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Hi, I'm new to Affinity Photo - but I really like what I see.

 

I'm a Mac user converting from iPhoto and Aperture - so I'm not familiar with layers, masks, etc. Your current tutorials are great from the viewpoint of showing me what can be done with Affinity Photo and how to do specific tasks - and I really like the professional and clear style of presentation. However, I'm struggling to understand the concepts layers and masks. I can understand that layers are like a stack of photos / transparencies and that masks may allow me to see through layers - but what are the differences between pixel layers, adjustment layers, filter layers, etc that are mentioned in the tutorials or listed under the LAYER menu? When do I use each type? Why would I use them rather than filters and brushes? 

 

For the benefit of converts (or stupid people) like me, maybe it would be worthwhile for someone to do a tutorial on the concepts / basics of layers and masks - and how they differ from brushes, filters? 

 

Pending that, can anyone point me in the direction of some simple explanations? Thanks :-)

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My best suggestion would be a YouTube search for "using layers and masks in Photoshop" only because you will get a lot more results. Look for beginner tutorials that would offer the explanations you're looking for. It's not the same software as Affinity Photo so the exact tools and steps may be different but the general concepts will be the same.

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Being a novice too, I can definitely sympathize with your plight. I don't claim to have even a good understanding, but I will throw in my 2 cents and hope you find something useful in it. It helped me when I started to understand the groups or classes of blend layers. Within your layers you have those that Darken, those that Lighten, those that contrast, those that work with color space. The top layer is always compared to the bottom layer pixel by pixel, although from what I've read that is not always the case in some modes. 

Confused. Yeah it get's better.

Okay. Darken modes work with luminosity (gray scale) where White is transparent and Black is black. So when you think of a Masking Layer, it is like a Darken layer.

Lighten modes work where White is white, and Black is transparent. The contrast layers work where 50% gray is transparent and White is white, and Black is black. Color modes work with color space. And the rest are call Effects modes.

A pixel layer is a normal layer.

An adjustment layer is a layer attached to a function that changes something. By attaching it to a layer it becomes non-destructive. The live-filter layer is the same for filters, making them non-destructive.

So if you want to modify you picture by comparing the bottom layer to the top layer you will use a blend mode layer of some kind.

If you want to modify just the layer you are on, you will use and adjustment layer, or live filter layer (for non-destructive modifications)

Caveat, if you position your adjustment layer as the top layer, it seems to be adjusting all lower layers, but it is just modifying that top composite layer you have created. Although you can still go back down layers and effect changes that will be reflected at the top (confusing yet). But remember in fact you are still only affecting the layer you are on with an adjustment layer.

a pixel layer is a basic normal layer.

a mask layer is a darken layer that allows you to show and hide specific portions of the layer you are working on. And this can be added to any pixel, adjustment, another mask, live-filter layers.

The specific blend mode types get more complicated based upon the algorithm used to compare the pixels of two layers.

Summary:

Blend layers affect the layer you are on to the layer below. Broken into categories. Normal - independent of all others. Darken - Black is black, White is transparent. Lighten - White is white, Black is transparent. Contrast - 50% gray is transparent, Black is black, White is white. Color - works with color and luminosity channels. Special effects - combinations of algorithms.

adjustment and live-filter layers affect the layer you are on, non-destructively

pixel layers are normal layers

masks are like a cut out, selectively showing and masking parts of the layer you are on, and can be used with pixel, adjustment, live-filter, other masks. Mask layers work like Darken blend layers.

 

I hope you find something useful in that rant. I may be wrong on some things, but that is the understanding I have come up with.

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Thanks jmac and crabtrem for your replies. I'll scour the internet for some Photoshop stuff - that may illustrate crabtrem's highly detailed answer (for which I thank you a lot - it must have taken a while to type that!). I'll also fire up the app and try experimenting with it alongside your response to gain a more hands on understanding. Ta very much.

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I am glad you might have found something useful in my rant. The plus about Affinity Photo over any other program is that they always seem to provide you with a hint of what you will get. This is not to be wasted. When you slide over all the blend modes available, they will show you a live preview. If you increase your brush size over a mask, the inside of the brush area will show you a preview of what you will get. Very helpful, because if you don't see what you were expecting, you can go check everything right away. When you move layer items, if you hold it over a new position you will get a preview of what it will do. Sometimes that lags for me, but is very helpful when finding what a new position on the layer will do without committing to it right away. Good luck.

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Hi everybody,

no offense, but I feel there’s a little confusion about concepts and terminologies here … basically you have to discern between pixel layers, object layers, image layers, adjustment layers, and mask layers.

  • Pixel layers. A pixel layer is basically a container where you can perform pixel based editing tasks like painting, erasing, selecting by a pixel selection marquee, and so on.
  • Object layers. Then there are object layers, falling in different categories: smart shapes (rectangles, cogs, arrows, …), vector paths, text objects. Object layers become pixel layers, when they get rasterised (Layer > Rasterise …).
  • Image layers. Suppose you created an empty document. Now place another file in that document (File > Place …). Then you will see an image (layer) appear in the layers list. An image (layer) is considered an object layer, just like a vector path, a vector shape or a text block. It retains most of its properties until it gets rasterised. I say “most of”, because the colour profile that may be embedded in the placed file gets converted to the colour workspace of the document, for example.
  • Adjustment layers. These layers are used to perform non-destructive adjustment tasks (Brightness and Contrast, Curves, Black and White, …), and the range of their efficiacy depends on their position in the layers hierarchy. Basically, an adjustment layer that is nested to another layer (to a pixel layer, for instance) affects just the layer it is nested to. (The same applies to groups.) Otherwise it affects all layers beneath. Nesting an adjustment layer A to a layer B is performed by dragging A onto B in the layers list.
  • Mask layers. A mask layer that is nested to another layer determines which parts of this other layer will be visible or invisible or semi-opaque. Otherwise it will determine the visibility (opacity) of all layers beneath. Masks are indeed unlike darken or lighten layers (i.e. layers which blend modes are set to “Darken” or “Lighten”). Paint on a layer set to “Darken” with a black brush, and you will usually see a black stroke appear. Paint on a mask with a black brush, and you will hide parts of the layer(s) affected by the mask.

Excuse me, if I am not clear enough … I hope that makes sense … and please note, that the in-app help files (Help > Affinity Photo Help) are very valuable, when it comes to getting clear about questions like these. I just can recommend to have a look.

Cheers, Alex  :)

post-1198-0-23191000-1444078181_thumb.png

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Hey guys,

 

I made a short video, showing you the behavior of adjustment layers in respect to the layer hierarchy. I created a group of two images (Flowers, Wood) to show you the differences. You can create groups by selecting layers and hitting the “folder” button at the bottom of the layers list.

  • 0:00. The Black and White adjustment layer is beneath all other layers. Nothing is affected.
  • 0:02. The adjustment layer is above the Flowers layer and therefore affects just the Flowers layer.
  • 0:05. The adjustment layer is nested to the Wood layer and therefore affects just the Wood layer.
  • 0:10. The adjustment layer is nested to the group, consisting of the Flowers and the Wood layer, and therefore it affects both layers. You would achieve the same effect, (a.) if you made the adjustment layer the first child of the group (by placing it above the Flowers layer and the Wood layer within the group or (b.) if you placed the adjustment layer above the group itself.
  • 0:13. Back to the beginning.

Please note the change of the blue highlight bars when dragging the layer. Have fun trying it yourself …  :)

Cheers, Alex

Adjustment_Layer.mov

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A_B_C, 

 

Thanks for your post. This has always been a confusing topic for me and you provided some clarity with you explanation and video.

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  • Pixel layers. A pixel layer is basically a container where you can perform pixel based editing tasks like painting, erasing, selecting by a pixel selection marquee, and so on.
  • Image layers. Suppose you created an empty document. Now place another file in that document (File > Place …). Then you will see an image (layer) appear in the layers list. An image (layer) is considered an object layer, just like a vector path, a vector shape or a text block. It retains most of its properties until it gets rasterised. I say “most of”, because the colour profile that may be embedded in the placed file gets converted to the colour workspace of the document, for example.

 

Alex, good explanations.  Let's carry the question one step further.

 

Can anyone explain why if I can do everything to the pixel image in a pixel layer, and not in an image layer, why would I ever use an image layer instead of a pixel layer?  Do they take less room?  Is the image just protected from being affected by accidental modifications?  I assume an adjustment layer will affect both.  Why are there two layer types to hold pixels?

 

I tend to not do a lot in the pixel realm, but everything I do has been in a pixel layer.  Why shouldn't it have been?  Most of the time it's just there to look at while doing vector drawing.  So it sounds like an image layer would have been more appropriate.?  Frequently I'll attach an adjustment layer.

 

One last question from the sounds of it I can rasterize a image layer so it will become a pixel layer.  What happens to a pixel layer when it is rasterized?  If I rasterize a pixel layer with an adjustment layer it incorporates the adjustment into the layer making it permanent.  But AD will let me rasterize a pixel layer and I don't see any difference.  Did it become a super pixel layer or something?

 

Thanks for your help.  Always trying to figure out how to work smarter. 

 

Mike


iMac (27-inch, Late 2009) with macOS Sierra

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Rasterization decreases the file size if the image layer had more pixels than what the underlying document area has. 

 

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/17160-ap-resize-to-match-document-dpi-rasterize-to-native-resolution/?p=78054

I don´t like the current rasterization implementation either because it has a destructive effect when you don´t rasterize directly after importing

- when you size down an image layer after placing it and then rasterize it and then scale it up you´ll loose quality

- you have to rasterize it directly after importing so that the two dpi (document and the image layer) match and you effectively rasterize 1 pixel to 1 underlying pixel 


 

 

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From what I can tell, rasterizing a pixel layer doesn't create a super pixel layer or do anything else unless the pixel layer includes live or regular adjustment or fx layers. That 'bakes' the adjustments into the pixel layer -- in other words it is a destructive edit. The exception that I just discovered (which explains why "Rasterize..." on menus has the ellipsis suffix) is if the layer includes fx you get a popup asking if they should be preserved or not.


Affinity Photo 1.8.4, Affinity Designer 1.8.4, Affinity Publisher 1.8.4;  2020 iMac 27"; 3.8GHz i7, Radeon Pro 5700, 40GB RAM; macOS 10.15.6
Affinity Photo 
1.8.4.186 & Affinity Designer 1.8.4.4 for iPad; 6th Generation iPad 32 GB; Apple Pencil; iPadOS 14.0.1

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MBd, you're right it does decrease the pixel count/resolution.  I opened an image in a pixel layer, then resized it to a small size, rasterized it, then resized it back to the original size and the resulting resolution was the pits.  It could be useful I guess in some instance to do this.  Thank you for clearing that issue up.

 

Again it makes me wonder why I'd ever use an image layer to hold an image.  If I later wanted to do any manipulation I'd have to rasterize it and I'd just trash the image.  If I load it as a pixel layer then I will never need to rasterize it, so it will hold its quality.  And if I ever wanted to downsize the resolution I could resize and rasterize it anyway.  Seems to me that the image layer is totally superfluous.  Apparently whoever does the AD help thinks so too as it's not even listed in the Types of layer.

 

R C-R, I had originally added a question about why there was an ellipsis suffix on the Rasterize, but deleted the question figuring it was more than long enough already.  Thank you for reading my mind.  So it asks if the fx is to be preserved, but just assumes the adjustments are to be incorporated (baked).  And assumes the resolution can be changed.  Seems fairly inconsistent in operation doesn't it.

 

So bottom line I guess I will continue to ignore the existence of image layers.  And I won't rasterize unless I want to down resolve or incorporate adjustments and fx.  Which I don't expect to happen often. ;)

 

Thanks again for your help on figuring this out.  I've just simplified my tool list by removing the Place Image tool!


iMac (27-inch, Late 2009) with macOS Sierra

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The Place Image tool (or the file menu "Place" item) is useful for embedding images in documents. I haven't worked out all the details of working with embedded images (& afdesign files) in AD, but this tutorial for AP should explain what embedded files are & how they differ from ordinary image files.


Affinity Photo 1.8.4, Affinity Designer 1.8.4, Affinity Publisher 1.8.4;  2020 iMac 27"; 3.8GHz i7, Radeon Pro 5700, 40GB RAM; macOS 10.15.6
Affinity Photo 
1.8.4.186 & Affinity Designer 1.8.4.4 for iPad; 6th Generation iPad 32 GB; Apple Pencil; iPadOS 14.0.1

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Hi Mike,

I am well aware, that my following remarks are far from original. What I am going to say is already implied by the posts of this thread. Nevertheless, here are some additional considerations. My first consideration applies to Affinity Designer and to your remark about the redundancy of image layers. I am not sure about your workflow, but I can imagine that you place a photograph in an Affinity Designer document as a background template, and create vector paths on top of this layer. 

Now suppose you create an Affinity Designer document set to a certain resolution. Suppose further, your template image is a true high-res photograph. Then it will probably come out much larger than your document when you place it, and you can easily calculate how far it will exceed the document boundaries. Now finally suppose, that you scale down the image to fit your document and rasterise the scaled-down image layer afterwards. Then you will resample the image layer at its current size to the document resolution, and doing so has two disadvantages, in my opinion:

  • Should you later decide to enlarge your document by rescaling, you will not be able to regain the pixel information that you lost during the resampling process, and the same is true, when you decide to enlarge your background template. 
  • But rasterising has also an effect on the appearance of the background layer under zooming in. Zooming in on an image layer will always reveal the pixel information of the original image, while zooming in on the rasterised version will, of course, only reveal the pixel information of the resampled version. The second point might be of particular interest for you, when you are working out the tiniest details of your drawings.

Considered all, I wouldn’t like to dispense with image layers. They have wonderful properties. And here’s another quick answer to your second question:

What happens to a pixel layer when it is rasterized?

One main effect of doing so is that you loose the pixel information beyond the document boundaries. In effect, you will crop the image irreversibly to the document area.

EDIT As of 2020, this bit of information isn’t correct anymore. There is now a difference between “Rasterise” and “Rasterise & Trim.” Only the latter command will crop the image to the document area, and if bleed is assigned, to the document area plus bleed.

Hope that makes sense …  :)

Alex

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I am new to Affinity photo for iPad and struggling to get my head around layers, mask etc. Information provided by everyone is very useful. Thank you.

PS I have no previous knowledge of PS, Lightroom etc and so I am a complete novice. I previously only used Snapseed.

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