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With any luck, you'll find that in most cases all you need to do is apply adjustments that affect an entire image. But sometimes, you might want to have a specific effect in a particular area of a photo. For example, here I'm reasonably happy with the sort of dreary, cool look of this photo of a barge going down the Columbia River. But the background, I feel, is just a little bit too cool. I'd like to desaturate those colors off in the background, so that it doesn't have quite as much of that cyan to blue in it. I can go that with a targeted adjustment, an adjustment that only affects that portion of the image. And in this case, I think I can simply paint that effect into the image instead of creating a selection for example.
I'll go ahead and start by adding a Hue Saturation Adjustment layer. This could be any type of adjustment I want. I just think, in this case, reducing saturation in the background will probably produce the result I'm looking for. So, I'll click on the Add New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Hue Saturation from the popup menu. I'll go ahead and apply the adjustment that I think I want to apply, keeping in mind that ultimately I only want that adjustment to affect that background of the image. I think I just want to reduce saturation a bit. I'll try to focus my attention only on that background and produce the effect I'm looking for.
That looks to be pretty good. You can see that I definitely don't want this adjustment to affect the rest of the image because it's just stripping out the color. I do, however, want to reduce the saturation in that background. So, now I need to focus this adjustment on specific areas. And the way I prefer to work, when applying a targeted adjustment, is to start off with the adjustment affecting none of the image and then, paint that adjustment into specific areas of the photo. The adjustment layer that I've added, in this case Hue Saturation, comes with a layer mask. That white thumbnail indicates which area of the image is being affected by this adjustment.
In the context of the layer mask, black blocks and white reveals. So, at the moment, the adjustment is visible everywhere. If I would like to reverse that, so the adjustment is not visible anywhere, I can simply invert the layer mask. To do so, on the Properties panel, I'll choose the Masks option up at the top. And I'll simply click the Invert button. That will cause the layer mask to be filled with black instead of white, since I've inverted it. And now, the adjustment is being blocked through the entire image. I'll go back to the adjustment itself.
And now, I can work on that layer mask, painting white into the areas where I actually want to see the effect of the adjustment. I'll go ahead and choose the Brush tool from the toolbox. I'll press the letter D on the keyboard to get the default colors, which in the case of a layer mask, is white for the foreground color and black for the background color. I'll then click the Brush popup on the options bar. And make sure the hardness is set to 0%. I want a completely soft brush, when I'm painting in this way. I'll also make sure that the mode for the brush is set to normal and that the opacity is at 100%. With that done, I can bring my mouse out into the image and then use the left and right Square Bracket keys as needed to adjust the size of the brush. The left Square Bracket key will reduce the brush size and the right Square Bracket key will increase the brush size.
And then, I can simply paint. So, my layer mask is currently filled with black. But I'm going to be painting with white. So, the adjustment is currently blocked throughout the entirety of the image. But I'm going to paint that adjustment into specific areas of the photo. So, I'll go ahead and paint into this background area that I want to desaturate a bit. And I'll make sure that I've covered the entire area that I want to affect. That looks to take care of it. And so now, you can see the thumbnail for the layer mask indicates white for those background areas. So, the Hue Saturation Adjustment is visible in those areas but black for the foreground portion of the image.
And so, the adjustment is blocked for those areas. I'll go ahead and take that saturation up an down, and we can see that sure enough, we're only effecting that background. And now, I can fine-tune my adjustment. I'll take that down a fair amount. I want to almost neutralize but not completely neutralize the color in that portion of the image. So, by taking advantage of the layer mask that is included with our adjustment layers, we can very easily focus an adjustment. So, it's only effects a specific area of the image. And again, keep in mind that that technique can be used with any type of adjustment layer we'd like.
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