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How do you create two layers in "Gimp" and merge them?

For example, I would like to load an image, create two identical layers, edit each layer in different ways, then merge them into one final version.

Specific instructions for gimp are preferred.

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This comment was probably voted down, by the way, because although the site title says "photographic editing", it means to focus that specifically on the aspects of photo editing particularly relevant to photo post-processing, not general "how do I use graphics software" — there's several other SE sites that may be better suited for that. –  mattdm Dec 3 '10 at 14:56
    
If you read my question, you might have noticed that my question is not a general "how do I use a graphics software" question, but rather a quite specific one. It is in fact directly related to photo editing - why else would I need to know how to create layers and merge them? –  brilliant Dec 3 '10 at 20:56
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Creating and manipulating layers can be seen as a fundamental feature of most graphics software. We can take this up on meta.photo.stackexchange.com. :) –  mattdm Dec 3 '10 at 21:33
    
Sure. In the past I was editing pictures using software that didn't use layers. This time I bumped into a need of editing a photo by using layers. I was suggested the "GIMP" here. That's how I came up with this question. The fact that the subject of my question turned out to be "a fundamental feature of most graphics software" only proves that my primary concern is editing - not collecting some knowledge about software, otherwise my question would have been way more sophisticated. However, I don't quite see how you could separate these two one from another. –  brilliant Dec 3 '10 at 21:53
    
I think it's fine, but the site works by community consensus. I was just trying to point out a guess as to why the question got a negative vote. Again, meta.photo.stackexchange.com is the place for this discussion. :) –  mattdm Dec 4 '10 at 2:13
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is easy. First, if you don't have the Layers window open go to the Windows menu and choose it. You don't actually need that, but it's handy. It's a small "utility" window which typically floats near the right side of your screen. And open your file, if you haven't yet. With that window open, you can click on the existing layer in the image (probably Background), and then click on the Duplicate Layer button below — or press Shift-Ctrl-D. Then, to merge that layer back down again, go to the Image menu and pick Merge Visible Layers (Ctrl-M). You can also use Flatten Image. Alternately, if you have more than two layers, there's Merge Down in the Layers menu, which does what it says.

Gimp has completely customizable keyboard shortcuts, by the way. Look at the bottom of the Edit menu for Keyboard Shortcuts (may be mixed in with the Preferences in some older versions of Gimp). That way, if something doesn't have a shortcut, or you don't like the default, you can fix it.

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WOW!!! Thank you Mattdm! Very helpful. –  brilliant Dec 3 '10 at 20:53
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Also, keep in mind that you can change the opacity of specific layers. This is often very helpful when using multiple duplicate layers, as it allows you to easily tone back your edits. –  chills42 Jan 7 '11 at 16:08
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