Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training
Illustration by Richard Downs

Understanding adjustment layers


Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training

with Jan Kabili

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Video: Understanding adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are hands down the best way to fix the color or lighting up a photo in the Full Photo Edit workspace. The main benefits of using adjustment layers rather than direct adjustments are that adjustment layers are nondestructive of the photo and they can be reedited at any time. To show you that, I have a photo here that has just one layer of photo on the Background layer. I'm going to add an adjustment layer. I'll go to the bottom of the Layers panel and there is a black and white circular icon, I'll click that and here I see a list of the available adjustment layers.
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  1. 23m 48s
    1. Welcome
    2. Getting around Elements
      6m 9s
    3. Exploring the differences in Mac versions of Elements
      5m 41s
    4. Working with Organizer catalogs
      6m 16s
    5. Using the exercise files
      4m 44s
  2. 21m 39s
    1. Touring the Organizer
      5m 35s
    2. Importing photos from a camera
      4m 44s
    3. Importing photos from a computer
      3m 1s
    4. Importing photos from an iPhoto library
      5m 27s
    5. Importing photos from external drives
      2m 52s
  3. 31m 24s
    1. Working in Thumbnail view
      4m 10s
    2. Working in Folder Location view
      4m 33s
    3. Reviewing photos in Full Screen view
      4m 55s
    4. Editing and organizing in Full Screen view
      7m 20s
    5. Comparing photos in Side by Side view
      4m 10s
    6. Displaying photos in Date view
      2m 40s
    7. Viewing photo information
      3m 36s
  4. 47m 47s
    1. Using keyword tags to categorize photos
      6m 42s
    2. Organizing keyword tags
      4m 25s
    3. Finding photos by keyword tag
      3m 39s
    4. Automatically tagging people
      8m 21s
    5. Using automatic smart tagging
      5m 36s
    6. Assigning ratings to photos
      4m 9s
    7. Creating albums to organize photos
      5m 7s
    8. Creating smart albums
      5m 52s
    9. Stacking photos to reduce thumbnail clutter
      3m 56s
  5. 24m 36s
    1. Finding photos that are visually similar to each other
      4m 3s
    2. Searching for an object in a photo
      3m 46s
    3. Finding duplicate photos
      4m 50s
    4. Searching by text
      5m 59s
    5. Exploring the Find menu
      4m 27s
    6. Finding photos in the Timeline
      1m 31s
  6. 22m 42s
    1. Deleting photos
      4m 30s
    2. Renaming photos
      2m 24s
    3. Moving photos
      3m 58s
    4. Reconnecting missing files
      4m 37s
    5. Changing photo dates
      4m 30s
    6. Backing up
      2m 43s
  7. 16m 14s
    1. Choosing an editing workspace
      4m 37s
    2. Autocorrecting with the Organizer's Photo Fix options
      3m 47s
    3. Photo finishing with the Organizer's Photo Fix options
      4m 2s
    4. Changing a Photo Fix adjustment
      3m 48s
  8. 22m 10s
    1. Editing with assistance: the Guided Edit workspace
      6m 27s
    2. Retouching a photo the step-by-step way
      7m 55s
    3. Creating a dreamlike Orton effect
      1m 8s
    4. Simulating shallow depth of field
      4m 11s
    5. Creating a collage using Picture Stack
      2m 29s
  9. 29m 27s
    1. Quick improvements: introducing the Quick Edit workspace
      3m 28s
    2. Applying Quick Edit corrections
      4m 8s
    3. Adjusting lighting
      4m 0s
    4. Correcting color
      4m 20s
    5. Fixing red-eye, improving skies, and touching up photos
      6m 29s
    6. Sharpening images
      3m 10s
    7. Saving in Quick Edit
      3m 52s
  10. 41m 16s
    1. Full control: introducing the Full Edit workspace
      5m 19s
    2. Tips for using the editing tools
      3m 50s
    3. Customizing panels
      5m 10s
    4. Undoing your work
      6m 22s
    5. Zooming and navigating
      4m 41s
    6. Saving images and examining file formats
      4m 50s
    7. Working with multiple documents
      4m 0s
    8. Creating a file from scratch
      2m 57s
    9. Customizing Editor preferences
      4m 7s
  11. 25m 42s
    1. Understanding layers
      7m 3s
    2. Managing layers in the Layers panel
      7m 19s
    3. Tips for working with layers
      4m 25s
    4. Understanding layer masks
      6m 55s
  12. 30m 0s
    1. Understanding selections
      6m 49s
    2. Using manual selection tools
      4m 42s
    3. Modifying selections
      4m 20s
    4. Using the automatic selection tools
      7m 11s
    5. Refining selections
      4m 50s
    6. Saving selections
      2m 8s
  13. 23m 52s
    1. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Healing Brush tool
      2m 50s
    2. Retouching skin with the Healing Brush tool
      6m 7s
    3. Retouching with the Clone Stamp tool
      1m 58s
    4. Using the Content-Aware option in the Spot Healing Brush to remove content
      3m 13s
    5. Touching up photos with the Smart Brush tools
      7m 22s
    6. Using the Dodge, Burn, and Sponge tools
      2m 22s
  14. 1h 0m
    1. Understanding color management
      7m 23s
    2. Understanding adjustment layers
      6m 49s
    3. Adjusting part of a photo
      6m 16s
    4. Correcting contrast and brightness using Levels controls
      5m 6s
    5. Enhancing color with Hue/Saturation
      4m 32s
    6. Improving shadow and highlights using Shadow/Highlight
      2m 36s
    7. Adjusting lighting and color using Color Curves
      3m 53s
    8. Removing a color cast
      2m 11s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      3m 15s
    10. Reducing noise
      3m 53s
    11. Sharpening images
      6m 43s
    12. Processing multiple photos
      8m 19s
  15. 23m 7s
    1. Resizing and changing photo resolution
      7m 1s
    2. Cropping photos
      5m 36s
    3. Straightening photos
      2m 35s
    4. Adding canvas around photos
      2m 43s
    5. Changing a photos orientation using the Recompose tool
      5m 12s
  16. 23m 50s
    1. Combining photos using the Place command
      5m 21s
    2. Using a layer mask to hide a background
      6m 26s
    3. Blending images using a gradient
      8m 18s
    4. Blending images using Blend modes
      3m 45s
  17. 24m 2s
    1. Creating text
      6m 22s
    2. Editing text
      3m 49s
    3. Creating text on a selection
      6m 1s
    4. Creating text around a shape
      3m 51s
    5. Creating text on a custom path
      3m 59s
  18. 22m 43s
    1. Applying filters
      5m 24s
    2. Adding effects
      2m 6s
    3. Adding layer styles
      7m 38s
    4. Making shapes
      5m 17s
    5. Using the Cookie Cutter tool
      2m 18s
  19. 42m 15s
    1. Understanding Camera Raw
      3m 35s
    2. The Camera Raw interface
      5m 16s
    3. Adjusting color using the white balance controls
      4m 41s
    4. Controlling lighting and contrast
      6m 26s
    5. Enhancing photos with the Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation controls
      2m 39s
    6. Cropping and straightening
      2m 13s
    7. Reducing Noise
      2m 24s
    8. Sharpening
      6m 46s
    9. Outputting from Camera Raw
      4m 43s
    10. Processing multiple photos in Camera Raw
      3m 32s
  20. 56m 44s
    1. Creating a photo book
      6m 50s
    2. Completing the photo book
      10m 5s
    3. Creating a photo calendar
      8m 19s
    4. Creating a photo greeting card
      5m 18s
    5. Making other photo creations in the Create workspace
      2m 8s
    6. Outputting photo creations from the Create workspace
      2m 50s
    7. Creating a photo slideshow in Windows
      8m 45s
    8. Completing the photo slideshow
      3m 31s
    9. Making a scrapbook page from scratch in Full Edit
      8m 58s
  21. 41m 35s
    1. Printing photos
      8m 30s
    2. Printing contact sheets and picture packages in Windows
      5m 23s
    3. Printing contact sheets and picture packages on a Mac
      8m 33s
    4. Ordering prints from the Organizer
      4m 23s
    5. Sharing photos by email from the Organizer
      3m 46s
    6. Sharing photos with Photo Mail in Windows
      5m 3s
    7. Sharing photos on Facebook from the Organizer
      3m 42s
    8. Sharing photos on Flickr from the Organizer
      2m 15s
  22. 7m 34s
    1. Signing up for an Adobe ID
      2m 20s
    2. Sharing online albums from the Organizer to
      5m 14s
  23. 40s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop Elements 10 Essential Training
11h 3m Beginner Mar 12, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, author Jan Kabili introduces the photo organizing, editing, and sharing features of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10, the less expensive version of Photoshop that’s ideal for casual photographers who want to achieve professional results. The course covers importing, organizing, and finding photos with the Organizer. It explains how and when to use each of the editing workspaces—from the simple Quick Fix and Guided Edit workspaces to the Full Edit workspace for enhancing your photos—including making photo corrections, retouching, compositing images, and adding text. The final chapter offers creative ways to share photos with Elements, including print projects like greeting cards, calendars, and books, emailing photos, and posting them on Facebook and Flickr.

Topics include:
  • Importing photos from a camera, computer, or iPhoto library
  • Adding keyword tags and ratings to photos
  • Automatically tagging people
  • Organizing photos into albums
  • Renaming and moving photos
  • Correcting common photo problems automatically
  • Retouching photos of friends and family
  • Adjusting lighting and color
  • Working with layers and layer masks
  • Converting photos to black-and-white
  • Cropping and straightening photos
  • Adding text to photos
  • Working with raw photos
  • Making a slideshow
  • Ordering prints
Photoshop Elements Elements
Jan Kabili

Understanding adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are hands down the best way to fix the color or lighting up a photo in the Full Photo Edit workspace. The main benefits of using adjustment layers rather than direct adjustments are that adjustment layers are nondestructive of the photo and they can be reedited at any time. To show you that, I have a photo here that has just one layer of photo on the Background layer. I'm going to add an adjustment layer. I'll go to the bottom of the Layers panel and there is a black and white circular icon, I'll click that and here I see a list of the available adjustment layers.

The ones that I use the most are Levels, Brightness/Contrast, and Hue/Saturation. By the way, all three of those are also available as direct adjustments, right on the photo layer from the Enhanced menu at the top of the screen, but as I said, there are some significant advantages to applying these adjustments as adjustment layers, as you'll see. So I'd like to brighten this photo, I'll select the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. When you're working with adjustment layers, you want to have full access to both your Layers panel and your Adjustments panel.

So I'm going to close this whole panel group up here; the Effects and Content panel Group by clicking the List icon on the right side of that panel Group and choosing Close Tab Group. Then I'll double-click the Layers tab so I can see both the Layers panel, which was originally open, and the Adjustments panel, which automatically opened for me when I created a new adjustment layer. And you can see a brand new adjustment layer here in the Layers panel above the Background layer. Right now that adjustment layer isn't affecting the image because I haven't moved the sliders down here in the Adjustments panel.

If I want to brighten up the image, I'll click and drag the Brightness slider. And if I want to add a little contrast, I can drag the Contrast slider too. The adjustment layer is a special kind of layer that's made up of virtual instructions about how to display the content on the layers below. One of the advantages of this adjustment layer is that whatever changes I make to it don't directly impact the pixels on the layer below. So if I were to make this adjustment layer temporarily invisible, you would see that the photo is still dark.

I'll do that by going down to the Adjustments panel and clicking the Eye icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel, with that adjustment layer selected. And now you can see the photo as it was without the adjustment layer. I'll click again, here's how it is with the adjustment layer. So I can make the adjustment layer temporarily invisible, which is something I'll do to get a before and after view, or if I really don't like the effect at all, because it is on a separate layer, I can just take this adjustments layer and drag it to the trash at the bottom of the Layers panel to delete it all together.

But I'm going to leave it there for now. Another big benefit of using an adjustment layer is that you can go back and change its settings at any time. So let's say that I'm back on the Background layer making some other kinds of changes there, and then I decide that I actually want the photo to be a little bit darker. I can go back at any time and click on that Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, that will bring back the controls for that adjustment in the Adjustments panel and I can tweak those controls. I can do this even after I close and reopen this file, as long as before closing I save it in a format that retains layers, like the PSD format, or the TIFF format.

Do be warned that saving in the JPEG format will flatten all the layers, so if I save as a JPEG, this adjustment will be blended into the file, but the adjustment layer won't be available as a separate layer that I can modify. Adjustment layers apply their adjustments to all the layers below them in the Layers panel. Right now I only have one layer here; I'm going to make another layer. I'll do that by a way I mentioned in an earlier movie, which is copying part of the photo on the Background layer. I'll select the Background layer, I'll get a Selection tool from the toolbar; I'll use the Rectangular Marquee tool.

I'll come into the image and I'm going to select part of this price sign. And then I'll go up to the layer menu and choose New > Layer via Copy. That's created a brand new layer, which is called Layer 1, that contains a copy of the part of the sign that I selected. I'm going to name this layer, I'll double-click its default name and I'll type sign, and press Enter or Return on my keyboard. Then I'll get the Move tool from the toolbar and I'll click and drag so you can see the content of that brand new layer, this little piece of the sign.

I did that particularly so that you can see that the adjustment on this Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer is affecting the content of all the layers below, not only the photo on the Background layer, but also this little piece of sign on the sign layer. I'm going to click on the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer to bring back my controls for this adjustment, and watch what happens if I drag the Brightness slider over to the left, everything gets darker, the content of the sign layer, as well as the content of the Background layer.

I can limit the effect of an adjustment layer to just the layer that's directly below it in the Layers panel. So again, I'll increase the brightness, and now if I want only this little piece of sign to get bright like this, I'll clip the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to the sign layer by selecting the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and then going down to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and clicking this icon that has a black circle on top of a white circle. That clips the two layers together. You can see the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer moved over to the right a bit, and there's a small clipping arrow here.

And in the image you can see that the Brightness Adjustment is affecting only the content of the sign layer, it's not affecting the Background layer at all. If I want that adjustment to affect both layers again, again, I'll click the Clipping icon at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. What if I want the Brightness/Contrast adjustment to affect only the Background layer and not the sign layer? That is not done with clipping, that's done by changing the stacking order of the layers. So I'll click and drag the Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer below the sign layer, and when the bar beneath the sign layer turns bold, I'll release my mouse to move the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer beneath the sign layer, so it's not affecting this little piece of the sign and above the Background layer so the adjustment is affecting the photo in the background.

So I think you can see that you have lots of flexibility when you're working with an adjustment layer. There's one more advantage of an adjustment layer, and that is to you can limit the area affected by an adjustment even if all of your photographic content is on one layer, and that's done by making use of this layer mask that comes with every adjustment layer. I'll show you that in the next movie, so stay tuned.

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