Working with Layers

Each layer can contain discrete elements of your project. Layers can contain photos, textures, or adjustments. There are lots of ways to create and manage layers, but it all comes back to having an organized design. Be sure to double-click on the name of each layer and give it a clear, descriptive name to make your workflow easier.

Using Layers

Let’s explore using Layers. To make sure Layers are visible, do the following:

  1. Launch Aurora HDR 2019 and open an image.
  2. If Layers aren’t visible, click the Side Panel button in the top toolbar to open the panel.  You can also press the Tab key to open the Side Panel if it’s hidden.
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  3. If Layers still aren’t seen, click the Layers button in the Side Panel to view Layers.
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  4. Review the Layers group. When you first open an image, it’s named based on the source file.  This base layer can have filters applied directly to it or you can add more layers above it.  Each new layer uses the previous layer below as it's starting point. In other words, each layer imposes the result of it's processing on the previous layer.
  5. To add another layer, click the + button at the top of the Layers controls.  You can add an:
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    • Adjustment Layer
    • New Image Layer
    • New Original Image Layer (currently available on Mac only)

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Using the Add New Image Layer Command

The Add Image command is a useful way to add one image on top of another in an Aurora HDR 2019 image project.  There are many possible reasons to do this, including design and technical. In this chapter we’ll explore two uses of this effect.

Loading a Texture Layer

The use of texture layers is quite a useful way to stylize an image.  You can use the Add Image command to place a texture above a photo.

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  1. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add New Image Layer….
  2. Navigate to a texture image on your hard drive and click the Open button to add the file to your document.  The layer is automatically named with the file name of the selected file.
  3. To scale the texture, right-click on its thumbnail and choose Image Mapping.
  4. Select one of the three mapping options.  You can Fit the image to the width or height, use Scale to Fit to enlarge the image to fit the screen, or use Fill to distort the image to fill the screen.
  5. Click the Blend menu to change the Blending mode for the Texture layer.
  6. Drag the Opacity slider to refine the blending of the two layers.

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As you adjust the blend mode and opacity of the texture layer, it will create many different creative
Image by Richard Harrington effects. Each mode will have a different impact on your image based on the type and opacity you choose. Adding a texture to your image can dramatically change the look and feel of your work, plus, you may want to use a brush to apply the texture to only specific areas of your image.


Textures are not stored in Aurora HDR 2019. These files are located wherever you’ve saved them for usage. For easy access, we recommend keeping all of your textures in a consistent place on your hard disk.

Single View Mode, accessed from the View menu, displays adjustment controls for only the selected tool in the Tools Sidebar. With this viewing option, all the tools, except the current one, are closed. Click on a different tool and the current one will be closed and the new one opened. In this mode, only one control is visible at a time, cleaning up the sidebar interface significantly. This command is not yet available on Windows.

Adding a Watermark or Logo

A logo or watermark is an excellent way to brand an image before you post it to the Internet or make a print. You can use the Add Image command to place a watermark or logo to a photo.

  1. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add New Image Layer….
  2. Navigate to a logo or watermark on your hard drive and click the Open button to add the file to your document.  The layer is automatically named with the filename of the selected file.
  3. To scale the texture, right-click on its thumbnail and choose Image Mapping.
  4. To prevent unwanted distortion of the watermark or logo, choose Fit.
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  5. If the logo is over a white background, set its blending mode to Multiply to blend the background. If the logo is over black, set its blending mode to Screen.
  6. To scale the watermark, click the Transform Tool.
  7. Use the Scale and Rotate properties to size the logo.
  8. Use the X Offset and Y Offset to position the logo.

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Using an Adjustment Layer

Aurora HDR 2019 offers a special type of layer that makes it easy to precisely edit your photos.  An adjustment layer can hold all of the filters available to you for a second instance.  You can disable any of the filters that you do not want to use. This is a really flexible way to work with your photos as it means you can easily control advanced options for filters such as their opacity, or blending modes.  Adjustment layers give you the most flexibility when editing a photo.

Here’s how to work with Adjustment Layers.

  1. Open an image within Aurora HDR 2019.
  2. If hidden, open the Layers panel.
  3. At the top of the Filters section click the + button.
  4. Choose the item Add New Adjustment Layer.
  5. To make things easier, be sure to give the new adjustment layer a descriptive name. You can right-click on the layer and choose Rename to do this.  Type in a new name and then press the Enter or Return key.
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  6. The new layer contains access to all of the filters. Adjust any of them to modify to taste.
  7. Disable any filters you do not want to use by clicking their visibility icon (eyeball).
  8. Use advanced controls to refine the look of the filter such as the layer’s Blending Mode or Opacity and opacity settings. Continue to add additional effects as needed to their own adjustment layers.
  9. As needed, you can turn layers on or off to alter the image’s appearance.  You can also drag adjustment layers up or down in the layer stack to generate new effects.

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Using Blending Modes with Layers

A blending mode compares the content of two layers and enacts changes based upon the content of both. You can choose from 14 different blending modes using the pop-up menu at the top of the Layers controls.  Understanding blending modes requires a bit of science.  To start, let’s establish three key terms.

  • Base color – The original color in the image
  • Blend color – The color being applied by the top layer or adjustment layer.
  • Result color – The color resulting from the blend

To adjust a layer’s Blending Mode:

  1. Open a photo within Aurora HDR 2019.
  2. In the Layers controls, click the + button and choose the Add New Image Layer option or Add New Adjustment Layer. A new layer is added to your project.
  3. For the top layer, click the Blend pop-up menu in the Layers control area.
  4. Choose from one of the 14 available blending modes.
  5. Experiment with the Blending Mode and Opacity settings to create new looks.

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The default mode performs no additional change to the way layer contents interact.

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Pixels lighter than the blend layer are replaced, darker ones are not.

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This is similar to drawing strokes on the image with markers. The colors of the top layer are blended with the image.

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Color Burn
Evaluates each channel; darkens base by increasing contrast.

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Evaluates each channel; it then uses base or blend color (whichever is lighter).

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Uses a lighter color. It is useful for “knocking” black out of a layer.

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Overlays existing pixels while preserving highlights and shadows of base.

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Soft Light
This effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight onto the image.

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Hard Light
This effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight onto the image.

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Evaluates each channel and subtracts or inverts depending on brightness.

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Looks at the color in each channel and subtracts the blend from the base.

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Uses the luminance and saturation of the base and the hue of the blend.

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Preserves gray levels. It’s very useful for coloring and tinting.

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Has the inverse effect of Color mode.

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Luminar support.

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