Monday, June 25, 2007
Using Photoshop Adjustment Layers
Get more flexibility and control when you use these specialized Photoshop layers to apply image enhancements
Being such a key feature, much has been written on the subject of Adjustment Layers, yet I'm taken aback by the number of photographers I meet who still resist using them. They need not be difficult to understand and use, and the flexibility they can bring to your image processing is well worth the slight learning curve.
What Is An Adjustment Layer?
Before we can fully appreciate the power of Adjustment Layers, let's first establish an understanding of what we're working with—Photoshop Layers and Adjustments.
Layers allow you to work on individual elements of an image without affecting others. Think of layers as a stack of paper, where each page represents a different layer. Now consider that you can alter the appearance of each page (layer) individually, such as changing their order in the stack or making some more transparent than others. Additionally, you can change the attributes of a layer by applying adjustments.
Adjustments are tools that enable you to manipulate the tonal range, color and other aspects of an image. And like many things in Photoshop, there are multiple adjustments to choose from based on the type of control you desire when making the alteration.
Everyone who works in Photoshop uses adjustments. Levels is an example of one of the most fundamental adjustments in Photoshop (Image > Adjustments > Levels). Individually, this adjustment and others can make a dramatic change to an image. But applying them by the method above permanently alters the pixels on the active layer, which can limit your ability to get the very best out of your images in the long run. If you make a mistake or want to change an adjustment, you have to go back in History, if that's even possible.
Enter the Adjustment Layer. Adjustment Layers place an adjustment on a separate layer above your image, enabling you to make nondestructive alterations. At any time, you may update or change the adjustment without degrading the underlying image. Additionally, as adjustments sit on their own layer, you can take advantage of the same options available to an image layer, like opacity changes, blend modes and more.
The benefits of applying your adjustments using Adjustment Layers are plentiful, and the benefits detailed above aren't all of them! Before we move on, though, let's go over the application and anatomy of an Adjustment Layer.
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