Layers for Lightroom?

What’s probably the most-used feature in Photoshop? Layers right? Something that’s layer-related is probably the main reason I ever leave Lightroom in the first place. Well, onOne Software has come out with a brand new plug-in that brings the features of layers to Lightroom. Yep, layers, stacking, blend modes, and even layer masks. In the scheme of how we work with our photos, this could really change things and I’m excited to see where it goes. I mean, think about all the times you go from Lightroom to Photoshop to simply add one layer or change a blend mode and use a mask. You’ve basically made that entire move to Photoshop (which has thousands of features) for just one thing.

Here’s an example from a video I did for onOne, where I started with a texture image and a photo I took in Paris (both in Lightroom). In a few seconds I was able to combine the two with the Overlay blend mode – something that you’d never be able to do in Lightroom. (Click to see it larger)

You can download it now for free, have a chance to try it out, and share your feedback with onOne’s development team. Congrats to onOne for seeing a huge need in how we work with our photography and coming out with Perfect Layers to help solve it.

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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50 Comments

  1. It just gets better and better! Layers for Lightroom, Photosmith for the iPad, Wireless Tethering…we’re in for exciting times :)

    Cracking image too Matt!

    Cheers,
    Glyn

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  2. What’s interesting to me is that layering is something you can do in the dark room, especially for textures. I used to expose once, develop and stop, expose with a pattern instead of negative, develop and stop, then blast with light for solarization of the remaining whites. This is something that happened entirely in the dark room, but couldn’t be done in Lightroom. Now it can. :)

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  3. I have no clue why people are so excited about that. Did you guys try it? This is not bringing layers *inside* Lightroom at all, this is just providing yet another external editor to combine two or more files into a PSD file. This has been possible for ever by right-clicking and selecting: “Edit In -> Open as Layers in Photoshop”.

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      • No, but thanks for playing the assumption game. What most people were getting at is how this product was “presented” and the publicity it received. Its home page has a big “LAYERS FOR LIGHTROOM!” banner, a feature that has been available for a while in cheaper, more polished products.

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    • Awesome dude, so stick with whatever tool you currently use and stop slamming the ones you don’t because you don’t think you need it.

      When was the last time you posted a tutorial, video, training reference, or critique on something ??? Oh that’s right…you haven’t!!!

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      • What you may want to add to the list of “whatever tool you currently use” is Google actually, that would help you figure out “when was the last time somebody posted posted a tutorial, video, training reference, or critique”. Give it a shot.

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  4. I guess if you don’t already have Elements or Photoshop you could get excited.

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  5. Hi Matt,

    Excellent Photo!

    However, what we don’t need is another program to manage inside LR. We need it as part of LR! Also, OnOne is really proud of their software. :-) I’ve seen the training videos and there are some interesting tools, but not for $160.00! I’m thinking maybe $79-$99. I have three OnOne applications and the only reason I have them is that I got them on sale of $99. Yes, yes I know they have to pay back the R&D costs, but they don’t have to do it in the first year! Okay I’m off my soapbox! :-)

    Thanks again for letting us know and sharing your photo!

    Dennis

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    • Hey Dennis. If I hear you correctly, you want this functionality in LR. I totally agree but Adobe won’t allow this unfortunately. That’s why all LR plug-ins open their own interface. I’m with ya though. I look forward to the day where we can extend LR itself, rather than have all these separate programs to jump into and back from.

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  6. Sorry to rain on your parade

    Downloaded it, tried it. not impressed.

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    • Not my parade. I already own Photoshop. I’m excited because I know lots of LR users that don’t own Photoshop and do everything in LR. Now they’ve got another alternative.

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  7. I agree with others, this app has nothing to do with Lightroom other than being launched by it. Also, in it’s current state, it is unusably slow. I lasted 10 minutes before having to shut it down because of sluggishness.

    My recommendation, and hope, is to have at least a reduced-functionality layering capability as a panel within LR, with blending modes and masking.

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    • Hey John. I totally agree with you (on both points). I think the preview is a little slow.
      As for layers in LR, unfortunately Adobe simply won’t allow it. They don’t allow plug-in developers to extend Lightroom in a way that “bakes” the raw file. That’s why all LR plug-ins have to open another interface.

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      • I hope Adobe never lets anyone “bake” the raw files, (and that’s one of reasons I use LR, so I always have the original raw file), but I’ll bet they could develop the functionality to view multiple files or virtual copies in a stack of some kind, similar to adjustment layers perhaps. Then the “layers” could be combined into a single file when exported, and the raw files would remain “unbaked”. Maybe that would make possible HDR adjustments while still using the raw files, as well as textures, multiple exposures, and dozens of other possibilities. I would love that!

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  8. -S and Dennis, as well as others, have seen this for what it really is. Why would I spend $160 for another external editor when I have CS5, the mother of all layers apps, sitting at the ready. When Adobe builds it into Lightroom, which I doubt will happen, we’ll have to see if it’s better than a R/T to CS5. Even at $50 I just don’t see the advantage over CS5.

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  9. Only good for people who doesn’t want to spend extra money for Photoshop. But it’s nothing exciting at all. It’s just another-plugin-that-offer-layers-like-photoshop. I would rather send for PSE.

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  10. Wouldn’t it be a better investment to go with Elements for $99, less when you find it on sale?

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  11. I’m a little stunned that you guys keep calling this program “Layers in Lightroom”. It’s not even remotely close to being “in” Lightroom. It’s an external editor that provides a limited set of functionality that many other programs already provide.

    And yes, it’s very expensive, but that’s beside the point. The point is that this is being hyped all over the internet by a lot of pretty well known Photoshop and Lightroom gurus as something that “brings the features of layers to Lightroom” (your words Matt), which it clearly doesn’t do.

    I’m very disappointed by the hype and it makes me question the credibility of those spreading it.

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  12. I tried this…. and have to say it is pretty much useless. With that money, buy Photoshop Elements and a pizza. You’ll be way better off.

    Even as a free software, I find it irrelevant and not worth keeping. Sorry.

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  13. While I would love to see a layers feature in Lightroom, this new plug-in doesn’t add much for those of us who already have Photoshop. Moreover, the cost is almost double what the Lightroom software upgrade costs in the first place. If they brought the cost down to under $100, it might be worth considering.

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  14. Love those Paris photos. What time of day were the Louvre photos taken?

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  15. Hi,

    Same comments than uper ….the main prob is “PSD” file return !

    Otherwize, agreed with all the disagreed about the price & about the utility of that tool, i be enjoyed when i ear about layer Mask option but after test & see the video is definitely not an +.

    My own 2 cent’s anyway,

    Regards from France,

    Tony

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  16. …wrong to say ” layers IN Lightroom”…

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  17. LR was a program started on the premise that it is for photographers, right? So why would Adobe stop listening now? Photographers are expressing interest here, Scott clearly understands this. I enjoy using Photoshop CS5, but I also appreciate the idea of keeping to one program if at all possible. While I am not going to buy, I hope the LR-only users do and that it is successful. Perhaps then Adobe will reconsider…or do we need to knock someone at Adobe over the head to listen?

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  18. OnOne has some good Software, but they are overpriced! Maybe that is why they bomb their existing customers with massive mails every day, where all products are always on sale by 70% or more¿?¿ Strange approach to advertising and obnoxious.

    Matt, if you have some coinnection to these guys, maybe tell them about that, please!

    Also, as an owner of Genuine Fractals 5, I did download and install the new Resize 7. I was puzzled, how little they changed from Fractals 5 and can’t find any reason to upgrade for the price they are asking. After the test period, I had to realize, that installing the Resize 7 Demo did delete my Genuine Fractals 5 installation! For me that is an absolue no no! They have no business whatsoever to delete anything from my drive without warning me prior. So I manually deinstalled Resize 7 and got the saved dmg file of Fractals 5 to reinstall. I am sure that there are people out there not having savend a copy of Fractals or no knowing how to deinstall manually, etc.. They probably buy the pgrade then.

    I wrote OnOne a mail about all that and never got an answer.

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  19. I agree with you, it would be nice if layers were built directly into lightroom. Also already having PS I do not see need to add another intermediate piece of software.
    It does appear that they have done a really nice job and will be very useful to those without PS.
    Now to contradict myself, I am presently scanning some old photos into PS simply so I can then catalog and work with them in Lr. Do you know of a way of simple add on to scan directly into Lr ?

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    • Never mind Matt, I figured it out. Just set up a Auto Import Folder and set scanner to save to that folder.

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  20. @Bob Abela: you answered your own question. You said: ” I also appreciate the idea of keeping to one program”… meaning that Adobe would be cannibalizing its own market. They might be pushed to do it at some point (maybe if Aperture adds the feature) but why would they even consider doing it otherwise?

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  21. I tried the software as soon as it was released. My first impressions were that it uses a lot of RAM but that it produces good results. My test image was an informal portrait of a fire chief posed next to a firetruck. We shot it inside the firehouse because of winter weather. I used a flash to light him, and the cavernous building uses fluorescents. I do not have enough lighting to fully light a firehouse. So I had a White Balance problem.
    I created a virtual copy of the DNG in Lightroom 3 and adjusted its WB to suit the fluorescents. Then I selected both and opened in Perfect Layers. Using the Masking Brush on the top layer, I revealed a nicely exposed fire chief and truck from the background layer. Some might say the selection tools in CS5 make this task easier in Photoshop, but I like the WB tools in Lightroom 3.
    I own the OnOne Plug-in Suite, so this should be a free addition. I hear what everybody is saying about the cost, and I agree. As for this particular use of the software, the best I can offer is that my client liked it when he saw it this morning. So, in this case it worked well for me.

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  22. Matt,

    I think you’ve been hearing from the hard core PS guys for the most part. I am a Lightroom only user and this is a sweet program for those who don’t have PS. But I agree it is overpriced, and I probably won’t buy unless they lower the price. I would jump all over this for $100.

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  23. Hi,

    I think that nowadays somebody active in photography at an advanced // professional level has tp master such a technique, though the final shots may of course be not pleasant to everybody (in terms of naturality of the effect).

    In any case, I may be not that in fond of the Paris photo on the top, but I must tell that I definitively would prefer this version as compared to the non-treated standard original.

    Personally being more interested in portrait and marriage photography, I saw just a few persons perfectly mastering such post-treatment in this domain, but the results may be very and very impressive ! Unfortunately, this is still a field I should practice in and develop my skills …

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  24. Like – gets you layer blending functionality without having to load PS, not everyone has the latest spec machine !
    Unlike – likely price

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  25. I tend to think of Lightroom and Photoshop as one program, so I don’t see the big deal in Lightroom layers. I will often open a photo as a smart object in PS, the make a duplicate via copy for dodging and burning effects since this holds the integrity of the photo better (to me at least). Since I will open every photo in PS anyway (mainly for sharpening), this doesn’t affect me. Sure it’s cool to do layers in Lightroom, but I will still do it in Photoshop.

    Now if Lightroom added pressure sensitive dodging and burning via the brush tool while using my pen tablet, then I could see not going into PS at all. Maybe.

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  26. My “pet peeve” with OneOne is that their software (Perfect Resize, Layers, etc.) requires a video card with GL2. My laptop is not equipped with this facility . . .and so these products are useless when I am on the move. I suspect GL2 makes the programming easier for OneOne – but if the “host” program like Lightroom doesn’t require these facilities then I really do object to paying good money for an add-on that ups the hardware ante.

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    • Totally agree with this one – I was so excited to use it and then after downloading, I find I cannot use it because this *plug-in* requires more advanced features than the program its supporting.

      And its a bit expensive. Considering how much I spent on Lightroom, I’d like to see the price point closer to $100.

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  27. Well, I’ve only purchased one product from OnOne and they’ve ruined it for me. I have MaskPro for Knocking out backgrounds from floral arrangements specifically for a client that I do this for on a regular basis. I’ll be working for 20 min to an hour and hit Save and it goes back to Photoshop and no edits were kept. First off why doesn’t it just save and stay in MaskPro and why does it save my changes inconsistently?

    I’m sorry for changing the subject but I just had to say that I won’t be buying any more OnOne software. They haven’t given me a solution for this issue.

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    • @Jim: Next time download a trial version first.

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  28. I’m excited to try it, just to learn how it works and what it can give me.

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  29. As a hobbyist photographer who can’t afford $1000.00 for Photoshop and hates the cliche consumer oriented aspects of programs like Elements and iPhoto, this plug-in is an added bonus in my opinion. So Scott created a little marketing hype over it. So what! Some of us out in the real world are intelligent enough to see past all that. I’ve read the posts here and elsewhere on the internet and to me it sounds like a lot of sour grapes from the usual suspects regarding it’s a “plug-in vs. layers” integrated into LR. Those of you who didn’t think of it first ought to get over it. It gives me a leg up on things I would like to do that can’t be done without Photoshop and I suspect that is the goal Scott and OnOne had in mind and it will only get better over time. Who cares if it’s a plug-in. There’s a whole multimillion dollar market for PS plug-ins and you don’t see anyone complaining about that. There’s way more hobbyist and consumer users then Pros who would benefit from this. $159.00 if that’s what it ends up costing is a far site cheaper then PS when all one might want is to get some layer functionality. Somewhere in the future Adobe will add layers to LR. Especially when third parties are coming up with plug-ins such as this one, and that’s a good thing. Who knows, maybe Adobe will surprise us and implement it in LR 4.

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  30. Hi Guy’s,

    LightRoom 3.4 & Cameraw Raw are just be updated !

    Otherwize, Layers appl have not interest for me sorry.

    Regards,

    Peter Flamer
    Country Agency
    Germany

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  31. Matt, you said “I’m excited because I know lots of LR users that don’t own Photoshop and do everything in LR. Now they’ve got another alternative.”

    I have to ask, why are you so excited about something that does only a fraction of what Photoshop Elements does, but at twice the price?

    I have to say I am worried about how a product like this is being hyped by some members of NAPP without any balancing statement about its price versus the price of Elements. I feel it is misleading.

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  32. Yippie . . . :-(
    Adobe Lightroom was supposed to be simple. Now the can of worms has opened. The simplicity of Lightroom is now dead. At what point do I get to say the emperor has no cloths. Maybe, I will by a film camera and start taking pictures again. I am just burned out from all this noise. If you think me a digital hack, I started using Photoshop at version 1.07. I was paid to fly around the country to teach Photoshop. Oh by the way, I taught a Painter seminar for Scott and Jim Workman. – Graham

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  33. Would have been nice if you’d mentioned the price of the finished article when released and the fact it needs a specific video driver which my only-3-year-old PC doesn’t have to function. Nor is this mentioned up front on OnOne’s download page. Total waste of time.

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  34. I fail to see reasons for getting excited as well. Integration with LR is poor (LR doesn’t allow it any better, but that’s not news). Seems overpriced for what it is.

    If one wants kludgey layers with LR, why not get PS Elements instead?

    I expected more, to be honest. Maybe, if the price comes down and people find it useful, it will help to persuade Adobe to properly integrate layers with LR.

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  35. There are better options out there, 2 great choices on the cheap are PS Elements and Pixelmator. The downside to PSE and Pixelmator is they are 8-bit only, which is disappointing.

    CW

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  36. This is a good start. I hope Adobe or a 3rd party will add the ability to adjust separate curve channels like photoshop. Need that one badly!

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  37. Perfect layers crashed on me twice. On the third attempt the image on the screen processed, but when opened in PS image was not recognizable. I have already deleted from my computer. For sure I would never purchase. Even for $50.00. Also I reported my problems with Perfect Layers to ON One with no response.

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  38. Why pay over the odds for a plugin with limited capabilities when for less than $20 one can pick up PS Elements 6 etc with considerably more functionality. Like Graham Hedrick I am getting bored with all the hype and marketing to try and extract yet more $ from hobbyist/semi pro photographers. Photography has become a PC geek activity – let’s get back to taking photos in camera. For sure LR etc are very useful for rescuing a shot and it can be fun to manipulate but not at the expense of traditional photography.

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