In This Chapter
Backgrounds versus layers
Taking a look at the types of layers
Working with the Layers panel
Compositing with multiple layers
Automatically aligning and blending layers
People are often surprised and even downright shocked when I tell them that pretty much everything they can do with layers they can also do without them. Not using layers would be more technically challenging and a heck of a lot more tedious, but you could still get the job done. The benefit to using layers is that you have tremendous flexibility. The changes you make to the pixels on the individual layers are permanent, but the interaction between the pixels on different layers is dynamic. You can make endless edits as long as those layers exist. Layers make working in Photoshop a lot more forgiving, allowing you to make changes quickly and productively.
But hey, it's not just the technical and practical aspects that make layers so wonderful. Layers also allow you to express your creative side, compositing several images into one with just a drag of the mouse. The only downside to layers is that each one makes your file size grow and therefore can start to slow your system performance. And you can save layers in only a few file formats. But the downsides are a small price to pay for something that makes your image-editing life so much easier.