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on December 22, 2013
I'm a little over 100 pages into this book's 300 pages of advice and practical exercises. It is one of those books where I'm sure I will work to the end.

I wonder if you will burst out laughing reading the Forward as I did. Here is a full page image of a re-enactor knight, trudging in the sun, dragging a heavy sword wearing layers of armored regalia, perhaps practical but ramshackle in appearance. The accompanying text: "Graphic designers build up complex images layer by layer, starting with the background and gradually adding elements and special effects until the image is complete." Point taken--because my own layers can be a mess.

One thing I like about the author's approach is that he makes room for all versions of Photoshop. He is not pushing the "latest thing" from Adobe as so many Photoshop books do. Where Photoshop versions diverge in relevant ways, Gulbins acknowledges the fact.

On the other hand, this book is definitely not for you if you are a Photoshop beginner requiring a bit more rigorous sequential approach to the examples. The author can be detailed in a careful way in some places, but most often he will specify an action or goal without being explicit. This can be frustrating to the inexperienced user since Photoshop offers so many options and configurations. When the author asked me to select an object in a photo of a calla lily in his "Color Splash" technique example, I did so--and found his subsequent steps and discussion to be absolutely incomprehensible. It was not until "step 5" that he revealed specifically what object he was working with. I had chosen the wrong object, therefore used the wrong selection technique and things went downhill from there. You know the situation, I'm sure.

A moment of frustration but I got back on track. If you feel you need more explicit hand-holding in Photoshop learning, I strongly recommend the "Deke McClelland" books.

Note: the book does provide a Web site with the example images. That URL is carefully hidden in a section in the back of the book called Resources. Unfortunately, as I write this, those images must be downloaded one at a time. Kind of a chore. I hope the publishers correct this oversight soon. [edit: they did!] The images are generally a JPEG "before" and a multi-layer TIFF "after." In most cases you can skip downloading the "after" because all the fun is playing with the "before!"
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on January 10, 2014
As president of the Dallas Camera Club I try to stay on top of the latest and best software, seminars and resource people coming to our area in addition to the instructional resources available for our members.
Mastering Photoshop layers by Juergen Gulbins caught my attention the moment I saw it advertised. I personally have a couple manuals on Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Even though this book is written for Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) users the author refers to the function ability in other versions when necessary. Many of Photoshop’s layers functions remain unchanged from earlier versions. Mastering Photoshop Layers is also of great value to Photoshop Element users.
This comprehensive 294 page book contains a nice blend of technical and practical instruction for the person who has a working knowledge of Photoshop.
Juergen has expertly written a book that is a must read for the novice and advanced Photoshop user. The novice user can start with the first chapter to learn the basics of using layers and the long-time user who wants a refresher course on layers.
Layers is the foundation for working in Photoshop for editing individual areas of your image nondestructively to ensure your end result will be a combination of all of the best parts of your image. There are clear step-by-step instructions with excellent illustrations to assist you to quickly master the tools. No matter what your knowledge level, this is a very valuable resource. You can skip parts of the text that describe techniques you are familiar with and take more time on those that you want to learn. At times this book reminds me of a textbook with the technical detail but it always provides a hands-on example during the course or at the end of the chapter. Speaking of “hands-on” you are provided on page 10 of the text the website where you can download most of the images used in the book. That raises the value of this book. Sprinkled throughout the book are appropriate keyboard short cuts and program settings.
I appreciate the way the pages in the book are laid out. There is a side bar next to the text that has a screen shot of the Photoshop tools that help the more visual learner like me make sure I know what is being described in the text.
Enjoy the clear step-by-step instructions for all you wanted to know about Photoshop Layers and were afraid to ask.
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VINE VOICEon January 8, 2014
More and more photographers are, with good reason, using Lightroom for the initial processing of their digital images. But there are a lot of possible image processing solutions that Lightroom does poorly, like local adjustments with the clunky adjustment brush, or not at all, like assembling panoramas. To use these solutions, many photographers turn to Adobe Photoshop and its layers features.

Juergin Gulbins describes in detail all of the aspects of layers including their use to make global and selective adjustments, the use of layer masks, blending modes, smart objects and smart filters, layer styles, and layer organization. He discusses alternatives to layers and then provides five examples of image edits. The author assumes that the reader has a basic familiarity with Photoshop.

I had mixed feelings about this book. From time to time the author will give detailed instructions on a technique that he is using to enhance an image and at other times the instructions are cursory. For example in his discussion of adjustment layers, he does not mention all of the available Photoshop adjustment layers and their controls, a subject that would probably be of the most interest to those using Photoshop to further refine their Lightroom processed images. Similarly, his discussion of blending modes explains what they are, but not how each of the blending modes works, and when it might be appropriate to select a particular blending mode to enhance an image. Moreover, a quick look at the many steps that Gulbins is willing to apply to a simple image may reveal that he is willing to work harder to extract that last 2% from an image than most photographers.

On the other hand, he is frank in stating that of the four tone-mapping methods provided in Photoshop for HDR images, only Local Adaptation seems really useful. Similarly he is not reluctant to suggest that other software like Photomatix Pro for processing HDR images and PTGui for panoramas may be more useful than Photoshop. He often offers examples and solutions that one may not have encountered anywhere else, like simulating a pencil drawing using divide modes or using smart objects to insert or remove details in a portrait.

I would have liked to have seen more examples showing when to select particular options for a tool. I eventually learned that downloadable images were available so that one could follow more complex procedures at the computer but that was only when I reached a small reference under Resources at the back of the book.

This book is not for the beginning or perhaps even the intermediate Photoshop user. For advanced users there is always a danger that an expert's Photoshop procedures will not be original for the reader, or that the technique will not be applicable to a particular photographer's genres, but that seems to me an unavoidable risk. I would certainly recommend this book for perusal by an advanced Photoshop user, keeping in mind the difficulty of learning anything new at that level.
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on April 23, 2014
I bought the Kindle version and the printed version.

The book is very good. I rate the printed version as 5 star.

There is a problem with formatting of the Kindle version. For example, the Photoshop options toolbar appears in the Kindle version at about one eight the height of the actual toolbar. It is impossible to tell what the toolbar is saying. For example, figure 3-80 shows the options for the shape tool. In the Kindle version this option toolbar appears about the thickness of a pencil lead. .

A similar problem exists with the many of the menus. The menus in the Kindle version has been reduced to the size where they are difficult to decipher.

I frequently use layers and masks. I wanted this book as a reference. I thought on my desktop to have the Kindle version open on one monitor while I used Photoshop on the other. The problem with the figures made this arrangement unworkable. So I bought the printed version.

All things said, this is the best book I have found to provide an understanding of layers and masks.
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on August 17, 2014
This is a very in depth book on Photoshop layers. It touches on some of the older versions of Photoshop and a little bit of Lightroom. He covers some things in CS6 that are different from past versions. For the most part he leaves no stone un turned and does so in plain English. You also are told about other ways of doing things including keyboard shortcuts. This is a book that you will want to keep beside your computer when you use Photoshop.
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on February 17, 2014
And I have and use three others. Gulbins' guide will take you from the "short order cook" phase (like one of Kelby's books, in my opinion), on your way to the "chef" use a cooking analogy.
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on May 16, 2014
I just finished re-reading this book from cover to cover. I teach Photoshop, Lightroom and Elements and can definitely say this is the best book written about Layers. There is enough explanation for those even using other programs as the concept of Layers doesn't change.

If you practice using Photoshop and start this book it is quite easy to follow the examples and exercises.

The two most important sections concerning Layer Masks and Blending Modes are especially well written and provides a clear understanding for two difficult concepts. I have used these two sections as a teaching aid for the last two months and the students have finally grasped these ideas. Well done!

I would give this book my highest recommendation.
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on February 1, 2015
I have been working my way through this book for about a month now. I find that many parts of it are excellent but there are other sections that lack enough detail to duplicate the author's example. I find myself constantly going online to find more explicit instructions. Very frustrating on the whole.
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on April 11, 2014
Mastering PhotoShop Layers is an exceptional textbook! It is clearly written with lots of photos and screen shots so the reader can follow Mr. Gulbins explanations. This is a book for advanced PhotoShop uses. It assumes the reader is familiar with the layers concept and is using a version of PhotoShop CS3 or higher. He concentrates on PhotoShop CS6 and CSCC. If you meet those criteria and want to learn to use layers more effectively, this book is for you!

The title is exactly what the book teaches. The book contains many uses for layers, their masks and blending modes. I especially liked his treatment of ways to sharpen and not leave halos; focus stacking and panoramas; layer effects and styles; raw converters; luminance and adding textures. There is so much more! I am amazed that Mr. Gulbins wrote this in German first. It is so readable.

As you can see, this is a difficult book to borrow and not own. I have to return it, and now need to decide on the book or a kindle version.
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on September 30, 2015
If you have read any of the author’s other books written with Uwe Steinmüller, Fine Art Printing for Photographers and Managing Your Photographic Workflow with Photoshop Lightroom, you have some idea what to expect with this book. It is detailed, almost encyclopedic, but for the right person at the appropriate stage in his/her Photoshop skill development it is excellent. At the wrong stage it may prove frustrating.

The wrong stage is when you are new to Photoshop. Amazon’s blurb implies that this book will help remove the confusion factor for a new user. I don’t believe it will. Many beginning tutorials are organized by workflow with examples of how to process successively more difficult images which allows the reader to build up skills gradually. This book is organized around program features and specific enhancement techniques. This causes the author to use methods in early sections of the book that are not explained until later in the text. Without a prior understanding of these methods, the reader could get lost.

The right stage to use this book is when you are ready to move past the creation of many good pictures and on to making a few great images. Much of what all of us photographers do can be handled now in Lightroom with maybe a touch of Photoshop or a commercial plug-in like Nik or Topaz. Most of us do not want to spend long hours at the computer so we use this workflow to create good images. Occasionally we capture and image that can be better than good. That is where we should spend the time using the techniques described in this book.

The author describes almost every menu, control, blending mode and adjustment that would be of interest to a photographer developing an image using layers and layer masks. He then covers many sophisticated techniques for manipulating an image to accomplish effects like selective color correction, sharpening, burning and dodging, and merging multiple images. He finishes the way many tutorials begin, by showing the workflow for five images.

One area I don’t believe the author devoted enough emphasis to is luminosity masks. He does describe a couple of way to create and use them, but I believe they are becoming one of the primary tools for creating localized, realistic adjustment and form the core of advanced adjustment blending.

This book is not for every Photoshop user. It is for the user that wants more than just a “good” image. It is not an easy read but does offers substantive techniques for the reader that is ready to work at improving his/her Photoshop skills.
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