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No photographer can unleash the full power of Photoshop to make an image look like the photographer's vision without understanding the power of layers. (At the very least layers allow the Photoshop user to make selective adjustments to an image, without actually changing the underlying data.) Yet many Photoshop books treat layers in bits and pieces rather than as an integrated whole so that the photographer has a hard time grasping the overall concept. That's where a book aimed solely at layers comes in.

Matt Kloskowski's book deals with all the major applications of layers. The subjects include the nature of layers, blending layers, adjustment layers, layer masks, type and shape layers, enhancing and adjusting photos with layers, layer styles and smart layers. It's all here, but in a short simple quick form. (I'm sure there are more esoteric things to learn about layers; at least one pair of authors has a book on layers that is over 750 pages long!) Most photographers will find that this book has all they need to know about the subject.

The author's text takes the form of tutorials. One can either download files for these tutorials or work with one's own pictures. The tutorials are short, well illustrated and have plenty of white space. If you make a mistake at an early step you won't have to backtrack through twenty or thirty steps to find out where you went wrong. Even if you work out each tutorial, this book will not take more than ten or twenty hours to complete, and it will teach you almost everything you need to know about the subject. Along the way, Kloskowski teaches the reader about other Photoshop tools, as when he integrates a discussion of gradients into a lesson on blend modes, or deals with selections in a tutorial on layer masks.

The author has an easy-going, breezy, humorous style, but those put off by the style of his mentor, Scott Kelby, probably will not be offended here.

Normally, as I go through a book, I make notes in the margin when I discover an error. I'm happy to report that I made no notes in the margin of this book.

For experienced Photoshop users this book will contain nothing new. Perhaps they'll have to look at the 750 page tomes. However, for the photographer who doesn't have a firm grip on the use of layers in Photoshop, this book will help him or her to master the subject.
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on December 8, 2010
I'll be honest, Photoshop has scared me to death for quite awhile. I love digital photography, but I always felt the whole post-processing end of it was way too complicated and would take me years to learn. A friend of mine would take photos that I had taken and work his PS magic on them, and I would thank him, not really knowing what he did to correct exposure, color, etc. I picked up Photoshop Elements 6, but I still never really understood the whole layers and masks thing, although I loved the editing aspects of it.

But then I saw an episode of PhotoshopUser TV on the web and was introduced to some of the tips, tricks and new features of Photoshop CS5. All of it explained in detail, with some good doses of humor thrown in, by Matt Kloskowski, Scott Kelby and Dave Cross. They made Photoshop less intimidating and much easier to comprehend.

So I got a copy of Photoshop CS5 for myself, determined to learn this program and start using it to its potential. I was all set to purchase the first edition of Matt's Layers book, but he mentioned that he was revising it with new emphasis on CS5, so I decided to wait and get the newest edition.

Matt has a great style of teaching the use of layers in Photoshop. Another reviewer mentioned that Matt wrote in a "juvenile" style, but I found it refreshing and helped make what can be a dry subject interesting. Watching Matt on the web, or attending one of his seminars, will show you that he writes as he speaks. He doesn't talk down to his audience and makes sure you know the subject matter before he moves on. Several times in the book, while demonstrating a process or procedure, he will instruct you to perform a basic step (whether it's a keyboard shortcut or navigating to a certain toolbar) that he talked about in an earlier chapter, that helps to complete the current project. This is just a simple repetition technique that makes those steps come naturally to you.

The book is logically set up to start off a new user with the basics of layers, and quickly moves into blending layers and the use of layer masks to enhance your images. The book is NOT a Photoshop tutorial showing you what every brush or menu option does. Matt assumes you have a good base of knowledge on how to navigate around the program toolbars and menus. He gives you a good foundation of knowledge in the early chapters that he builds upon as you go through the book.

New to this edition is the "Advanced Layer Blending and Compositing" chapter that Matt has added for this edition. Again, while this is about more advanced techniques, Matt makes it easy to understand, and most of all, fun to learn!

In addition to the information in the book, there is a web link given where there are more video tutorials and pictures that you can download, so you can work on them alongside the turorials in the book.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this book for the person just starting out in Photoshop and who wants to understand how layers are the building blocks of all images that are edited in it. As with any book, some of the more advanced users may not get a lot of new information out of it, but there may be a new tip or trick that they might have not have come across before.

Great purchase!
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on March 4, 2008
I'm one of those Photoshop users who knows too much to want to read a book mainly for beginners, not because of ego considerations but because I would be bored and skip around. But there are also huge gaps in my haphazard Photoshop education. This book gives absolute beginners what they need without slowing down the more experienced user. It's long enough to cover what it aims out to cover without being so long that you look at it and say, someday I'm going to go through that book but not today.

I was attracted to this book because of who wrote it (I watch Matt's Killer Photoshop and Lightroom tips all the time), the topic, which of course is central to knowing Photoshop, and because of the great cover. I'm a small press publisher and believe me, covers matter. Many good books languish because they don't appeal initially to the eye. And a Photoshop book should have a good design. It's also well-edited, a welcome plus in today's publishing world.

Anyway, what's between the covers is just as delightful. I think the word I would use to best describe this book is methodical but not in a boring way. It's comprehensive, but the way it's laid out never overwhelms you. I know that when I go through this book a couple of times, I'm going to be flipping my way through layers like a maniac but a maniac who knows what she's doing and knows what layers can do for her.

And, I LOVE the last page of each chapter, the "How do I...." question and answers. It gives me one place to go to immediately find all those absolutely essential shortcuts and critical pieces of knowledge without which one wouldn't really be able to say they had a good basic understanding of layers.

Matt even has two companion videos on the book's web site and you can download all the images used in the tutorials there as well.

I may not be an expert in Photoshop (yet) but I do consider myself an expert on Photoshop books and this one is well worth the very reasonable price. Have fun playing with it; I am!
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on December 14, 2010
I have been using Photoshop since the days of Adobe Photoshop 5.0, roughly 11 years. The bulk of my Photoshop experience has been self taught with some influence from online tutorials and a simple crash course in Digital Printmaking in College. Many of my photo manipulations consist of 65+ layers prior to flattening and printing, I know layer control. In fact, I thought I knew it all and to many I have been a valuable subject matter expert. However, everyday in Photoshop CS 5 I have learned more, no matter how long I have been at it, it is a complex beast to tame. With the help of "Layers: 2nd Edition" the sharp beasts teeth are looking duller, the intimidating drool is appearing cute, and the ragged facade it carries is looking more friendly.

"Layers: 2nd Edition" succeeds in many ways. The lessons transition well, starting you off with the basics and then applying the basic tasks to more challenging applications. In many cases, these challenging applications are practical and can be used in everything from your everyday photo retouching to designing with type. Matt makes sure to point out important keyboard shortcuts. For many years I have been right clicking on my layers to duplicate them taking 2 to 3 seconds to duplicate the layer when ctrl+J is all it takes (cmd+J on a Mac). I have also familiarized myself very well with Layer Opacity Blending Modes, but now, thanks to Matt and "Layers: 2nd Edition" I know how those blend modes work and what happens to the colors in my layers when I use them.

There are a plethora of reasons to purchase this book, even if you have 11 years of experience, you can always learn more. The greatest thing about it, you do not have to be wealthy to receive the wealth of knowledge contained in Matt Kloskowski's "Layers: 2nd Edition". Take it from me and do you and your photography a favor. Save yourself the $50-$350 per credit at your local community college or University and give "Layers: 2nd Edition" a chance. I know for a fact the user's on my blog will benefit from my, NOW, more knowledgeable tutorials.
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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2008
The book clearly explaines the concept and uses of layers. (Not that the subject requires a whole book). It is well illustrated and the instructions are detailed and easy to understand.

The problem I found is that, like most Kelby brand books, (of which there are so many and they come out so frequently you wonder if these people ever sleep) it is a rehash of material covered elsewhere. Even the illustrations and images begin to look familiar. There is nothing new here, unless you just now bought Photoshop and this is your first book (in which case, you got a good one).

Another issue is that, since its aimed at everyone, it isn't really aimed at anyone in particular. So, if you take pictures of the grandkids, there are a few pages here for you. If you design menus, there are a few pages here for you, if you're a wedding photographer or scrapbook maker or you work in advertising, there are a few pages here for you, too. But if you're any of those things, you will also find that a considerable amount of the book is completely irrelevant to you. (Interesting, but irrelevant).
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on December 11, 2010
I'll admit I'm only on page 122 of the 286 pages but I stopped to write a review because of a couple of frustrations I have with this book. First the book is sprinkled with mistakes. Better editing should have been done. The mistakes are doubly frustrating because I'm completely new to Layers and Photoshop and I don't know enough to work around them. So a simple little slip in their book causes me tons of lost time trying to figure out where the author went wrong. Second complaint is that they don't include all the photos in their download section. Actually there are even tutorials where key photos within the tutorials are missing but for some reason the others are included. Not logical and should have been fixed before this. Last complaint is the style of the book where the steps are mixed into the rest of the text. It's impossible to catch each step forcing me to have to re-read to find small steps I missed during the first run through. Adding bullets for each step would have easily fixed this. All of these thingss are making it extremely time consuming to get through a book. Fixing them would make it so much easier so I hope the author reads this and includes in a third edition. I gave it three stars because its still a very valuable book on learning layers.
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on November 29, 2010
I actually have the first edition of this book, but I think the review here is unfair. It's billed as a beginners book, and that is exactly what it is. And a superb one at that. Here's what I wrote when I received my Layers book:

I have taken a class on Photoshop already, and am amazed by the possibilities and just dying to know how to use all the features. I can already do a lot-since it's a great program-but I know there are better ways of doing things, and I know if I learn to use layers better that I could do so much more, but it just wasn't clicking in my head how they work or which mode to choose or whatever, or how to work with masks-this book is really changing that quickly, I am 90% through my copy and I just LOVE it.

This book clearly and concisely illustrates how the layer thing works while making it fun to follow along. I tried retouching images before and that's great, but I never thought to do the corrections on a separate layer, if I messed up or overdid it before I had to go back to the original and start over. Retouching is my favorite chapter. And I can't wait to try the painting with light technique on my own photos. Great book. I hope he writes another one soon on a different feature.

I stand by this initial review and will recommend this updated version to any friend who is new to Photoshop. Many newbies just can't "get" how masks work, or why you'd want to do things on different layers, but this book breaks it down and makes it super easy. If you're not as new to Photoshop, Mr. Kloskowski's mentor and boss, Scott Kelby has many great books you can look into. In the couple of years since I bought this book (and because of this book) my Photoshop skills have come a long way. I particularly like Down and Dirty Tricks, which makes a good next-step after you complete this book!
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on February 24, 2008
Matt does a fantastic job of demystifying layers in this well organized, well thought out book. From his explanation of what a layer is, all the way through the most complex layer techniques, Matt keeps everything simple and straightforward. I have seen him instruct in person and this book follows in the same style as his classes. Each chapter builds upon the last and moves you from the simple to the challenging while building your knowledge of each layer tool or technique.

So here is what I really like, the chapters or lessons are chock full of follow along exercises that demonstrate the concepts being explained (you can download all of the images used to follow along). Next is the fact that Matt doesn't delve to deeply into the math behind the tools. He just shows you that this does this and that does that. As I always say, "I don't need to know how the engine works, just how to drive the car."

What I don't like, it's just too short. This isn't a bad thing with the book, it's just that I enjoyed the lessons so much that I wish there were more of them. The great thing about layers is that people are always discovering new ways to use them. I guess that leaves room for a sequel.
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on March 15, 2008
This is a good book for someone just starting to learn Photoshop or someone moving from Photoshop Elements to the full Photoshop program who wants to understand layer masks. Unfortunately, there's nothing too advanced in here. If you've already worked thru a book like Scott Kelby's 7-Point System you won't gain much new knowledge from this book. Actually, unless you want to just focus on layers, I'd recommend that you skip this book and get the 7-Point System which covers almost all the topics in Layers in more depth plus a whole lot more.
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on December 28, 2010
This book was a great read and a worthwhile investment. When I first started reading it, I thought it was too basic for me, but luckily, I kept reading. Yes, it has the very basic concepts of layers, but it has WAY more too. I made several breakthroughs with this book, which is a major accomplishment for me. I usually feel like a book is worth it if I find one really worthwhile technique. I have 12 pages dog-eared so that I can get back to them quickly, and of course highlighting throughout the book.

I loved the layout of the book. It is broken into 10 chapters that have subchapters within. The subchapters are short, less than 10 pages each, and have LOTS of graphics showing the screen he is referring to. There were a few times that I wished he'd shown another screen that he was referring to, but overall he showed what he was discussing. The text is brief and to the point without the mindless detail that kills some Photoshop books. At the end of each chapter he has a "How do I..." section that replays some of the tips he demonstrated from the chapter that I found quite useful.

Some of my favorite things from this book were:
* All of the great keyboard shortcuts. Yes, I have a book on shortcuts, and have printed out volumes from another book I purchased, but I found his more useful because they were in context.
* His description of the layer blending modes with examples. I have a few that I use all the time, and this has really helped me branch out of my blending mode rut.
* Clipping masks, yes, I've used them, but I didn't really understand how to make them. Now I do, and it's easy.
* He also helped me expand with text. I didn't think about rasterizing a text layer so I could add filters, gradients, or use a brush on them, now I will. Or locking the transparent pixels, so a gradient doesn't apply to the whole layer, seems obvious, but I never thought of it.
* I did not know there was a keyboard shortcut where you could run the last filter, but open the dialog box so you could change the settings. It's command-option-F! Yeah!
* Loved his sections on creating a watermark, and creating glowing light streaks with layer styles. His layer style discussions were great.
These were just a few of my favs. Some of these things may be familiar to you, especially if you watch Photoshop User TV the podcast as I do. But I still found the book quite helpful.

There were a few things I didn't like about the book, for instance, he uses the eraser tool in situations where I would use a layer mask, since a mask would be less destructive. But I know another very famous photographer/retoucher that uses the eraser tool extensively over layer masks. So maybe it's what you are used to, but I would teach masks when at all possible. Matt does use layer masks extensively, but a few times, I thought, "Why is he using the eraser tool now, and not a mask?"

Then when he was teaching the highpass filter to sharpen or create an `edgy look' he said he really uses a plug-in Topaz Adjust to create the same look because it is easier. I use the highpass filter as he describes all the time, but I have it as a recorded action, so it is easy for me. I own Topaz, I just don't use it that much.

I really struggled over what rating to give this book, because I normally save my 5 stars for books that I consider perfect, and there were, as I mentioned, things I disagreed with in this book. But I liked the book so much, and would recommend it to any of my friends, that I decided it deserves 5 stars. This is a book that I will refer back to and study and incorporate many of his techniques, and where possible, automate them!
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