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Lesson 13 from: Adobe InDesign CC Intermediate: Beyond the Basics

Erica Gamet

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Lesson Info

13. Layers

Next Lesson: Tables

Lesson Info


And I wanna look at layers. And so, layers are just one more way to put items on the page so that they're not interacting with each other in such a way that you've got so many things on top of each other, that they're going to run into each other. For instance, I have a lot of these items that are here. I've got a colored image on top of this grayed back image. I may have this image overlapping. This image, sometimes, it's just hard to tell what's where. I've just got so many different things that I've got on top of that, their photos and their names. And then, also, I have down on the master page, I've got the page number as well and the name of the publication. So, I have a stacking order. When I put things on my page, everything I put on, the next thing I put on automatically sits on top of the items that are underneath it. And one way to keep track of that is to use layers. And so, in this case, I have a couple of different layers, and I have some of them turned on and off, and I h...

ave some that are used just for specific things, like this is for something very specific, and I have that set up, but I don't need to see those guides most of the time. I have something here called Objects, and I have no idea what I have on that layer. But I can see what's on that layer by this little drill-down thing, and I actually don't have anything on that layer. So let's actually move something to that layer. To be able to work with a layer, I have to turn it off, I'm sorry, unlock it. I also have my notes, so I don't know if I have anything in my notes. I may or may not be turned on. Sometimes, I have a layer that's just called My Notes so that I can remember to tell a client something or that I need to move something or just whatever notes I need to myself. I don't have any actually turned on there. But in this case, maybe I want my text on one layer, and I want my images on another layer. That's something that people do a lot, is separate the text and images. I don't normally do it that way, but it's just an easy way to show that. One thing I might do is I might have images on one layer, and then have a layer that has English text, and on another layer has Spanish text. And then, nice thing is, I can take those layers, and I can export them or print them together, you know turn off a layer and print the English one, turn off the English one and turn on the Spanish one, and print that. So, it's a nice way to anything that needs to hire a show together or print together or export together is a nice way do to that. So if you just wanna be able to turn items off and not look at them. So for instance, let's just turn off Layer One, which I think is where everything lives. Yeah, everything's on that layer. Oh, we have that little bit of information that's on that layer for whatever reason. Some of the text information or the table information is on that layer. So most of it was there. Let's actually come into page one here, and I'm gonna turn Layer One back on. And by default, when you create a new document, any of these documents that we have that we created, we have one layer called Layer One. So it's just there, even if you're not using it. They layer's there, and if I drill down the layer, I can see all the items that are on that particular layer, so each thing I created, each text frame actually shows up individually. I'm gonna jump back to the other document here, and we're gonna move a few things to a different layer. Now, I know that this image is sitting in the very bottom of the stacking order 'cause I know I have this wood grain on top of it, and I have this green image on top of that as well. Undo both of those. But maybe I want the image to sit all by itself on a new layer at the very bottom. So I'm gonna create a new layer by Option or Alt clicking on that, giving it a name. I might call this Base or let's call it Image base, and I can choose a color, I can choose whether or not it prints or shows right away. I can turn these on and off at any time. I'm gonna leave it here right now, and just create that new layer. And by default, that new layer automatically sits on top of the layer I was currently on. So I had that selected now. I was on that layer, created this image base, and I put it at the top. But what I really want is this image base, I want it to be at the bottom. So I'm gonna grab the layer and just drag it down so that it sits down below. Now, all I did was move that layer. That layer is completely empty, there's nothing on it yet. But I do have that image selected, and it's still sitting on Layer One, and I can tell that because my outline is this light blue, and you've probably seen that a lot. Most of your images or items already have that light blue frame, and that's because you're always starting with Layer One, which by default, has the light blue color applied to it. But if you had this item sitting on a different layer, that outline will change colors. So, in this case, I've got it sitting there, it's on Layer One. I can tell I have something selected on Layer One because I have this little blue proxy. That basically says there's something or many somethings selected. So what I wanna do is wanna just drag this, and I just wanna drag it down to the next layer. So when I do that, it automatically moved that item down to the layer below, and my handles around that object changed as well. So I can visually see that it's attached to this layer. Now, if by having that at the very bottom, that's helpful because I can go ahead and just turn this off, and I can see what that looks like without that image on. And I don't have to move it out of the way or hide it in anyway. I can even make sure, I'm just looking at what's going to print, and I can turn this on or off and say, okay, I could turn this layer off and print it. Or maybe, I have several different images, and I'm going to use a different image for each output version of this PDF or whatever. I could also do the same thing with this item here. This is one full object that's here. It's just a compound path that I created. So I could have this, and maybe I want it to move to a new layer as well. So, I'm gonna create a new one, and we'll just call this Banner. And again, this is, because I'm creating a layer that is for the entire document, it's not just for this page. Calling it banner doesn't make a lot of sense unless I have a banner on every page because, like I said, this layer is gonna show up on every page. Now, you don't have to have stuff on every page necessarily, but in this case, I have this banner, I can see that I can write on it, that's what the little pen is because I don't have it locked. If it's locked or hidden, you can't move stuff between it. But again, I have it selected on Layer One, and I'm just gonna move it up. If you Option or Alt click while you drag it, you'll actually copy it to that layer as well. Sometimes, you want the same thing on both layers. All right, so now I can see that that's part of that layer. It's got the orange tag on it, and it's connected to the banner layer. So again, I can turn things on or off. Maybe if I decide I don't want the banner, I want a version without the banner, and a version with the banner, I can do that same thing. So layers are whatever reason you need to separate the information, whatever makes sense to your workflow. Like I said, just putting images on one and text on the other doesn't necessarily make sense because not only do you have layer order, whatever's on top, like if I decided to put this image base all the way at the top, I'm dragging it to the very top, it suddenly is sitting on top of the banner, it's sitting on top of that orange line that I had, because it's sitting on top of every other layer that's there. So, keep in mind that separating by text and images might not make a lot of sense because you need to have your items layering with all the other objects that are there. And within each layer, you have that stacking order. So, if I go back to Layer One, I'm gonna turn off everything but Layer One. On this Layer One here, I have these three images that are here. I've got the color, I've got this screen back image, and I've got this orange line that's here, and each of those sits in a special order as well, and that is the order that they went on the page, that's that stacking order. So this guy's on top, followed by, I believe, this guy. This is hard to tell because I actually have some transparency applied. If I take this image, this is the wood grain image, and I go up under Object Arrange and send that to the back, we don't see any difference because that transparency is playing with it. If I bring this green object all the way to the front, I'm gonna arrange to bring that all the way to the front, it now sits on top of that orange line. And now, you still see it because there's transparency applied to that green shape. So it's showing through, we can see it looks a little different than that over here. So again, we've got the stacking order, and I can see what that is. I can see I've got a rectangle and a line that's here, and I can select each one individually as well. So, as I'm working with that, I can select it to see what it's talking about. It says rectangle, that's very helpful. Well, there are two things called rectangle. Well, I've got one that's sitting over there, and I've also got this line sitting off to the side. Line, rectangle, and then I do have this file called Wood.jpg. So I can also rearrange that if I know that I want the green shape to be at the bottom. I need to make sure I select the right one, the right rectangle, and I can grab this and drag it down to the bottom of that layer. So this is the stacking order. It's the same thing as the stacking order, it's just you're able to work with it in the layers. So I can rearrange there on each layer, then I can also rearrange the layers and say, I want this to be up here or whatever, so I can rearrange them. So, putting things on layers makes a lot of sense. Keep in mind, there are stacking orders on each page, and then there's the layer order, and the layer order is for the entire document. So you might think, oh, I'll put on this layer, and this here, and then I'll just switch them. But keep in mind, if you have the objects on those layers on other pages, you're also rearranging the layer order there. Layers are another one of those things that you can dive into as deep as you want or just not use it very often at all, and not every document I create has layers. Most of them don't need it. In fact, I wouldn't really even use layers in this document all that much. It's really not all that difficult, I've got my stacking order. So even if I only had one layer, I would still be able to see the stacking order on Layer One of all these individual items, and that's all that I really would need on this one. It's just how all these images and color blocks actually interact with each other, but I wouldn't even think about putting them on separate layers for the most part.

Ratings and Reviews

Marianne Stewart

I've been using InDesign for a decade, and decided to take this class to see what else I could learn. Wow! Erica taught me ways to do repetitive tasks easier, faster, and cleaner. She showed me many, many ways that I wasn't using InDesign to it's fullest potential (and now I am!). Her teaching style is very thorough and in-depth, but also easy to follow and understand. I highly recommend this class!


Great class, but as a former professional typesetter (before InDesign, PageMaker and QuarkXpress), Erica uses the term "Justified Left" incorrectly! (sorry!) There is no such thing. Justified refers only to text that spans the width of it's column from edge to edge. The spacing in-between words will vary. Used primarily in newsprint where the columns widths are narrow. The other proper terms for text alignment are: Flush Left Ragged Right (or) Left-Aligned Flush Right Ragged Left (or) Right-Aligned Centered Justified The oddball is "Justified". It's the only option where word spacing is variable. This is the least desirable because it creates "Rivers and Valleys" of white space that distract the eye. Letter and word spacing can be tightened or tweaked to improve the overall look, but at cost in time.


Great class and very informative. Erica’s a good instructor. Given the volume of information presented I’d like to see class materials included. It makes the course much easier to follow.

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