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Layers are a powerful feature in Adobe Photoshop—they grant users the ability to stack images on top of each other. In this way, separate images (or elements of) can be joined as one. Layers allow for advanced composition effects via transparency and blending modes.
Layers were introduced with the release of Photoshop 3.0. The introduction of layers revolutionized the Photoshop franchise.
Adjustment Layers were introduced in Photoshop 4.0. These allowed adjustments to be non-destructive, preserving the original image while permitting the adjustment to be changed or removed at a later time.
Layer Styles and blending were introduced in Photoshop 6.0, furthering its composition capabilities.
Layer Grouping was introduced in Photoshop CS, which allowed blending modes and other attributes to be shared across grouped layers.
Layer Comps were introduced in Photoshop CS3. This feature allows a designer to quickly switch between alternate versions of a document, based on a common set of image layers.
- Gizmodo.com, The Definitive Photoshop Timeline, Jesus Diaz