Photoshop – 8th wonder of the world – photography software program

Photoshop – 8th wonder of the world – photography software program – part 4

Russell A. Rohde

In Parts 1 to 3 we covered inaugural evolution of Paint programs, indicated minimum and optimum hard and software requirements, and listed the vast array of basic editing features found in Photoshop Vers. 2.0 to 2.5. Part 4 is devoted to layers, an innovation first introduced in PS Ver. 3.0, and I shall conclude with a discussion of what’s new in PS Ver. 3.0.5.

The singular design of layers is to facilitate generation of collages. Previously, composites were fashioned on Paint programs including PS 2.5 by the copy/paste technique. Images used in collages had to be “selected” by one of the selection tools (magic wand, marquee, lasso, pen, and color range command). This yields a “nonfloating selection” and any editing will modify background pixels, and if moved, the preceding place is filled by background color.

Floating Selections

A “floating selection” is one that has been moved, usually by the “copy/ paste” sequence using the clipboard, but has not been “deselected.” A “floating selection” is a single layer freely moveable about the target image for editing, but once “deselected” is immutable–at most, one “undo” is feasible. Rescuing an original image requires use of “undo” (when possible), “revert” or having foresight to have created a “duplicate” which remains unaltered. Only one floating selection may be done at a time.


Layers permit a virtually endless aggregate of stacked but independent layers to be assembled which contain copy/paste equivalents which overlie a bottom-most image layer named “background.” The size and number of layers depends only on the available RAM (DRAM) and scratch disk virtual RAM memory. Each layer, singly, may be made partially or entirely transparent or re-arranged with one another in any sequence to render background, midground, and foreground elements. Each and every layer can be independently edited if it is the “selected” or active layer. Editing may include modifying the degree of transparency, color, brightness, contrast, size, position, or applying any of the diverse enhancing (sharpen/ unsharpen), or destructive (blur, emboss, twirl, etc.) filters spoken of previously. Each layer has its own number and a name or thumbnail image for identification and “eye” icon used to make the layer visible or invisible. The lower-most background layer cannot be shuffled but may be turned off or eliminated by double-clicking to bring into being “layer 0” that may then be repositioned (shuffled). In addition to images, masks, paths, and “selections” may be saved as numbered and named layers for future editing.

If the layers file is saved in PS 3.0 format, each layer remains independent and the file may be assembled at any future date. In contrast, if the file is saved in any other format (PS 2.5, PICT, TIFF, etc.) or is merged, the file is flattened and layer capability irretrievably forfeited. File sizes are not linear to the number of layers, but reflect total pixel count of all individual layers; after “merge” or “deselection,” image file size is diminished to file size for a singe layer (surface area times the pixel count squared times number of channels). Layers is a powerful DTP tool for those working with complex collages and where major or minor tune-ups of multilayer photomontages may be required at a later date. Inasmuch as “layers” is designed for collages, it is better left to Photoshoppers unruffled by basic editing techniques, including use of paths, masks, and channels.

Photoshop Ver. 3.0.5

PS Ver. 3.0.5 was released March 1996 and offered as “free maintenance update” by Adobe upon request (call them direct); my S & H charges were nominal. The PS Delux CD-ROM installed easily after entering the serial # of original version. New features include scratch disk efficiency indicator; new float controls command to composite blending modes, opacity, and color ranges; improved cancelling of operations; CompuServe GIF format, Native PhotoCD CMS plug-in; and Edit Graphic Object (EGO) allowing PS image embedding in word processor documents, and much more.

Future topics will include “KPT Ver. 3.0” and “Live Picture Ver. 2.5.” I also wish to discuss diverse questions you may have in this column.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Photographic Society of America, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group