Recently, I received a question from a reader who was having a problem with graphics. She said, "I have a problem with Publisher. I always seem to run into trouble when I want to have one image overlap another image. I'm finding I can only do it when the bottom image (Image A) is inserted onto the page before the overlapping image (Image B). Is there any way to get images to overlap regardless of when they were inserted on the page?"
Understanding the concept of layering is a key to pretty much every graphic program out there. It even helps if you use graphic-related tools in other programs like Microsoft Word. By default, the items you import or draw on the page are placed on top one another. (Imagine layering items on a big sandwich, for example.) So depending on what order you imported the image, some or all of it may not end up visible because other items are covering it up.
To deal with this situation, most programs have several commands you can use to control layering. You usually have Bring Forward, Send Backward, Bring to Front, and Send to Back. Of the list, the last two are the most useful. Most programs have associated keyboard commands, which can be handy because once you understand layering, you'll find you use the commands a lot. These commands are similar in Illustrator, Quark XPress, InDesign, Corel Draw and Microsoft Office programs like Word and PowerPoint.
For example, in Word if you show the Drawing toolbar, on the left-hand side, you'll see a Draw menu that pops up. If you select Order, you find all the layering commands lurking there. Suppose you use the commands on the Drawing tool bar to draw an overlapping circle and a square. You can then experiment with the Order commands to change how your two shapes look next to one another. If you're feeling creative, you can use the layering commands to create simple drawings. For example, if you draw number of overlapping ovals and put a circle in the center on top of the ovals, you have a daisy.
As you can probably guess, the whole concept of "layering" items like this is a fundamental principle behind virtually all drawing programs. So this little tidbit of knowledge can go a long way.