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Free Transform

Lesson 21 from: Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

21. Free Transform

Lesson Info

Free Transform

So here's an example of a document that I was already working on, and you can see it's made up of a bunch of layers including some things we haven't talked about yet. But I just want to talk about this a little bit to show you how, when you open a document that has already been started, hopefully it will look somewhat like this. It would make me terribly sad if I opened this and all I saw was background. That would be not good. Because that would tell me I can't edit anything so hopefully as soon as you have multiple things happening that should mean multiple layers. How many layers should I have? Well again it depends on what you're doing but any time that there's an element, whatever that element might be, I'm gonna probably try to make it a separate layer. So for example, if I want to add type to this document, let's make sure I'm not, I'm getting a little, just to talk a little bit, even if I wanted to have her first and last name, I might make those two separate layers even though...

it would look as if it was one, just because I might decide to change the look of it a little bit to make one more seethrough or something. So, the number of layers you have will depend entirely on the process you're going through, and kind of the effect that you want, okay? Well, let me show you something here to do with layers that's very interesting possibility. And, in some classes on Photoshop they'll go into a great amount of detail to explain the principle behind each of these functions, but I don't think at this point it's necessary except to show you that this possibility exists. And so take a look at the very top of my layers panel. You can see there's a layer very cleverly called layer two. Which is a texture, but when you look at the photograph you're not really seeing a whole lot of texture there, right there's a little bit. And that's because of the settings to do with this layer. So one of the great advantages of working with layers, and I kind of alluded this earlier when I said people often have this challenge where they create something and they open it later and go I don't know how I did that. I can look at this now weeks later and remind myself because as soon as I click on a layer, it's gonna tell me different settings like this layer is at 50%. It's at 57% opacity, this one is at 73 so I can kind of look how I did it almost reverse engineer. So this top layer has two things happening. It says soft light and 72%. And because I set those settings some time ago, it still looks that way now. But that doesn't mean it's that way forever, I can always change it. So let's put this back in the way it would have been when I first brought the document in. So I dragged, I drugged, I moved this on here, I was, didn't remember the past tense of drag. I dragededed it onto here. (laughs) and that's the way it looked, it covered everything up, which of course if you just left it that way would be kind of like, pointless having all these other layers. But one of the ways we can do some really interesting combinations of layers is by changing not only the opacity because if I just lowered the opacity, you'll still see there's texture but it's still really strong unless I lower it really really far. So the other possibility, is this menu right here where it says normal. There's all these choices underneath it, these are called blend modes, and these are very interesting technique because what they do, again, in a non destructive way is they compare the pixels on your current layer with the pixels on the layers below and blend them together in some way based on some mathematical equation that some engineer at Adobe invented. So some people would stand here and say let me explain exactly what each one does. I will not do that, because A, I don't know. And I'll tell you why I don't know, because a few years ago I thought you know I should probably get a better grasp of exactly what multiply mode means, so in case anyone asks. So I went into the Adobe help files and I read where it says multiply mode it said multiply takes the inverse of the intermediate color between the blending of the (gibberish) and I was just like, yeah. No idea. So some people want to know that, if you're really into it. I just like the fact that I can breeze through them and go oh, that looks nice, what is that? Oh, it's multiply mode. I mean some of you kind of have a sense that multiply will darken things and so on, but here's what I do most, even though I know actually, I know what most blend modes do I just go in here and on the, this is one of the few cases where there's a bit of a difference between Mac and PC, most times it's just sort of changing the shortcut between Command, Ctrl, et cetera. But on the PC platform you can actually just use the down arrow key, and we'll just go to the next one. On the Macintosh it doesn't do that, so if you have a Mac you have to use Shift Plus, and each time you do it, it's going to the next one down the list. So what I would just do is for now look at the image window not the layers panel, which is what I'm doing. And I'm just hitting the, oh, that's, what's that, okay that's interesting, okay. And you see each time I'm getting a very different result because it's comparing the top texture layer with the underlying layers. So I'm using Shift Plus to go down the list. If I get to the point where I'm like wait, there was one a couple back it was kind of interesting, Shift Minus goes back the other way. And what I typically do is I find one I'm like that's kind of cool, what is that, and I look and go oh, it's overlay. And what you'll often find is the base result of the initial result of this blend mode is often interesting but it might not be quite what you want, so then the other option is to pull opacity into the mix, because if you lower the opacity of course, then it lessens it just a little bit more. So here's before I did the texture and now. So some things like overlay mode, it's going to blend the image together, it's going to take some of the color of the texture and kind of blend it, if you didn't want that, then you're, if you use a texture that's just shades of gray, it won't alter the color, it will just kind of texturize things. But the main point I want to get across here is this is a really useful method when you're just trying to see what something looks like and you don't have to understand the math behind it or the difference between overlay and soft light, just go down the list. Now I will say, from this list, probably the most common ones you'll find yourself ending up on are multiply which always makes things darker, overlay and soft light, and screen are probably amongst the most popular ones because of the effects they do, but it doesn't really matter, I mean you could find that I love color dodge and it works great for what I want to do in this instance, that's okay too. Just remember, and this is one of the recurring themes of Photoshop, if I do something like blend mode that I don't know that I've ever actually used, difference mode because it does this weird color negative thing which is just kind of weird. But for now, I'm looking and saying I love that, that's fantastic! I don't really, but I'm just saying that for now. As long as I leave it this way, it's like anything else, just another layer function that when I open the next time and might come back into reality and go no, that looks terrible, that I just pick a different blend mode or I go back to normal and just lower the opacity, you know what, just forget it I'm going to hide it completely. So everything we do in here is just building on the same principle of multiple layers, hiding and showing, changing a setting, opacity, blend mode, whatever it is. Knowing that everything else in Photoshop besides layers for the most part we have to work very hard to be nondestructive. By nature, most things in the layers panels, working layers are nondestructive because you don't have to do anything, you don't have to say well I better make sure I use this setting to make it less permanent, it just happens that way. So all the settings like blend mode and opacity and all those things are based on the fact that we can put it that way for now knowing we can always change it. And I would remind you again that in that example where I did the white bar, it's always a good idea to rely on the opacity and the layers panel rather than the filling of an opacity because then you kind of set yourself a limitation as to the ability to go back up again. You might hardly ever decide to go higher than that 50% or whatever it is, but at least you know you have that ability, okay? So I want to talk about this image a little bit and kind of the thought process behind it. And stick with me in this one because it's gonna, first you're gonna be like what is he talking about? I take lots of photos and I find that probably about I would say within the last 10 years or so, I changed the way I started taking photos because I started thinking ahead to Photoshop. So for example, when I was taking photos with this girl and this was, she's not actually, she's just a model we did for a photo shoot, but in my head I thought I want at least one photo where I put all kinds of text in there. Well if I had taken a photo really tight, close to her, I'd have no room to add anything. So sometimes, now I'm finding I'm, as odd as this might sound, I'm picturing the layers panel when I'm taking the photograph, because now I'm thinking if I leave lots of headroom here, I'll have all this space up here to add a logo or some type or whatever. And it's making my life easier because the alternative would be if, for example, this was my photograph and I say now I want to add some more text on top, like where? Well I could add more canvas, but then it'll be blank, white canvas, not the stripes of the wallpaper, et cetera. So thinking ahead to in some circumstances knowing that you want to do something in Photoshop, so you have you know, a guy leaning against a nice brick wall, if he's off center you've now got all this room to do something. So it's like I'm almost imagining what are eventually gonna be layers as you're taking the photo, and at first I kind of start doing that, now I advise other people to do it because a lot of the questions that come up when people say how would you deal with this, I always hate to answer and say well if you'd shot it differently, because that's not gonna help them for this photo, but thinking ahead. So I'll get back to this one in a second, but as an example, I had a case a while ago where someone had a photo of a wedding party, and they said we need to, the couple have said we need to take this guy out of the edge of the photograph standing there, and we don't really want him in there, so of course they said just take him out. I was like well, if I take him out, what is going to be behind him? Because you know, right now would be nothing. So the photographer's like well what should I do? And I said well I'll try and help you with this one, but I'd tell you what I would do moving forward, every time you go and take a group portrait, put your camera on a tripod, take a picture of the background setting before anyone even gets there. That way, if you have to remove the person, you actually have the photograph with what is actually behind him, instead of trying to get Photoshop to magically generate something out of nothing. So that's one of the things you have to think about a little bit is like preparing for that, so if I know I'm gonna be combining images in Photoshop, I'm gonna shoot accordingly by taking different angles or whatever it might be to make my life easier. So this is another example, I want to add some type to this document, which we're gonna do in more detail later on. It's just gonna make my life easier to make sure that the original layer has given myself more space. Could I artificially add it back in later? Yeah, I could, but it's like anything, it's gonna be harder to do that than just to build it this way.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Quick Notes Guide
Landscape Image for Practice Edit
Senior Portrait Missing Element for Practice Edit
Senior Portrait With Element for Practice Edit

Ratings and Reviews


I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.

Student Work