Monday, June 25, 2007
Using Photoshop Adjustment Layers
Get more flexibility and control when you use these specialized Photoshop layers to apply image enhancements
Beyond The Basics: Advanced Adjustment Layers
The basics of using Adjustment Layers are just that, pretty basic. Their true potential is realized when you take advantage of the advanced characteristics.
Multiple Adjustments. Beyond a single adjustment of an image's tonal range, you may find a need for additional enhancements. Stack 'em up! Apply additional Adjustment Layers as needed, such as Hue/Saturation or Photo Filter. By modifying an Adjustment Layer's opacity and/or Layer Mask, you can selectively apply the results of an adjustment to specific areas of your image, as I did in the example above (also see Selective Adjustments).
As you begin to stack up multiple adjustments, it's important to note that an adjustment affects all (visible) layers below it. If you wish to isolate an adjustment only to the contents of the layer immediately beneath it, you can do so by creating a clipping mask.
To create a clipping mask, do one of the following: With the Adjustment Layer selected, go to Layer > Create Clipping Mask or while holding Option (Alt for PC), position your cursor between the two layers you wish to mask. As you do so, your cursor will change to two overlapping circles; click OK. Your clipping mask is indicated in the Layers palette by the layer being indented with a down-facing arrow to the left of the Adjustment Layer thumbnail.
Blend Modes. We've already established that Adjustment Layers are in fact "layers". As layers, they also support Blend Modes. Blend Modes influence the way one layer interacts with another, making them a great option for quickly adding contrast or special effects to an image.
A common technique for using Blend Modes involves duplicating a layer, then changing the new layer's Blend Mode. Here's an alternative: Create an Adjustment Layer (any kind) and click OK without making any adjustments. Now, change the Adjustment Layer's Blend Mode. What you'll find is that you've piggybacked the benefits of an Adjustment Layer to apply the effect of the layer Blend Mode. I call this a "Blend Mode Adjustment Layer." An added benefit that's often overlooked is that this method of applying Blend Mode changes on Adjustment Layers can keep your overall file size down.
Saving And Sharing
If you encounter a group of images that need similar adjustments, consider using an adjustment you've made in the past. Adjustment Layers, like "regular" Adjustments, can be saved for later use. Even more versatile, though, they can be dragged and dropped on an image. This process also retains any Blend Mode or Opacity changes that you've made. To drag an adjustment from one file to another, simply click, hold and drag the Adjustment Layer thumbnail from the Layers palette and release it on top of the new image.
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