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3.3 Understanding the Layers Panel

In this lesson, you’ll gain a full understanding of how the Layers Panel in Affinity Designer works, and how to make use of the functions it offers.

3.3 Understanding the Layers Panel

Welcome back to Affinity Designer Quick Start. In this video we're gonna go through how to work with the layers panel. If you're coming from a program like Photoshop, you might not instantly see how the layers panel in Affinity Designer works. So we're gonna step through how objects are placed into the layers panel when you create them, how you can move them around, how nesting works, and how you can create different types of layers. All right, so we'll start out by just drawing some rectangles out onto the canvas. Now, in another application, you might expect to have a different layer for each one of these rectangles, and then you might expect to select all of those layers and group them up. But then you head over to this layers panel, and you see that you don't have separate layers, you have just one layer. And that's because every individual shape that you've just drawn has been given its own child underneath the default layer that is created with every new Affinity Designer document. So rather than layers being automatically created like they are in some other programs, in Affinity Designer, you need to create layers manually yourself. Even though Affinity Designer does have groups, you can create groups of objects, layers behave in a lot of ways very much like groups. So I can create a new layer with the Add Layer button down at the bottom here. And then if I want, I can move these shapes up into the second layer as though I was shifting them from one group into another. So shapes can be nested underneath layers. However, they can also be grouped. You can do that by either pressing Cmd+G to create a group or you can select the shapes that you want to group. And you can go to the layer menu and press group. Now functionally, a group is almost the same as a layer. But by having both layers and groups as options for the way that you can organize all of your shapes and curves, it gives you multiple ways that you can categorize all of the elements of your design and keep everything organized in a way that makes sense for you. Now, if you need to, you can also convert a group into a layer. So we have this group here selected right now. We can head up to the Layer menu, and we can choose promote group to layer. Now, the next thing that you want to be aware of is how to move things around inside the layers panel. When you click and drag an item in your layers panel, you'll see different drop zone rectangles coming up, and the width of these drop zone rectangles will let you know what level of nesting the item will be at when you drop it. Now if I move this item a little to the left, you see the width of that drop zone expand, and if I move it to the left again, it expands even further. So, this full width drop zone here tells me that when I drop this item, it will be at the top level. It will have no parent, it will not be nested under anything. If I move it to here, that tells me that it's gonna be grouped under layer two, and if I move it to here, that tells me that if I drop it now, it will be nested under this group. So here, now the item has no parent, it's at the top level. If we move it again, so here, it will be nested under layer two. And now, finally, we have the shortest width drop zone, and that will nest this object under the group. So there's our dropped layer. So as you're moving things around, pay attention to the width of the drop zone, and that will let you know where the item is gonna be placed in your nesting structure. Now so far we've just been creating object layers. So object layers contain things like curves and shapes and text, but there are three other types of layers you can create, too. There are pixel layers, which you can draw raster-based graphics into. There are mask layers, that you can use to mask contents in layers below. And there are adjustment layers, that you can use for things like putting a gradient map over your design and correcting its color and things like that. So to create any one of these three types of layers, you can just head down to the bottom of your layers panel and you find a shortcut button to create a mask layer here. You'll find an adjustments layer button here, and then over here is your pixel layer button. Now we're going to exactly how you work with each of those three different types of layers, because we'll be covering those in later videos. Now the last thing I did want to cover about working with layers is is these three buttons in the top right corner of your interface. Each one of these helps you control where in your layer hierarchy an object is placed when you're drawing it. So the first icon we have here is to insert an object behind the currently selected item. This one inserts at the top of the layer, and this one inserts something inside the selection. So, let's have a look at how that works. All right, so let's pick out this rectangle. Now, if we press this button to insert behind the selection, if we start vector painting, rather than seeing the vectors go over the top, we should see the brushstrokes come up behind this rectangle here. So let's have a look. So there we go, sure enough, just how we want that to come out. Now the second option here will insert your brush strokes at the top of the layer. So even though we have a selection down here, if we press this button, we should see our new curves added in at the top of the current layer. So let's try that again. And sure enough, this has come up right at the very top of this layer. Now just clear that out, and then the last option is to draw inside the current selection. Now if we press this button, we should see our brushstrokes only appear inside this rectangle. They shouldn't cross the outlines of the rectangle. So grab our brush again, and there we go, everything is neatly contained inside that rectangle. And when you expand, you'll see that the curves that you've just drawn in are nested inside this rectangle shape. So, the shortcuts can help you with quickly inserting objects exactly where you want them to be in your layer hierarchy. In the next lesson, we're gonna step through how you can use Affinity Designer's excellent guides manager tool that allows you to get really fine-grain precision with how you lay out your guides in your document. I'll see there.

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