Layers in Photoshop Elements 10 - dummies

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

In Elements, layers are essentially digital versions of clear acetate sheets. You can place elements, such as images, text, or shapes, on separate layers and create a composite (or collage, if you prefer). You can hide, add, delete, or rearrange layers.

Because layers are digital, of course, they have added functionality. You can adjust how opaque or transparent the element on a layer is. You can also add special effects and change how the colors interact between layers.


To work with layers, you must be in the Editor in Full Photo Edit mode.

When you create a new file with background contents of white or a background color, scan an image into Elements, or open 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. You can even do it via the Layers panel commands later.

  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.