|For those of you who don't know already, Layers are like separate virtual pages, arranged one on top of the other. Most photo editing and art programs support this feature. Though the actual interface to mess with these layers may vary among programs, the basic concept is is the same. Whatever you draw, erase, or edit on one layer doesn't effect what happens to the other layers.|
The part where it can get confusing is deciding WHAT to use these layers on. You could, of course, use separate layers for everything. That, however, is a huge mess. I did it in my picture for the Aphrodite post-- the goddess alone took up 24 layers, and the file was so huge that my comp actually crashed in the middle of saving the original version. (Luckily, the flattened PNG version saved just fine)
To give you an idea of what it looked like, I converted what was left of the original Aphrodite picture to a GIF. The GIF format doesn't support varying opacity levels, so the once-translucent colors are flat and blocky. I saved a PNG of the combined result of what the GIF is putting together, for comparison.
One thing that helps organize the layers, for me, is to assign each layer a purpose. In my webcomic MOROCHEY, I've kept it simple. It goes background, color, line-art, bubble backing, lettering, as I mentioned in a previous post. I also use the layers to make it easier to color inside the lines, by drawing the line-art first, then placing a layer behind the line-art to color on with the paint and airbrush tools. When I want to get more complicated than that, such as a page where a set of panels bleeds behind the others, I just repeat the pattern.
This keeps the layers clean and organized, while still letting them do their jobs. And guess what.. it saved! I'm sure I've only scratched the surface of what layers can do, so fellow digital artists, experiment with your own systems and see where it takes you!