Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
A big advantage of using an adjustment layer to correct a photo is that you can limit the area affected by the adjustment by making use of the layer mask that comes with every adjustment layer. I'm going to add an adjustment layer to this photo by going to the bottom of the Layers panel and clicking the add adjustment layer icon. There I'll choose a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. There is my new Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer in the Layers panel and down here in the Adjustments panel, I can see the sliders for that adjustment. I'm going to drag the Brightness slider over to the right to brighten this photo.
If you take a look at the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer, you'll notice that it has this white rectangle. This represents the layer mask that comes with every adjustment layer. A layer mask on an adjustment layer works just like a layer mask on a content layer which I showed you in earlier movies. To review where a layer mask is white, like this one is now, it shows all the content of the layer to which the mask is attached. In this case, that layer is the brightening Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and the white mask on that adjustment layer is letting us see the adjustment everywhere on the photo, but where our mask is black, it hides the content of the layer to which the mask is attached.
So if I were to add black paint to this layer mask that would hide the brightening effect of this adjustment layer from the corresponding portions of the photo, and I can use that principle to limit the area of this photo on the layer below that's being affected by the brightening adjustment on the adjustment layer with its mask. So let's do that. First I'll make sure that I have the Brightness/Contrast layer selected and that automatically selects its layer mask. Then I'll move over to the toolbar and I'll select my Brush tool. I'll go down to the foreground and background color boxes.
I want to paint with black to hide some of this adjustment. So I'll make sure that my foreground color is black. The only colors that I'll have available down here when I'm working on an adjustment layer are black, white or shades of gray, and that's because I'm using the color to paint on a layer mask, which as you know is a grayscale item. So with black as my foreground color, I'll move into the image and what I'd like to do is to remove the brightening effect from the edges of the photo to create a vignette that forces the viewer's attention toward the center of the photo.
I'm going to make my brush a little bigger by pressing the right bracket key on my keyboard and I've got a nice soft brush. So I'll start to paint with black and wherever I'm laying black down on that layer mask, I'm hiding the brightening effect of the adjustment layer, so that the edges of the photo are turning dark again as we see down through these areas to the darker photo on the layer below. Now let's take a look at the layer mask. I'll hold the Alt key, that's the Option key on a Mac, and show you that mask.
I didn't do a perfect job but you can see that I paint it with black around the edges and as I said, where there is black paint on this mask, it is hiding the brightness adjustment. Where there is white on the mask, it's letting the brightness adjustment show through and where there is gray in between the black and white, which is caused by the soft edges of my brush, the brightness adjustment is partially hidden, creating a nice transition. I'll Alt+click or Option+click again on the layer mask thumbnail. One of the nice things about a layer mask is that it's reversible.
So if I want to bring back the brightening effect in some areas, I can just switch my paint color to white. I'll click this double pointed arrow to make white the foreground color, and then I'll move with my brush and bring back some of the brightening effect around the edges. So painting on an adjustment layer's mask is one way to limit the area that's affected by that adjustment layer. There are a couple of other ways to add paint to a layer mask and I covered those earlier in movies on layer masks and on selections. One way would be to make a selection and then fill the selected area with black and that would hide the adjustment from the selected area.
Another method that I use a lot particularly when I'm shooting outside and trying to balance the exposure of the foreground with a bright sky is to use a gradient on the layer mask, which will gradually even out the tones between the sky and the foreground. To show you what I mean, I'm going to revert this layer mask to pure white. So with the adjustment layer still selected, I'll go to the Edit menu, I'll choose Fill layer and I'll make sure the Content menu is set to White and click OK. So now we're back to square 1 with a pure white layer mask on the adjustable layer, allowing the adjustment to show through everywhere.
I'm going to go over to the toolbar and select the Gradient tool. By default the Gradient tool will draw a gradient that's linear going from white to black from wherever I start drawing to wherever I end up. If I switch the colors in the foreground and background color boxes then I'll have a gradient that I can draw starting with black and going to white. Remember that I'm going to be drawing this gradient on the layer mask that's on the adjustment layer so I only have black, white and gray to choose from. I'll start at the top because I want to hide the brightening from the sky but allow it to come through in the foreground of the image and I'll drag a gradient.
The length and the direction in which I draw this line affect what the gradient will be like on the mask. That gradient is dark at the top fading through gray to white at the bottom, and where the gradient on the layer mask is dark up in the sky, it is hiding the brightening adjustment, so we can see down through to that dark sky below. And then there's a gradual transition and down here at the bottom of the image, the gradient on the layer mask is white, so it's revealing that brightening adjustment.
I'll show you the layer mask by Alt+ clicking or Option+clicking on it, so you can see what I mean, and then I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click again. I can fine tune this layer mask by using my Brush tool. So if I wanted to bring back some brightening over the cornfield, I could get white as my foreground color and then click and drag over that area to make that brighter too. So the layer mask that comes with an adjustment layer is a very powerful tool that allows you to limit the areas that are affected by the adjustment that you make with an adjustment layer.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
164 Video lessons · 54494 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 86376 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 55760 Viewers
148 Video lessons · 93124 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.