Review of Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature

Quince Image With Layers

Knowing how to use layers is essential for the Photo Artist

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Matt Kloskowski’s book, Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature (2nd Edition)*. I plowed through the entire book in one day. I’ve followed Matt Kloskowski over the past few years. I’ve watched his videos on Lightroom and Photoshop on Kelby Training and I follow his blog, Lightroom Killer Tips. He’s a very good teacher and explains concepts clearly.

Understanding Layers Is Essential

As Photo Artists, Photoshop is one of our most important tools besides our camera.Working with textures is all about working with layers. Becoming Layer Ninja’s will free us in our work.

What’s In It For The Newbie

If you’ve been struggling with understanding layers, blending modes and layer masks, this book would be excellent for you. Matt breaks down these concepts with clear graphics so that they are easily understandable. The book is full of tutorials with image downloads which make it easy to follow along. He also has links to videos he has done on selections and brushes.

What’s In It For The More Advanced User

I know layers pretty well, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t get much use out of this book. While I was pleased to confirm that I do know layers quite well, there were plenty of gems that made the book worth while. If you are already a Photoshop guru this book may be too basic for you. If you’re like me and know Photoshop well, but could stand to delve deeper, this book will fill in the cracks. I have 9 large post-its lined up on my wall filled with notes on short cuts and tricks I didn’t know. I was particularly happy to learn shortcuts for working with the blend modes. The book also covers some more advanced topics such as the Blend If blend mode in the Layer Styles and using Smart Objects. The last chapter in particular is devoted to Advanced Layer Blending and Compositing with a number of examples.

Tip From The Book

To quickly cycle through the various blend modes, use Shift and either the + or – to cycle down or up the blend modes. To select the opacity, just type the opacity desired in the keyboard. eg. 35 for 35% opacity.

*A note about product links. I have “affiliate” agreements with vendors that I use personally such as Solostreams, Topaz Labs Filters, MadMimi,, etc. I may also have sponsors and ads. Really, it’s a pretty sweet set-up for all involved. You get recommendations for products that your colleagues are using, you support this site without it costing you anything extra, and the vendors have their products recommended by users. Woohoo!


6 Responses to Review of Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature

  1. Donna Lu March 9, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Hi Leslie! Matt opened *dozens* of new doors for me with the first edition of this book and I always recommend it to new users. I actually got it out again last week to reacquaint myself with info I’d forgotten or not picked up in previous readings. I might get this edition as well.

    Would you say this edition is geared toward CS5 users? I’m still using CS4 with no plans to upgrade.

    Good of you to pass this on to your viewers. It’s a must have!

    • Leslie Nicole March 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      Actually, I just upgraded to Photoshop CS5 today. I went through the entire book on Sunday in CS4. There was only one time when I found I couldn’t do something because it was a CS5 only feature. I can’t remember what it was right now. Probably something to do with the edge refine. There weren’t huge changes in layer features between CS4 and CS5, so not much of a problem there.

      • Donna Lu March 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

        I’m going to order it right away! Thanks for the quick response!

  2. Dianne Poinski March 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this Leslie! Sounds like a great resource to have.

  3. Ruth Drews May 29, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

    Leslie….I haven’t been on your site that long but I love it and your work. This post was started in 2011, but I just got started in using textures to be more creative and I am a “beginner” with PS. I follow Kelby and all that he does. I just recently got the ebook from Matt. My question is, what is the difference between the 1st edition and the 2nd edition? Do I need to purchase the 1st edition as well?


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