Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Understanding and using layers increases your tools and capabilities for refined image processing
Say you want to brighten the building, but not the sky, of the photo at right. Turn off the layer's effects by filling the Layer Mask with black (in Adobe products, use Edit > Fill, choose black, then OK). The adjustment disappears.
Be sure your paintbrush color is white and choose a soft paintbrush a little smaller than the area you need to work with (the building, in this case). Paint white over the area to turn on the adjustment of the Adjustment Layer, but only where you painted. If you make a mistake and paint in too much, change the brush to black and paint the mistake right back out.
Working The Image
Work an image by putting each adjustment on a separate layer. To continue the temple photo example, use one layer for the brightness of the building, a second layer (Curves) for darkening the sky, and a third layer (Hue/Saturation) to intensify the colors. (Technically, the bottom, or Background, is a layer, but I'm referring to first, second and third layers as added layers to the original image.)
Since only the sky needs to be darkened, the second layer needs tweaking with its Layer Mask. Black is painted over the building to remove the effect of the adjustment on the structure. Increasing the color saturation of the whole image works with the top layer, so there's no need to do anything with its Layer Mask.
If you do this step by step, layer by layer on any image, you'll quickly gain a carefully adjusted image with multiple layers before you can worry about layers. Keep each layer isolated to a specific adjustment. When done, I usually save this layered file as my master image, again, in the image processor's native file format. Then I flatten, size and sharpen a file for a specific purpose, whether it's for a print or to be reproduced in a magazine or book, and do a Save As to a TIFF or JPEG file. Check your Layer Menu for the Flatten command.
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