I'm finding myself feeling very limited by what I can do with my projects in photoshop because of my understanding of how layers must be arranged in order for them to be workable. I could really use some help from some more experienced photoshop users as I think I might be missing something.
I don't know the terminology here, but it seems like like you have to work from a duplicate of the original background layer (such as "group 1 copy" in my attached picture") in order for a lot of functions in photoshop to work properly on the layer. For instance, if I apply the layer mask in "group1 copy 2" and then duplicate that and try to work with it as my top layer, I couldn't get gaussian blur or noise filters to show up on it. Additionally, if I create a layer like "layer 1" as my top layer, I can't use certain tools on the image. The problem is... how do you conjure up a "regular" style layer (e.g. "group 1 copy") to use as the top layer once you've already done some work on the photo such as masking? If you try to duplicate a lower layer and bring it to the top, it will not carry with it the changes you made in the masked layer.
Just to clarify, I am aware that the layer you are working on has to be the top layer in order for changes to be visible.
Sorry if this is a dumb question and that I don't know all the proper terms. I'd love it if y'all can fill me in on everything!