How to Adjust Layer Opacity in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

By far one of the easiest ways to make your image look oh-so-sophisticated is to adjust the layer opacity in Adobe Photoshop CS6. This will give your project a special touch and will have one image ghosted over another. Creating this effect is a snap with the Opacity option in the Layers panel. You adjust the opacity in two ways:

[Credit: ©iStockphoto/Buzya_Kalapinka Image # 5338875 and ShaunL Image #2008511]

Credit: ©iStockphoto/Buzya_Kalapinka Image # 5338875 and ShaunL Image #2008511
  • Select your desired layer in the Layers panel. Then, either access the slider by clicking the right-pointing arrow, entering a percentage value in the Opacity text box, or simply scrubbing over the word Opacity (it converts to a two-way arrow).

    You can select more than one layer at a time and change the Opacity (or Fill Opacity) values in one fell swoop.

  • You can also double-click a layer thumbnail, choose Layer→Layer Style→Blending Options, or select Blending Options from the Layers panel menu. (Click the triangle in the upper-right corner to open the menu.)

Any of these methods brings up the Layer Style dialog box, where you can enter a value or drag the slider for opacity.

The Opacity setting allows you to mix the active layer with the layers below it in varying percentages from 100% (completely opaque) to 0% (completely transparent). Remember that you can adjust the opacity only on a layer, not a background.

You can also change the Opacity percentage by using keyboard shortcuts. With any tool active, except a painting or editing tool, press a number key. Press 5 for 50 percent, 25 for 25 percent. If you’re entering a two-digit value, just be sure you type the numbers quickly, or Photoshop interprets the numbers as two different values. Note that for the default of 100 percent, you must press 0.

In addition to adjusting the regular opacity for a layer, you can also adjust the Fill Opacity. Fill Opacity works a little differently from regular opacity. The regular Opacity setting affects layer styles and blend modes that have been applied to the layer.

Fill Opacity, however, affects only the pixels or shapes that reside on the layer. It doesn’t affect the styles or blends. The drop shadow and emboss styles in the bottom example show through full strength.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/webSubstance Image #13474004]

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/webSubstance Image #13474004

To adjust the Fill Opacity setting, select your desired layer, or layers, in the Layers panel, and then enter a value in the Fill Opacity text box or drag the drop-down slider. The other methods for adjusting fill opacity are similar to the regular opacity option.