Book Review: “Layers (2nd Edition)” by Matt Kloskowski

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: February 14, 2011

Category: General

With what seems like an infinite number of Photoshop books out there on the shelves all making claims to contain the ‘secrets’ of Photoshop when all is said and done, most do the same thing and that is show you how to achieve certain effects.

Now that’s all well and good but what about a book that will help you to really understand Photoshop and show you how to not only achieve certain effects but at the same time, understand the how and why? Well, with the 2nd Edition of Matt Kloskowski’s ‘Layers’ book it totally lives up to it’s sub heading:

“The complete guide to photoshop’s most powerful feature” … and that is giving a total understanding of Layers.

Over the years we’ve seen incredible advances in Photoshop with Refine Edge, 3D and so on but no matter how good these enhancements are they’re nothing without Layers. So that being said, clearly having an understanding of what Layers are and what they can do is a neccesity for anyone; be they a photographer, digital artist, designer etc…

Now before I cover what’s in the book I will say that I think this book is for anyone who uses Photoshop, be they a complete beginner or advanced user because not only does Matt cover the basics he also at the end of the book covers more advanced techniques.

Personally speaking I would have brought the book for just the final chapter where Matt goes into depth about compositing images and then works through how the actual book cover itself was put together; in this section alone I learned heaps! (Incidentally this is something that’s new in the 2nd Edition)


  • Chapter 1: Layer Basics

If you’re new to Photoshop you definitely do not want to skip this opening chapter. When first using Photoshop, the whole concept of a Layer and using Multiple Layers can at first be a little challenging to grasp but I guarantee reading these first few pages will make everything click into place…

  • Chapter 2: Blend Modes

Regular readers of this blog and those of you who have watched my video tutorials will know that I’m a big fan of blend modes; they’re such an incredibly useful part of Photoshop and can save you heaps of time let alone help you create all manner of special effects/looks.

In this Chapter Matt takes a closer look at what blend modes are and in particular concentrates on the 3 most popular ones namely: Multiply, Screen and my personal favourite Soft Light.

  • Chapter 3: Adjustment Layers (i.e. Colour, Curves, Levels and so on…)
  • Chapter 4: Layer Masks
  • Chapter 5: Type and Shape Layers
  • Chapter 6: Enhancing Photos with Layers
  • Chapter 7: Retouching with Layers
  • Chapter 8: Layer Styles
  • Chapter 9: Smart Layers
  • Chapter 10: Advanced Layer Blending and Compositing

Like I said at the start, I would have even bought this book if it only contained this chapter…

Packed full of information covering amongst other things something I love to do…compositing; plus a section dedicated to showing how the book cover was put together.

•    •    •

Not wanting to feel as though you’ve wasted your money it’s always difficult knowing what book to get when every one of them makes promises to teach you incredible techniques and the ‘secrets’ of Photoshop, but I will say this…

There are no secrets in Photoshop; all it is, is having a working knowledge from the ground up and understanding what does what.

I made the mistake when I first started using Photoshop of buying into the ‘effects’ books and while they were good fun, I didn’t really learn much at all. If I was asked to do a certain thing to a photo or design and create a poster I’d struggle because if it wasn’t in print infront of me I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Following on from that I also went through a stage a couple of years back of using a number of Photo plug Ins in Photoshop which were a great fast way to work but didn’t serve to help my understanding of what I was actually doing and how.

It wasn’t until I took things back to basics and started grasping an understanding of what was going on that my skill level improved and has continued to do so. In fact since doing so the Plug Ins I own are only used at certain times such as client work that is on a tight time scale for completion as I can generally work out how to achieve the same effect by myself using…wait for it…Layers 🙂

To summarise, if having more confidence and ‘know how’ when using Photoshop is what you’re after then this book is money well spent.

It’s 312 pages are packed with ‘no nonsense’ and ‘straight to the point’ information but written in a conversational style that makes it easy to read and digest leaving you not only with more knowledge but an ability to apply what you’ve read.

Highly Recommended!

Layers (2nd edition) by Matt Kloskowski
ISBN-10: 0321749588
ISBN-13: 978-0321749581
Currently priced at £16.50 with Amazon UK


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  1. DaveT

    Good review Glyn.

    I had wondered about this book for some time, but never having actually laid my hands on it I was unsure as to whether the book lived up to the marketing. As you clearly know what you are talking about, and can identify the worth of this book, it is now on my wish list.

    Like you, I have bought countless books in the past, many of which were in the end disappointing. So, I can’t tell you how useful it is to have a considered recommendation.


    • Glyn

      Hi Dave.

      Like I said I definitely recommend this book by Matt. I’ve read it from cover to cover which I’d strongly advise as there’s some hidden gems in there, and the final chapter is knockout!


  2. Neil Holmes

    Thanks for the recommendation Glyn, meant to order it when it first cam out, and now its gone down in price! Cheers Neil

    • Glyn

      @Neil…You’re welcome mate, enjoy 🙂

  3. Dom

    Excellent review, so much so I’m gonna search out a copy.

    Reckon it’ll teach me more than a few things as my PS knowledge is only just beyond basic at best.


    • Glyn

      Dom…You won’t regret it mate. Matt has a great teaching style that get’s the message across without any confusion.
      Enjoy, and thanks for looking in 🙂

    • Glyn

      @Matt…You’re welcome mate; it’s a great read!

  4. David Kelly

    Hi Glyn,

    I’ve only just got this book (at the same time as pre-ordering RC’s book too) so have only managed to skim through it so far. However as your review indicates there’s a plethora of information & insights available inside. I barely touch the full power of layers in my PS use, so I’m sure to get a lot of out this book.

    Well done and big thanks to Matt for his efforts here.



    • Glyn

      @David…Thanks Buddy; I just know you’ll love the book 🙂

  5. Richard O'Brien

    Hi Glyn,

    Good review, and spot-on too! Despite having the ‘first edition’ I got the second for Christmas and it really is a great book.

  6. Lola Aycinena

    Hi Matt:
    I just bought your book, but I’m having problems to acces the photos to work on. I enter the sites you give in the book and then I can’t find them.
    I’m a spanish speaker, so maybe I don’t realy understand how to actualy get to the pictures.
    I would appreciate very much if you could help me. I love you book anda I know I’m going to learn a lt from it.



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