Working with Layers in Photoshop 7: Part 4

By Gary David Bouton

Dateline: October 6, 2003
Volume 1, Number 9
Part One, Part Two and Part Three I hope you'll like this series enough to consider buying the book. :)

Meet the New Duck

A new duck, with his own beverage, thank you (no getting into the keg for this boy), needs to be added to the scene. To make it easy on you, the duck has been pre-sized and even has a shadow of the correct opacity attached to his tailfeathers, so moving the duck into the picnic picture is the bulk of the task ahead. Ready? Duck!

Copying and Moving a Picture Element into Position

  1. Download and open the Duck with soda.psd file (click here to download). Notice that the duck is surrounded by transparency, which means you can simply copy the whole layer to the picnic scene (if you haven't already done so, click here to download the picnic scene).
  2. With a clear view of both the image window and the Layers palette, with the Duck with soda image in the foreground, hold on the layer title on the Layers palette, and then drag the title into the picnic image, as shown in the first illustration. You might never go back to copying and pasting in Photoshop, after this experience.


    Dragging a Layers palette title into an image window is equivalent to copying and pasting the image itself.

  3. Close the Duck with soda.psd file at any time. With only picnic.psd open, use the Move tool to drag the duck into a position similar to that shown in the next illustration and name the new layer on the Layers palette. If the duck layer is not on top of the tap layer, drag the title upward and drop it on top of the tap layer title. This will put the duck on top of the tap layer.


    If it were inclimate weather out, would this be a cold duck on tap?

  4. Save the image. Keep Photoshop open and the screen door closed. We're going to edit the insect hanging out in a Layer Set folder.
Creating Your Own Special Effects Without a Clue as to What You're Doing

The bumble bee, for your amusement, is a photo of a child's toy I picked up at Pier 1 Imports. Much of the picnic image, however, consists of rendered models, such as the keg, and I worked very hard to match angle and lighting for the photos versus the models. One thing I didn't particularly care for was that the bumbler came with wheels but no wings. I modeled the wings in trueSpace, complete with some alpha channel transparency, and the two wings and the bumble bee seem to work, artistically. What doesn't work, however, is that if the picnic is supposed to be a photo (in my dreams), the wings would not be clearly defined as they flutter. And yet the bumble bee seems happy sauspended in space without exerting any energy.We're going to change all that here and now.

Unpacking the Insect and Adding Wings
Yes, you read this section header correctly. You are going to add wings of different opacity and angle to the bumble bee. This will create at least a cartoon representation, if not somewhat real vision, of the bee fluttering its wings. And then perhaps it'll wipe that grin off its face. Let's start with the introduction of another advanced Photoshop interface move, and hide all the layers from view except the Layer Set.

  1. Extend the Layers palette (if it's not already all the way open) and then in one lightning, expert stroke, drag your cursor down the visibility column, starting below the Bumble Layer set. Isn't this wild? I mean, you can blank out the whole image except for the layer you want just by stroking downward in the visibility column. I'm impressed.
  2. Double-click on the Zoom tool to zoom into 100% viewing resolution. You might need to pan with the Hand tool and open the window a little to get a good view of the bumble bee and some space beneath it to create a new wing.
  3. Click on the right-facing triangle to the left of the Bumble Layer set. The triangle then points down, and the contents of the Layer set can now be addressed on the level of individual layers.
  4. Ctrl([@Cmd])+click on the Right Wing layer title. This action puts a marquee selection around the non-transparent areas of the layer. The wing is perfectly selected.
  5. Hold Ctrl([@Cmd])+Alt(Opt), and then drag the wing to below the bee, as shown in the next illustration, This set of steps is sort of the "hard way" to add more wings to the bumbler, but you need to see this technique because it will come in handy in your own work in the future. The wing is now what we call a floating selection until you press Ctrl([@Cmd])+D to deselect it and let it fall on the same layer as the original Right wing.


    Copy the wing onto the same layer. Use the Move tool in combination with the Alt(Opt) key to duplicate the wing.

  6. Press Ctrl([@Cmd])+T. Introducing... the Free Transform feature. Did you know that you can rotate, distort and otherwise mangle a selection area in an image, and only one set of total transformations is applied to the selection? This is terrific, because the more you stretch and mutate areas in a bitmap image, the more the pixels that make up the image start to lose their position in the image. The result is poor image quality and focus. So Free Transform lets you play until either the cows come home or you press Enter (Return).
  7. Drag the center circle of the Transform box to the lower-left corner of the box, because you are going to make the right wing flap, and all the right wings (there will be three) need to have the same origin point. Otherwise, it would look stupid.
  8. Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) and from the Context menu choose Rotate. Putting the Transform box in Rotate mode is not hard if you've been doing it for a while (you hover the cursor over a corner of the box). but since we're only beginning at this point, let's make the steps foolproof. Put your cursor in the upper-right of the Transform box, and pull clockwise. By how much? Check out the figure below for the answer.


    Pull the wing copy clockwise, so its beginning will hook up with the original wing's beginning.

  9. Press Enter (Return) to finalize the rotation. Now, Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) and (The wing should still be selected. If it's not, lasso select it and then drag it with the Move tool to make it a floating selection again) choose Layer via Cut from the Context menu. The wing is now on a layer called Layer 1, but we're not going to rename these wings you are creating. There is something like a zip chance you will confuse the wings as we build this flying bee.
  10.  On the Layers palette, drag the Opacity down to 67% or so, and then with the Move tool and the duplicate wing deselected (an automatic process when you choose Layer via Copy or Cut), move the wing up to where it should join the bee. Check out the next illustration. Are you seeing where this is going?


    To suggest motion (especially the kind seen in stroboscopic images), reduce the opacity of the duplicate wing, You've already rotated it, and now you put it in its place.

  11.  Copy the copy layer, put the wing in Free Transform, move the rotation center point, and then rotate the wing. I think the illustration below says this.


    Make a third wing for the right side of the bumble bee. You can rotate this copy of a copy up or down. The important part is where you place it in the composition.

  12.  Repeat steps 6 to 11 with the Left Wing layer, making certain that as you perform the Context menu's Layer via Copy, that the new layers are behind the bee body.
  13.  Seal up the Layer Set folder, and return the rest of the scene to visibility. You can drag up in the visibility column on the Layers palette, starting at the Background layer – the reverse of what you did to hide all the layers in one fell swoop. Take a look at the illustration below. Nope, all that work on the bee and it's still smiling. Darn.


    A group of wings at different opacities and angles definitely suggests motion.

  14.  Press Ctrl([@Cmd])+S; keep the file open.
That's about all the pixels we have for this month. Next month, we'll get into handling "big data", and blending modes and stroking paths.

My Best,
Gary David Bouton

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Gary David Bouton is an author and artist who is largely responsible for the book "Inside Adobe Photoshop 7" and wouldn't mind at all if you bought a copy . Gary hosts a thread on the Photoshop Gurus site and is the moderator of a 3D modeling forum. His guide to Caligari's free trueSpace 3D app is available online. Besides being an educator/artist/all-around-nice-guy, Gary is still wondering why it is in America that you put a $50,000 car in the driveway to rust and then lock all your junk in the garage.