Photoshop Top 40, Feature #2: The Layers Palette

Although Photoshop 3 is fondly remembered as the version that introduced us to layers, we sometimes forget that it was not the first image editor to do so. In my capacity as a contributing editor to Macworld magazine at the time, I reviewed at least two layer-empowered programs that beat Photoshop 3 to market, Painter X2 and Live Picture.

But Photoshop being Photoshop (and Live Picture being several times more expensive), it was Photoshop’s Layers palette that eventually won the day. And over time, it grew to take over much of the program’s capabilities. Photoshop 3 was blessed not only with layers and layer masks, but also opacity, blend modes, and luminance blending from legacy versions. Photoshop 4 introduced adjustment layers, Photoshop 5 added layer effects and editable type layers, Photoshop 6 gave us vector-based shape layers, Photoshop CS added layer comps, CS2 introduced nondestructive smart objects, CS3 followed up with editable smart filters and layer mask refinement, CS4 added the target adjustment tool, and CS5 introduced . . . well, I’ll tell you next week.

The Layers Palette = Command Central

On average, half of any given upgrade to Photoshop’s major new features find their way into the Layers palette. Which means that just about every nondestructive or editable feature now lives there. If the Paths palette disappeared, I would miss it. There are alternatives to the Color, Swatches, Adjustments, Masks, and Navigator palettes. But can you imagine Photoshop without Layers? The removal of that one feature would cut the program to its core.

Which is why Feature #2 is the Layers Palette. It’s essential. It’s where we spend much (if not most) our time working in the program. It is Photoshop.

This week’s young woman (before I turn her into a Na’vi) is file #810773 from Jason Stitt of the Fotolia image library. For an exclusive dekeOnline deal, click this link.

BTW, I devote fully three chapters of my upcoming video series, “Photoshop CS5 One-on-One,” to the three stages of converting this terrestrial model into a fully realized Na’vi. I’ve recorded every movie (33 in all!) and they’re all designed so you can do it with me. Here are the stages:

Three-part Na'vi project

This Week’s Winner, Next Week’s Hint

We had a staggering number of guesses for Feature #2, many of them correct. Chosen at random, this week’s Photoshop Top 40: The Final 10 Contest winner is micke of Staten Island, NY, who very correctly guessed “The Layers Palette (er, I mean Panel).” Congratulations, Mick! Now it’s time to guess Feature #1. Hint: Without this pair of commands, you couldn’t accomplish anything. Think really basic. And keep an eye out for my newsletter in your email inbox (or spam folder wink.

More than $5,500 in Prizes

My final week’s prize package is priced at more than $5,500, more than one-third the value of the entire $14,000 kit-and-caboodle. Your prizes include the amazing Magic Bullet PhotoLooks from Red Giant Software, a Wacom Intuos4 Large pen tablet, an Olympus waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof Stylus Tough camera, a pass to the How Design Conference in Denver, Colorado, and a year’s membership to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. You’ll also get $100 in Fotolia credits, three autographed copies of my One-on-One  books, a month subscription to, annual subscriptions to How and Print magazines, and the grand-slam Plug-In Suite 5 from onOne Software. And the grand prize: Your very own copy of the forthcoming Adobe Creative Suite 5.

Photoshop Top 40 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe.

Best of luck on Feature #1!

Next entry:Martini Hour 060, In Which Colleen’s Head Comes Precariously Close to Exploding over Blending Option

Previous entry:Martini Hour 059, In Which We Attempt 20 Photoshop Tips in One Martini Hour


  • So glad

    At least I was right with my answer! That gives me hope for the next and greatest prize!
    Crossing my fingers. Mama needs a waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof camera!
    Thanks Deke.

    : )

  • I’m on cloud 9

    Thanks for making my day, Deke. You are my favorite Photoshop teacher! The entire Photoshop Top 40 is a great course in Photoshop.

    I’m looking forward to all the great prizes, but the dekepod t-shirt is the icing on the cake!


  • Feature #1

    I’ve been waiting to guess for feature #1 but I’m kinda frustrated. Can you clarify the *exact time* we can start submitting guesses, and exactly how/where we submit an official guess?

    I feel confident in knowing the #1 feature, based on a quote from one of your training series… I just need to know how to be the first person to submit the guess.

  • You don’t have to be first

    I select randomly from correct answers.

    You submit via the newsletter, which went out today.

  • I got that one right, too

    On my second guess.

  • Help!

    Sidekick Colleen,

    Hello!  I’m Christopher. . .I’ve been a newsletter subscribing Deke fan for 1 year and 33 weeks (plus I’ve bought a couple of books!).

    Anyway, I would like to make a guess about feature # 1 (Musically, Number OOOOOOONNNEEE). . .that being the pair of NEW & OPEN. . .two commands you just can’t do anything without.  I fondly remember looking at my first paint program thinking it was totally useless until I figured out you had to open or create a document (8th grade. . .1986?).  Without PS New’s command, nobody could make anything for commercial print the right size (well, not without a bunch more/other steps) and PS opens an AMAZING number of file types. . .the only thing useful it can’t open so far is a file type for an embroidering machine.

    For some reason, I haven’t gotten a newsletter since July ‘09.  Can you please put me back in the loop and point me in the direction of where to properly submit my guesses for the big Kohona of #1 PS Feature?

    Thanks, Christopher

  • Way to go micke!

    And you are spot on with the Top 40 comment. This Mini Series by itself is enough to get the folks that just wonder what they can do with PS, to play and discover a whole new world!  Be careful wearing that shirt about; I seem to remember kids getting killed for thier MJ sneakers not long ago.  (yes, last sentence a sad attempt at humor…).


  • Hello all


    I just signed up today, will I still be able to receive that newsletter and put in my guess answer in?

  • Being a new subscriber am I eligible for this contest?

    Hi ... I joined a few days back but have not received any newsletter regarding this contest. Am not sure if I can enter this contest as I am a new subscribers but I guess the answer would be Ctrl/Cmd+N and Ctrl/Cmd+O. Do I need to submit this somewhere else too?


  • CS5 Global Online Launch URGENT QUESTION

    Okay… I’ll probably feel real stupid but… why do I need to download Adobe’s special ICS file (and what is to be done with it) in order to watch the Global Online Launch this coming Monday morning?  Even though I have so-called “reservations”... don’t I just go to the Adobe TV web site?

  • ICS file is just your calendar reminder

    You can open it in iCal or Google Calendar. (I’m presuming it “read” you were a Mac person and gave you the correct calendar file format.)  I’m noticing it’s the only thing I have with the sign in info, although maybe I deleted an email?

  • never mind

    Thanks… and NO.. am not a “mac person”

    Felt foolish once I opened the file in an editor and realized what it was (ie: more damn bells and whistles for the masses).

    A simple logon to:   should do the trick for anybody.

    Thanks again

  • New Subscribers Can Still Enter the Contest

    Hi there, I work with Deke on the contest and the newsletter. You joined after we sent out this week’s newsletter. You will be receiving the reminder newsletter today so look for it and enter. Best of luck!

  • You Can Still Enter

    Hi There,

    I work with Deke on the contest and we’re sending out the last newsletter reminder to enter the contest today. Look for it later today and enter. Best of luck!

  • Thanks for sending the newsletter!

    Hi and thanks for sending me the newsletter. I have submitted my answer to the contest through the links that was given in the newsletter.


  • Newsletter

    Hi, just signed up today-would be very grateful if you would send me the newsletter so I can enter the contest and not miss the deadline.  It would be very much appreciated.  Thanking you in advance.



  • RGB Values for Rubylith

    Would you be so kind as to offer up the default numerical RGB values for the Adobe default rubylith color?

    Is there a way to automatically change it back to default?

    Thanks Deke

  • I found it!

    Sometimes you just want to go “Duh!”

    Pure red (255) at 50% opacity.

  • help

    need tatorial of this please help me

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