How to Convert a Background to a Layer in Photoshop Elements 15

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

When you create a new file with background contents of white or a background color, scan an image into Elements 15, or open a stock photo or a file from a CD or your digital camera, you basically have a file with just a background. There are no layers yet.

An image contains at most one background, and you can’t do much to it besides paint on it and make basic adjustments. You can’t move the background or change its transparency or blend mode. How do you get around all these limitations? Convert your background into a layer by following these easy steps:

  1. Choose Window → Layers to display the Layers panel.
  2. Double-click Background on the Layers panel.

    Or choose Layer → New → Layer From Background.

  3. Name the layer or leave it at the default name of Layer 0.

    You can also adjust the blend mode and opacity of the layer in the New Layer dialog box. Or you can do it via the Layers panel commands later.

    You can now also color-code your layers (but not your Background), which lets you better visually distinguish your layers within the Layers panel. If you decide to do it later, simply right-click (Control-click on the Mac) and choose a color from the contextual menu.

  4. Click OK.

    Elements converts your background into a layer, known also as an image layer.

When you create a new image with transparent background contents, the image doesn’t contain a background but instead is created with a single layer.