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An Introduction to Working with Layers in Affinity Photo

Using layers in Affinity Photo

Working with layers in Affinity Photo is very similar to how you work with layers in Adobe Photoshop. So if you are used to Photoshop, the transition to using layers in Affinity Photo is relatively easy.

Are you new to post-processing your photos with software that allows you to use layers? You’re sure to learn some cool new editing tips and tricks as you read through this article.

Being able to stack images, text, shapes, etc., with layers in Affinity Photo provides unlimited scope for creativity. As with any serious image-processing program, the learning curve is steep. There is always more than one series of steps you can take to achieve the same results.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to using layers in Affinity Photo. I’ll show you some of the cool ways you can edit your photos and create graphics that would not be possible without using layers.

Layer basics

When you open an image in Affinity Photo, a new layer is created. This shows in the Layers Panel on the left of your monitor. When you have one layer, you can add new layers and also move them up and down in the Layers Panel.

Any image, shape, or text can be added in a layer. You can continue to stack layers one on top of the other. Layers in Affinity Photo can be resized and cropped so they are different dimensions than the original layer.

The top layer is visible and may hide the layers underneath it, depending on the settings you choose for it. The opacity of the layer can be reduced so that the layer below is revealed. 


There are also options to change the blend modes of layers. This means that the layer will interact differently with the layers below it. So if you add a text layer, you can alter how the text looks by changing the blend mode.

affinity photo sample with text and blend modes
Soft light blend mode with text layers in affinity photo

This works very much the same way as it does in Photoshop. But if you are new to this, you’ll have fun as you experiment with the different blend modes and the effects you can create with them. 

Adjustment layers in Affinity Photo

With the Layers Panel, there is also a panel labeled Adjustments. This contains 22 items that, when clicked, will add a new adjustment layer to the file you are working on.

Adding an adjustment layer affects the layers underneath. You can create a layer group and include the adjustment layer with the layers you want it to affect.

Here I have added a Channel Mixer adjustment at the top of the layer hierarchy:

Layers in affinity photo

The adjustment layer is affecting both the text and the photo.

Here I moved the adjustment layer to group it with the text layer:

Using groups in Affinity Photo

To do this, click the adjustment layer and drag it onto the layer you want it to affect.

Adjustment layers are non-destructive. This means that you can turn them on and off and they will not alter your original image. This gives you a lot of room to experiment without permanently editing the photo or other artwork you are working on.

You can use adjustment layers in Affinity Photo to create an unlimited number of effects in your photos. Each layer you add interacts with the layers beneath it. You can also change the blend mode of each adjustment layer independently.

Layer masks

You can mask out a layer or parts of a layer using layer masks. To add a layer mask, click on the icon that looks like a rectangle with a circle in it at the bottom of the Layers Panel. This will add a layer mask to the layer you currently have selected.

Here, I have duplicated my layer with the photo and painted with a black brush to erase the bottom part of the photo. If you make a mistake when you’re painting, you can switch the brush color to white. Then you can simply paint over the area you want to restore and the image will re-appear.

Painted layer mask

Once you’ve added a mask, you can alter the blend mode and even add further adjustment masks to it. 

Here I have changed the blend mode to Multiply and then further darkened the sky by adding a Curves adjustment:

Using masks in layers

Notice that these changes only affect the layer they are grouped with. So only the sky, which I did not mask out, is altered.

Text layers in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo enables you to do some innovative and pretty cool things with text layers.

To add a text layer, click on the text icon in the toolbar. By clicking and dragging on your canvas, you can set the size of the text. Once you release the mouse button, you can type and the text will appear at the size you set it to.

By clicking and holding the text icon in the toolbar, you can choose another option. This brings up the Frame Text tool. With this, you can click and drag on your canvas to make a bounding box to add your text inside. You can right-click in the box and select Insert Filler Text to fill your new test box. 

layers in affinity photo

You can also do this with any of the shapes in the toolbar menu.

Conclusion

Working with layers opens up whole new realms of creative possibilities for what you can do with your photos. If you are new to post-processing your photos or have been using an app like Lightroom, which has no layers, you have a lot to explore.

Take your time experimenting and familiarize yourself with the many options you have for working with layers in Affinity Photo.

I hope this article has provided you with a little insight into the potential of what you can do with layers. Now it’s up to you to take it beyond the basics and start creating masterpieces.

As you practice and try new things, please let us know in the comments below if you discover an aspect of working with layers in Affinity Photo that you think other readers might like to learn about.

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Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with over 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his e-books and his website.