How to do Creative Editing with Layers in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018


In my first article on ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018, I covered all the elements of the program that a beginner would need to know about. This article covers editing in more detail, starting with processing your RAW file in Develop Mode and then doing some creative editing using Layers in Edit Mode.

Layers are a critical part of editing your images. Either in doing your RAW process and then tidying up areas that need it with curves, levels, and other adjustments. Or if you want to add more creativity to your images, with textures, decorative flourishes, fancy text embellishments. Finally, you can go all the way up to compositing, and using layers is the best way to achieve that.

textured image of flowers - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Let’s look at what ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 has to offer for editing a RAW file. Then we’ll add a creative edit with texture layers, embellishment layers, and using masks to create a vintage grunge effect.

I am going to assume that you have a basic understanding of RAW editing and using layers and masks and not detail absolutely every step worked through in this process. If you need more help, go back and read: ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2018 Guide for Beginners first.

Editing a Raw File in Develop Mode

First, open up Manage mode and find the right folder to select an image. For this exercise, I liked the Gerbera Still Life image and decided that the final version should have a grungy vintage look added at the end.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - image thumbnails

This is the selected image of three crimson gerbera flowers, with a pair of pointe ballet shoes and some sheet music. It’s a bit dark and dull and needs some tweaking which we will do in the Develop mode of ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018.

original image before editing - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Original unedited RAW file

After some basic editing, the image is brighter and the colors are better balanced.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - edited with basic adjustments

However my final vision for this image is more of a vintage look, and the colors are too bright and rich. So, further editing to bring the saturation down and darken the crimson was applied. This now provides the basis for the layers and creative elements, so it’s saved and then we move into Edit mode.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - image with lower saturation

Creative Editing Using Layers

Switching to Edit Mode by clicking on EDIT with the edited RAW file open will change your workspace. Now the Layers palette is laid out on the right. As there is only the one image open, it shows up as Layer 1.

At the bottom of the Layers palette are the different layer options – hover over each one to find the one you need and click to activate it. For this exercise, we are going to bring in some grunge textures and additional elements to make it look vintage, old, and more artistic.


I use a lot of textures from 2LilOwls, The Daily Texture, and Distressed Textures. If you are patient you can also make your own but there are plenty of places to acquire them online. The ones used in this article were from 2LilOwls.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

My preferred option to add extra layers is to use a second monitor, open up Windows Explorer to the desired folder, find a texture I like and then drag across to my image. Note, when using ACDSee, you have to drag it into the Layers Palette (rather than onto the image directly).

The other option is to click on the “Add A File As A Layer” button which allows you to search for a file within your directory and add it. This was a useful feature which I used several times.

By default, the texture is applied in Normal mode which means only the top layer is visible, which is the texture in this instance. In the Layer Palette it is visible as Layer 2.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - texture layer

The first texture layer has been added – it’s showing in Normal mode so you can only see this layer and not the one below (the image of the flowers).

Blend Mode

Next, change the blend mode of the layer to something that suits the image – either Overlay or Soft Light are good choices to start with. Also, dial down the layer opacity to soften the effect and make it look more pleasing.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Masking parts of the layer

This texture has some heavy vignetting around the edges that is a bit too dark. So to solve that, add a Layer Mask and select a large soft brush at around 30% opacity. Dab the brush in the darker edges and corners to reduce the effect.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

The Layer mask is white and it shows up the areas you brush in grey (or black) – you can see where it has been applied in the corners.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Image with texture and layer mask applied with softer tones in the dark corners now

Add more grunge

It needs more grunge so let’s apply a second texture layer. This one has lots of cracks and scratches for a nice vintage effect. It is also a bit lighter around the edges so should balance out the first texture nicely.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

The texture file is a different size than the original image but you can drag it out to fit by clicking on the yellow squares on the outside edges and corners.

This layer also had the blend mode changed and the opacity adjusted to suit. The crack effect was quite strong on the flowers so a mask was applied with a soft brush at low opacity that was brushed over the flowers.

More embellishments

The top left and right corners felt a bit empty so I added some decorative embellishments. On the left, is a butterfly with some fancy handwriting and another textural element was added on the right. Both are PNG files that are blended in with low opacity and Soft Light blend mode.

layers - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Each element goes onto a separate layer for full control.  Masks are applied to remove the effect from the flowers.  These become Layers 6 and 7.

Finally, a Photo Effect (Somber) was applied to add a bit more contrast and punch.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - photo effect

Before and after images

Here we have the RAW file after it was edited in Develop mode and some creative adjustments for Saturation and Vibrance applied.

before layered editing - How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018

Here we have the final image after the texture layers, embellishments, Photo Effect and masks have been applied.

How to Edit Using Layers with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 - final image

Additional Notes

As an advanced Photoshop user, I was comfortable using all the layer tools and functions available in ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018. Most of the usual tools were available and functioned as expected.

The one major issue I found was the inability to change the brush shape. It does not appear possible to import .abr files to add creative brush shapes. The only options for changing the brush are blend mode, size, and opacity and the only shape is round.

You can change the size, hardness, and opacity of the brush but not the actual shape of it. This limits the creative choices available. Some of my brush files were present as PNG images so I was able to import them as individual layers.

Additionally, there were several extra features that were new to me which I found useful. The “Add A File As A Layer” button was extremely helpful and I used that on several occasions. There is also a button for “Adding a Blank Layer”, “Duplicating a Layer” and “Deleting a Layer”. All things that happen frequently and usually require a right mouse click, then a selection and second click. ACDSee made these steps much quicker with a single click.

There were extra adjustment layer functions, in particular, “Photo Effect” that offer a range of predesigned creative effects you can apply as a separate layer, to blend and edit as desired. A Vignette option (similar to Lightroom) was also available to quickly add a vignette.


If you are a beginner to using layers and masks then it can be a bit complicated to get your head around. The good news is that with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 everything that you would expect to be able to do and use to work with layers is all present and accounted for. It looks and functions very similar to Photoshop, so is comfortable for anyone transitioning over.

Except for the ability to change your brush shape, everything necessary to do a basic layer edit was easily recognizable and usable with pretty much no additional learning curve. That is a real bonus for anyone coming across from other programs.

There are also some nice new features that added extra value and made the experience better – in particular, “Add A File As A Layer” is something that I could easily get used to using. For anyone only using one monitor (like on a laptop) that makes adding another image as a layer so much easier. The Move function in Photoshop is really not user-friendly. This is a definite bonus if you are like me and add lots of extra files to your layers when editing.

Working in Edit mode and making a layered image with ACDSee Ultimate Photo Studio 2018 was not difficult and the additional features added real value in unexpected places.

Disclaimer: ACDSee is a dPS advertising partner.

Read more from our Post Production category

Stacey Hill invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. While having many adventures out and about in the South Island of New Zealand, Stacey took to blogging about her experiences learning photography. Recently she discovered the fun and creative possibilities to be had with Photoshop. She can be found having an opinion all over the place here.

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