Master Layers and Groups Chapter 01 1 Videos (1:31m)
  • 01 - Introduction to Layers and Groups
Master Layers and Groups Chapter 02 12 Videos (2:59h)
  • 01 - How to Create and Work with Layers
  • 02 - A Guide to Layer Types
  • 03 - How to Organize and Group Layers
  • 04 - How to Align Layers
  • 05 - How to Transform and Scale Layers
  • 06 - All About Layer Masks and Visibility
  • 07 - How to Edit with Clipping Masks
  • 08 - How to Color Grade using Layer Blending Modes
  • 09 - How to Add Depth with Layer Styles
  • 10 - How to Search and Filter Layers
  • 11 - How to Lock Layers
  • 12 - Tips for Using Tools on Layers
Master Layers and Groups Chapter 03 3 Videos (30:23m)
  • 01 - How to Save Time with Keyboard Shortcuts
  • 02 - How to Quick Export
  • 03 - How to Save & Export Photos in Photoshop
Home  >  PRO Tutorials  >  PRO Photoshop  >  How to Master Layers & Groups in Photoshop



How to Master Layers & Groups in Photoshop


Layers are the foundation upon which all of Photoshop is built. Whether it’s text, a shape, or even a small brush stroke, chances are that it lives on its own layer and works in combination with several other layers to create the final image.

In this tutorial, we break down everything you need to know about layers and groups. From a thorough examination of the Layers Panel to the skills required to get all of the different elements of an image to blend and interact beautifully. This is a must-watch for anyone that wants to elevate their Photoshop skills to a professional level.

What’s Included

16 Video Tutorials   |   30 Sample Images

Class Instructor

Aaron Nace – PHLEARN Founder

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Layers Explained

Layers are a lot like different pieces of paper stacked on top of one another. If you have a large blue paper rectangle and a smaller red circle on top of it, it’s similar to having a background layer filled with blue with a small red circular shape layer on top of it in the Layers Panel. It’s a simple definition but an accurate way of understanding how Layers stack and interact.

Working with Layers

How you work with and manage layers will determine everything from how organized your project is to how quickly you complete an edit to the overall quality of the final image. We share with you our best practices on managing your workflow and getting the most out of every layer you create.

Project Organization

Layers can be named, grouped together, and given colored labels to ensure you never waste a second trying to find an edit. Learn how to use these organizational tools in combination to develop good post-production habits and a professional workflow.



Layer Types

In this tutorial, we cover every layer type. Make edits to part of an image using an Adjustment Layer and then add text to it using a Type Layer. We go in-depth covering uses and applications of all five types.

Layers & Tools

For more advanced edits, understanding how to utilize the most powerful tools in Photoshop in combination with layers is extremely important. Learn to use the Clone Stamp Tool, Healing Brush Tool, Apply Image, and more!

Understanding Layer Masks

Every layer comes with its own Layer Mask, which allows you to control the visibility of some or all of that Layer. This provides an incredible amount of control and precision. Use layer masks to change the color of a subject’s clothing or to create perfect borders around images in a collage!





Understanding Clipping Masks

Make a layer be visible only where another layer is visible by using Clipping Masks. And like Layer Masks, Clipping Masks can be applied to groups as well, making them one of the most flexible tools in Photoshop.

Non-Destructive Workflow

Working non-destructively might be the most important post-production skill to have for the professional image editor. Learn how to avoid affecting the pixels on an original image and save your Photoshop projects using industry standard file types so that you can return to them anytime to make changes.

Moving, Transforming & Scaling Layers

Layers can be edited in a variety of ways. You can change the size, opacity, position, and even precisely align layers with others. We’ll show you how to quickly make the changes you need to get your images looking their best!



The Layers Panel

The Layers Panel might be the most important window to have open when working in Photoshop. Not only will we demonstrate how to show the panel, we also break down every button, menu, and feature of this panel so you can find what you need quickly.

Layer Styles

Add shape, dimension, and appearance to a layer using the Layer Styles dialog box. Adjust transparency by learning the difference between opacity & fill and learn the power of luminance blending. For more on Layer Styles, be sure to watch our PRO tutorial How to Master Layer Styles in Photoshop.

Blending Modes

Blending Modes allow you to tell Photoshop how you want two different layers to interact with one another. We’ll show you some of the most common and powerful blending options. Once you’re done here, check out How to Master Blending Modes in Photoshop which will shed more light on these important tools.





Working with Groups

In Photoshop, Groups are not just a way to stay organized. They also provide great flexibility and control when applying edits to an image. For example, you can take advantage of the power of Layer Masks and Clipping Masks by using them on an entire group of layers!

Adjustment Layers

The best way to make edits to an image non-destructively, Adjustment Layers are one of the five layer types and come in many different forms. Change colors with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer or bring up the shadows on a subject’s face using a Curves Adjustment Layer. For a more intensive study of the different types, check out How to Master Adjustment Layers in Photoshop!

Shape Layers

Whenever you use one of the shape tools in Photoshop, a Shape Layer will be created. These layers allow you to scale, change the color, change the stroke, and adjust a number of other properties at anytime without sacrificing quality



Type Layers

Perfect for creating graphics, logos, and posters, Type Layers allow you to add vector-based text to an image. By selecting a Type Layer you can change the typeface, size, spacing, and more at anytime!

Smart Objects

Learn how to convert any layer into a Smart Object, which will allow you to scale or apply Smart Filters to that layer that can be changed or removed without affecting your original image.

Sometimes you will have a layer (or a group of layers) that you don’t want to be affected by any new edits. Lock it up! By locking and unlocking a layer, you can either prevent it from being changed or open it up to additional adjustments.



Save & Export

Make sure you’re saving out images and projects that make it easy for clients to download and view! We break down our methods of saving layered files for both personal and client use. Also, see the process to save out flattened versions in the appropriate color space for viewing on the web.

Search & Filter

Looking for a layer that has seemingly disappeared? As you work on more advanced photo edits, retouching, and compositing, you will find your projects are using a lot more (sometimes hundreds!) of layers. Speed up your workflow and learn how to find specific layers and edits in a snap.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Working in Photoshop should be smooth and comfortable. Learn fundamental keyboard shortcuts and get advice for how to make your own! Create a new layer, view a layer mask, create a group, and more!

Class Instructor

Aaron Nace


Aaron Nace is a photographer, Photoshop artist and founder of PHLEARN. He is the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world with millions of YouTube subscribers.


  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Very Helpful!!!!! Thanks for helping me to wrap my head around this concept. I do love your style. Organized, informative and yet fun and real at the same time. Thanks for this and all your other tutorials.

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Very comprehensive, but easy to follow., and always fun to watch. Even those who are already reasonably familiar with layers will find some great information here.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Brilliant…..My first Phlearn Pro Tutorial. I have learnt so much in this one, I can’t wait to get into more. As a relative novice, this was exactly what I needed. An inspiration.Thank you Aaron.

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    U Da Man!

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    I so wish this had been my first exposure to Photoshop training. Easily understood yet comprehensive basics. No longer do I feel like “I must’ve been out that day.” Thanks Aaron!!!

  6. Rated 5 out of 5

    Layers are the heart of Photoshop and this tutorial superbly covers all the essential aspects. I’ve watched many PhLearn Pro tutorials and still learned some new things. Chapter 3 is a nice bonus for a few other key skills. Another excellent product from the pros at PhLearn.

  7. Rated 5 out of 5

    This is another outstanding tutorial from PHLEARN. I’ve been using what I’ve learned in other PHLEARN tutorials, but it was very helpful to go back to basics with this one.

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    great tutorial. Please mention when you use a right-click.

  9. Rated 5 out of 5

    This is a must course to learn Photoshop. Great teaching. Will highly recommend to anyone learning Layers or Photoshop.

  10. Rated 5 out of 5

    Still going through this tutorial but I’ve never found anything but 5 – star courses from Phlearn. My comment has to do with selecting layers taught in the “Flower Essence” tutorial. I was excited to relearn how to select a layer using CTRL-click – I had forgotten this one and was doing it manually in the layer stack using lots of wrist acyion. Aaron forgot to tell us, however, that when using PNG layers, you have to CTRL-click on pixels because if you click on transparency, it doesn’t work. I would send you the hair I pulled out during the 10 minutes or so it took me to figure this out, but I have so little that I keep the loose hairs in reserve. Thanks for all you do. Lee Fuller

  11. Rated 5 out of 5

    Fabulous! A through explanation of layers and groups with real life examples of how and when to use these features. I consider my self a novice in Photoshop and have found PHLEARN tutorials instructive, enlightening, and useful as I develop my expertise in this program. Thank You.

  12. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thought I knew Layers well. But I learned some really interesting new things about Layers and Groups too. Great quality as always

  13. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great teaching method. Although I am a novice with Photoshop I still feel I received a lot of help. It was quick and I had to go back several times. I wish I were as proficient as you are…many times I felt lost but with being able to review these lessons I feel I will be the better for the time spent….overall…outstanding…


This tutorial includes 30 sample images and 16 video tutorials. Download the sample images and assets at the top of the page.

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