

At this point the type is flat and doesn’t really do much
for the image. Let’s change that. After you say OK to the Type Tool window,
the text is “floating” on the page. Use the Move Tool to move it to the
location you want and then Deselect the image (Select/Deselect). You will
notice that there is now a new layer above the Background Layer that has
a “T” on the Layer header. This signifies that you have created the text
on a separate layer called a Type Layer.

Next, select the new Type Layer that you just created and
go to Layer/ Effects. This is where the fun begins. Select Drop Shadow
and now start to play. Don’t be shy. You will see that if you increase
the Blur and Intesity you will give the image a glow (figure 8).

You can even apply and effect to an effect. Go again to
the Layer/Effects menu and select Bevel and Emboss. Play with the selections
and see what kind of an artist you can be (figure 9). If you don’t like
the location or size of the text, simply move it around using the Move
Tool, or go to Effects/Transform and size it. You have just built an image
using Layers.

White and Black Background

Let’s get back to the background. If the image is going to be separated
for light shirts it needs a white background (the canvas around the image).
If the image is going on a black shirt you will need a black background.
At this point the image just has a white background layer. You can also
make a black layer for the image by making a new layer and filling it
with black (Edit/Fill/Black). Move this layer just above the white background

(Note: for the example, I took the Marquee tool with a
feather of 15 pixels and gave the image a soft edge.)

Now is the time to enhance any areas that look unreal.
I made a new layer and called it Grass and Shadows. I took the airbrush
tool and sampled the green grass and drew grass blades in front of the
paws. I also took the airbrush tool and sprayed a dark gray around the
paws to simulate a slight shadow.

You can now place the “preview” eye next to the new black
layer and the rest of the image components to see how it will look on
a black shirt (figure 10).

Before you can separate the image the Layers need to be
flattened. If you need two versions of the art for light and dark shirts
you will need to flatten one version with the black layer and one version
with the white layer. If you UNCHECK the preview eye when flattening layers,
that layer will be deleted.

ALWAYS duplicate the image and save your layers version.
You never know when you need to come back to this to make changes. To
Flatten the image go to the upper right arrow in the Layers Palette and
then click on Flatten Image.

Do this for both versions of the art. You now have a complete
image that is ready to separate for light and dark shirts (figure 11).

You can see that Layers in Photoshop 5.0 help you become
a much better designer and allow you to have more control over the images.

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