Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature Book Review

Author: Matt Kloskowski
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Peachpit Press (June 27, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0-32153416-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-321-53416-3

Review by Karen Stansel
July 21, 2008

This book has not just impressed me, but also excited me once I actually received it and started reading though the contents. After I read the introduction…oh I hear you snickering out there…she reads the introductions, how lame. Well I figured if the man could take the time to figure out what he wanted to say and fit it all into half a page (thank you for that Matt), then the least I could do was show the same consideration and read it. Plus, if you want the files that go with the lessons that are in the book, this is the section where you will find the information to download them.

Anyway, off I went for my desktop. Firing up Photoshop…ready to learn, explore, and create. As I dove into Chapter 1, Layers Basics, I was in for a great surprise! The first thing I noticed as I turned the page, was that this book was laid out differently from any tech or HOW TO book I’ve ever used before. Matt had taken the pages and broken them into 2 sections a page. What that means is that, most of the book pages are filled with 2 steps of a particular tutorial per page. That’s not all either. He put each step in its own box with a nice size, beautifully colored picture beside the instructions, so you can see what your layer panel should look like, or how your picture should appear after applying a certain effect. There are also lots of pictures throughout the tutorials where he has both the layers panel and the picture itself you’re working on. At the top of each box, he has the steps numbered with a description of the step. An example would be “Step 13: Select All Three Photo Layers To Align” This is in Chapter one on page 23. This is very very nice if you get so caught up in what you’re doing at the moment and miss a line or two of reading, which can throw you off down the line. The way Matt has the book and the tutorials laid out; he makes it very easy to go back and figure out what you have missed, instead of having to read though pages and pages of words all jammed together just to find those two stupid sentences you missed. Sounds like I am talking from experience? Well, I really don’t want to talk about it, so just move along people!

There are 9 chapters in this book. From Layers Basic in Chapter 1 to Smart Layers in Chapter 9. At the end of each chapter, he has a “How Do I…” page. These are important, quick HOW TOs taken from chapter content, letting you practice what you learned without having to backtrack through the previous pages. Very very helpful.

What I really loved about this book is that it is all hands on…progressing from one project to the next.

Chapter 2 is the Blending Layers chapter. Matt doesn’t waste time by going though all the blending modes. What he does do is teach you about the ones that you will use the most and how to use them correctly. You will learn how to blend things painlessly. Like in Chapter 2, where you insert a moon in a night photo and then blend it so it is peeking out from behind the palm tree’s leaves. This was one of my favorites. You will also learn how to correct overexposed photos and how to rescue a faded photo or brighten a sky. Gradients are your friends.

Chapter 3 is about Adjustment Layers. Matt calls them “way cool” and after going though Chapter 3, I have to agree with him.

In this chapter, you will learn how adjustment layers are non-destructive when you change the color of an item in a picture, or how you can selectively change just certain items in a picture. There is a lot to learn in this chapter…more then what I have mention here. In fact, I felt with Chapter 3, that Mr. Kloskowski took my skills to a new level in Photoshop. Before, it was, “Ok, I am finally learning Photoshop” to looking at one of my point-and-click pictures and going, “Uh, oh, I know how to fix that”. This chapter alone is worth buying the book!

In Chapter 4, you learn about layer masks, however that is not all you learn. It’s within these pages that Matt shows you just how powerful Photoshop can be. This was such a fun chapter for me, that I had to do everything twice! It’s full of so many different projects, that I could do a review on this chapter alone. I won’t, though. Hey now, no name calling. I just don’t want to ruin the surprises you’re in for. Just take my word for it. OK, OK, I’ll tell you this much…you’re gonna love Page 99 and Page 112. I know, I’m such a tease.

Chapter 5 not only takes you into the type layer but the shape layer too. Woohoo! Now someone who is new to Photoshop like, well let’s just say me…the type layer can be a scary place. For example, say your type won’t fit in to the text box you have created because, for some reason, it is 5 feet tall, or when pushing the Enter key, it does not go to the next line like it does in Word. Nooooo, instead it keeps going straight across your monitor, like it is in first place in a three-legged race, heading for the finish line. You sit there, staring at the screen, wondering what is wrong with this software! There’s no way it could be me, could it?

Well, I’m here to tell you, that it is YOU! Not me of course, but it is you. Now don’t panic, because as soon as you’re done reading my review, you can go to Amazon to order your own book. Then Matt will be able to help you as he has helped me find the fun in type layers.

The shape layer will rock your world. Matt has not only given me the knowledge, but has set loose my imagination on tons of different ideas that I can just not wait to try…especially on some of my family members’ websites! Now whatever you do, do not, let me repeat that, DO NOT skip Step 1 on Page 132, because Matt has another rather nice surprise for you. You won’t find the surprise if you skip this page! Nope, sorry, can’t tell you more then that or I would be afraid Matt would come hunt me down and take my book away and that just wouldn’t be pretty for anyone.

In Chapter 6, Matt has named this one, “Enhancing Photos with Layers”. What Matt teaches us in this chapter, is that less is more. It’s like when a lady has plans for a special night with her favorite guy. The process starts with our make up bag. Spackle? Check. Putty knife? Check, High Lighter? Check. What we have learned though the centuries (thank god!), is to apply a thin layer here, then blend a little blush there, and then lighten just a smidge there. We have learned how to enhance our beauty, not recreate it until we look like Bozo’s twin sister with two bright red spots for what is supposed to be cheeks. This is what Chapter 6 is about. Not recreating the photo, but how to bring out the best features of the picture. From enhancing mountains to enriching weddings; this is a great chapter. I really enjoyed page 172 “Enhancing Depth of Field”.

Chapter 7 is about “Retouching with Layers”. It is exactly what it sounds like. Matt covers how to make the skin look smoother, dealing with blemishes and wrinkles, whiter teeth, and removing distractions. Now that was really helpful. This is a chapter I plan to learn by heart because it has already helped me with some family pictures.

Chapters 8 and 9…well, what can I say? I can say that by the time you get done with these 2 chapters, which is the end of the book, you will have found that you are now friends with Photoshop! Matt more then has the ability to teach through the written word. He will take you to the next skill level. He will show you how fun Photoshop is. He will not just teach you tons of new techniques and how to make templates, etc, etc. He will also inspire you to dig deeper, with hundreds of ideas that will fill your head. He sets you on the path to find that inner Photoshop guru that is just waiting to bust out and be set free. I don’t know about you, but the man literally inspired me.

I know this review was kind of long. Not all of them will be, I promise. This book just has so much damn stuff going for it. I just wanted all the people who are new to Photoshop like I am, to be aware of it and not pass this book up. Believe you me, your life will be so much easier and happier with Matt guiding you though life layers! I even believe that Matt has a trick or two up his sleeve for the experienced Photoshop user.

You can get your own copy at:


Kelby Training. Which by the way, if you order though Kelby now, you will receive a copy signed by Matt! Wish I knew that when I ordered mine, sniff, sniff.…l-feature.html


One Response to “Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature Book Review”

  1. Thanks for review. I will definitely order the book.

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