“the complete guide to Photoshop’s most powerful feature – LAYERS, 2nd Ed.”
To begin with, I admit to being a Matt Kloskowski fan. I also like good Irish-sounding names like Kloskowski. I have other books and videos of Matt’s approach to teaching and really like his easy-going style.
This book is version 2 of his Layers Book. The original was written about three years ago. So if you have that book (which I don’t,) you might want to check this out in a bookstore before you buy this one, to see how much is new.
Remember, when he wrote the original three years ago, Photoshop CS3 was in vogue. Now we’re up to CS5. Major changes since then, but Layers is still basically the same, with some innovations.
Before I bore all you non-Photoshop or Elements users out there, need I say that this book is for all Digital Camera users and would-be Photographers who want to enhance their photos. Granted, you could use Photoshops’ and Elements’ Auto features to do your basic work, but for the difference between Novice and Near-Professional editing, there is this book by Matt. He’s a great Instructor, and this book is an easy-to-read and understand tutorial on one of Photoshops’ hardest to master topics… Layers.
If you look at Photoshop CS5’s menu bar under Layers, you’ll find some arcane choices like: Normal, Dissolve, Darker Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn, Darker Color, Lighten Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge, Lighter Color, Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light Vivid Light, and almost a dozen more.
Unless you’re a Master of Photoshop, this is overwhelming indeed, and most Photoshop people I talk to shun the in-depth use of Layers entirely as too complex. I had a real hard time with Layers and I go back to Photoshop, version 1.
To be real basic, think of Layers as nothing more than transparent sheets of clear cellophane that you’re putting your work on, one layer on top of another. You can them shuffle those sheets around, on top of, or underneath one another.
Even understanding that, those Layer menus were real difficult for me. Maybe at 73 years of age I’m having more trouble than I used to have, but Matt made it a lot easier for me, showing me that there were only three that I’ll use the most, so concentrate and learn those three first off. Boy, was that a load off my mind!
To begin with, let’s talk a little about this book. The cover really grabs your eye on a bookshelf. I’ve always said “capture the eye, you capture the mind.” I have a graphics mentality first off, and use that philosophy in my Newsletters.
Let’s look at the Contents pages first off.
Chapter one covers: Layer Basics, Using Multiple Layers, Everything else about Layers, and a ‘How do I’ page.
Chapter two: The Three Blend Modes you Need Most, A Closer Look at Blend Modes, Layer Blend Modes for Photographers, and a ‘How do I’ page.
You’re getting the drift now, right? Each chapter has a ‘How Do I’ page at the end to see if you really understand what you read. Good teaching principle.
Chapter three covers Adjustment Layers: Adjustment Layer Basics, Making Selective Adjustments, Super Flexible Adjustments, Some more Adjustment Layer Ideas, Fox One Photo–Fix ‘Em All, The Adjustment Layer Blend Mode Trick, and the ‘How Do I page.’
Chapter four is for Layer Masks, that most-feared thing for me: Layer Mask Basics, The only Layer Mask ‘Gotcha’, A deeper look into Layer Masks, Using Layer Masks Automatically, Combining Multiple Images, Making one Layer Fit into Another, and How do I.
I could continue to go on into Chapter detail here, but the Chapter Headers should suffice. Chapter five is Type and Shape Layers; Chapter Six is Enhancing Photos with Layers; Chapter Seven is Retouching with Layers (my favorite stuff-eyes, wrinkles, removing distracting stuff in photos, content-aware goodies, etc.
Chapter Eight is Layer Styles; Chapter Nine covers Smart Layers, and the last Chapter Ten is all about Advanced Layer Blending and Compositing.
This book is not a ‘Show and Tell’ book, but more of a ‘work alongside me’ kind of book. You get to download the images that Matt is using from a web site that he gives you in the beginning of the book. They’re in folders titled Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. So open an image and ‘read and do what he does’ kind of thing. It makes for a more compelling tutorial. Then, at the end of the chapter, you get to the ‘How Do I’ page. Now that you’ve read it and done it, do you understand what you’ve done? Only if you can answer the questions without peeking. If not, you’ll know where your mental blind spot is and read that part again until you understand it. I make little Post-It’s and stick them into the edges of the book so I can read and re-read until I finally get it!
It takes awhile before you get to understand that you’re not making destructive changes on the original photo, but on the layers above or under the actual photo itself. The original photo is still clean.
I must have around fifty books on Photoshop, but Matt’s book covers the Layers topic the very best. It’s easy to understand, short and concise, and covered in an easy and sometimes humorous way without talking down to you. So if you’re frustrated with Photoshop’s Layers menu, as I was, then Matt’s book will probably help you out.
When you nearly finish this book and start to ‘think in layers’ instead of your picture in 2D terms, then you know that you’ve got it!
As I was following one of the exercises, something wasn’t working and I blamed the book. It turned out that I was attempting to work on the wrong Layer. Ah hah! See? I wasn’t thinking in terms of Layers myself. Photoshop takes some getting used to, my friends. It’s a very complex program with lots of depth, and you can get lost in those depths very easily. With Matt’s ‘Layers’ book, you start out in the Wading Pool and sidestep gently into deeper water, only moving when you’ve gained confidence.
The best part of the book for me was in Chapters six and seven, the ‘Enhancing Photos’ section. Many’s the time I wanted to just replace the sky in a picture to make it just right. Or just getting some wrinkles out of a picture, or whitening teeth, etc. This part of the book makes it easy and non-destructive to use on your picture. This book is 300 good pages of information. I like it and will use it as my reference book on Layers.
by Matt Kloskowski
Dimensions: 7-1/2 x9; Pages: 300;
Pub: 2011; $44.99 U.S.
George Engel, LaMUG, Lakeland, FL