• How to Make Digital Vellum: Fill vs. Opacity in Photoshop

    At the top right corner of the layers panel, in the full version of Photoshop, there are two drop-down menus: Opacity and Fill. By default, these values are set to 100%. This gives the layer a fully opaque appearance.

    You may have wondered what the difference between these two settings may be and how you might use them.

    To experiment, open a document with stacked layers like a Layered Template.
    Select a layer that overlaps one or more other layers and apply a drop shadow style. Katie Pertiet's Drop Shadow Styles collections make creating shadows quick and easy.

    Opacity:
    With the shadowed layer selected, click the Opacity drop-down arrow and slowly drag the Opacity Slider all the way to the left. You'll see as you drag that the layer becomes more and more transparent and so does the shadow. Using the opacity function reduces the visibility of both the layer content and the layer style.
    The entire layer becomes completely invisible as you reach the 0% mark.

    Now drag the opacity slider back to 100%.

    Fill:
    With the shadowed layer selected, click the Fill drop-down arrow and slowly drag the Fill slider all the way to the left. As you drag, you'll see that the layer becomes more transparent, but the shadow remains intact. Using the fill function reduces the visibility of the layer content without affecting the layer style.

    This is the best way to create digital vellum. Dragging the fill slider toward the left allows the layers under the item to show through, but retains the dimensional look of the shadow. You'll need to adjust the percentage to your particular project since 0% makes the item completely transparent. For the sample, a value of around 25% gave the layer the right amount of visibility to look like vellum.

    Although Opacity and Fill are similar functions, knowing the subtle differences between them can help you create the look you want to achieve.