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help with making wallpapers

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okay i thought myself to be fairly computer savvy until now. I worked for a few years for a wedding photographer and worked primarily editing photos. The basics on correcting pics and whatnot. Now i would like to design some wallpapers for my computer and am at a loss. i get the jist of working with layers, but can't make it work for me. what I am trying to do is basically have a background design, and then make a sort of collage from other pics that i have on my computer. I can design the background, i can cut the objects or people i want out of other pics, just can't seem to get them all laid out on the background the way i want. it was my understanding that when you add a photo as a new layer that if I make that the active layer that i could manipulate that layer the way i wanted, then merge the two together. Well i try and when i resize my active layer it resizes the background layer even tho i don't have it checked, also I cut a person out of a photo, the background is transparent, then i try to put it on the background layer and it isn't i see the checkerboard pattern. I am new to working with layers and beginning to believe that maybe i just can't get it. if anyone has spare time and could explain this to me, or if you would like to jump on YIM my screenname is tat2fairy78. and please be patient, im not the fastest learner...

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