Working with Layers

Each layer can contain discrete elements of your project. Layers can contain photos, textures, ore 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

To make sure Layers are visible, do the following.

1. Launch Luminar 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

3. If Layers still aren’t seen, click the Layers button in the Top Toolbar to view Layers.

4. Review the Layers panel. When you first open an image, it’s named with the original name of the file.

This base layer can have filters applied directly to it or you can add more layers above. Each new layer uses the previous layer below as its starting point. In other words, each layer imposes the result of its processing on the previous layer.

5. To add another layer, click the + button at the top of the Layers controls. You can either add an Adjustment layer or an Add Image layer.

Using an Adjustment Layer

Luminar offers a special type of layer that makes it easy to precisely edit your photos. Any filter or filters in Luminar can be applied to an Adjustment Layer. This is a really flexible way to work with you photos as it means you can easily control advanced options for filters such as their application order, 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 Luminar.

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. From the Add Filters list, choose a filter to attach to the adjustment layer.  Alternatively you can apply a Workspace to an adjustment layer.

6. To make things easier, be sure to give the new adjustment layer a descriptive name. 

7. Adjust the filter’s results to taste.

8. Use advanced controls to refine the look of the filter such as the layer’s blending mode and opacity settings.

9. Continue to add additional effects as needed to their own adjustment layers.

10. 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.

Using the Add Image Command

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

1. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add Image....

2. Navigate to a texture layer 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 Texture Mapping.

4. Select one of the three mapping options. You can Fit the image to the width or height, 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.

 Remember, a texture must be an external file. As you adjust the blend mode and opacity of the texture layer, it will create many different creative 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 only in specific areas of your image.


Textures are not stored in Luminar. 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.

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 above a photo. Let’s learn how you can load a photograph or scan of a signature. In this example, the image is black text on a white background.

1. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add Image....

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 Texture Mapping.

4. To prevent unwanted distortion of the watermark or logo, choose Fit.

5. Let’s turn the logo to white text over a black background. We’ll do this by applying a Curves filter to the logo layer.

6. Invert the curve by reversing the white and black points.


7. To scale the watermark, click the Free Transform Tool or press Cmd + T.

8. Click the Lock icon in the Info Bar to prevent unwanted distortion.

9. Drag a corner handle to resize the logo. Drag in the center to position. Resize and position the logo to taste.

10. Click the Done button when satisfied to position to logo.

11. You can also experiment with different blending modes to remove the background color. For example you can use screen to remove a black background and multiply to remove a white background.

Replacing a Sky

A professional photographer can spend a good part of a day waiting for the perfect sky and weather conditions. Sometimes though, no matter how patient you are, skies will often be washed out and appear missing due to overexposure. One solution is to take pictures of the sky when it looks its best, and then use a few techniques to combine two or more images into a new composited photo.

These technique can be done using Layers, along with the Gradient Mask and Transform tools.

1. Open a photo that needs a new sky. Use any filters needed to enhance the image to better match the style with the sky you’ll add.

2. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add Image....

3. Navigate to a sky image 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.

4. Once the file is opened, it will obscure the layer below it.

5. To add back the sky image, one technique is to apply a Gradient Mask, which will have the effect of pulling back in the sky with more emphasis on the upper part of the image.

6. Resize or move the gradient as needed for a best fit and click the Done button to apply it.

7. Sometimes the horizon line can be slightly harsh, so to tackle that by clicking on the Transform tool. Move the bottom handle to re-position the sky more to your liking.

8. You can also touch up edges of the Gradient Mask using a brush with decreased exposure and set to a low Opacity such as 20%. Brush over any areas that need additional blending.


The desert or the ocean is the best place to shoot the sky. This is often because the amount of environmental and light pollution is greatly reduced and you often have a strong horizon line. Don’t worry; just keep your eyes out for a great day with beautiful skies and remember to shoot them. 

Add a New Original Image Layer

As you work with multiple layers and textures within a project, you may decide that adding in a copy of the original photo is a good idea. Luminar makes it easy to add a new layer and fill it with the original photo. This can be done quickly with the Add a New Original Image Layer command.

There are many uses for this, such as:

  • Blend Results. By placing an original layer above the others, you can quickly lessen the effects of the apples filters. The top layer can have its opacity lowered to mix the before and after states.
  • Mask Results. By masking an original copy of the image, you can paint back details. Learn more about Layer masks in the chapter called “Masking Options in Luminar.”

Creating a Stamped Layer

As you work with layered photos, you may decide that you want to create a merged copy of those layers. Perhaps its to apply additional effects, or maybe to mask and blend the layers together. Luminar calls this feature a stamped layer, and it simply means that all of the current layers and filters combine to a new layer at the top of the Layers panel.

Here’s how to create a stamped layer.

1. Open an image within Luminar.

2. If hidden, open the Layers panel.

3. Design using Adjustment and Image layers as you wish.

4. When ready to merge layers, click the + button at the top of the Layers’ section and choose Create New Stamped Layer.

5. The new layer based on all the others is at the top of the Layer stack. Feel free to use options like masks, blending modes, or additional filters to process. 

Using Blending Modes with Layers

A blending mode compares the content of two layers and enacts changes based on 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 is easy.

1. Open a photo within Luminar.

2. In the Layers controls click the + button and choose the Add New Image Layer option.

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.


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


Pixels lighter than blend are replaced; darker ones are not.


Is similar to drawing strokes on the image with markers. The colors of the top layer or blended with the image.

Color Burn

Evaluates each channel; darkens base by increasing contrast.



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


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



Overlays existing pixels while preserving highlights and shadows of base.


Soft Light

The effect is similar to shining a diffused spotlight on the image.


Hard Light

Effect is similar to shining a harsh spotlight on the image.


Evaluates each channel and subtracts or inverts depending on brightness.


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



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


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



Is the inverse effect from the Color mode.


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