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By default an adjustment layer affects all of the visible layers beneath it in the layers stack. If you want to limit the effect of an adjustment layer to just one other layer, you can clip the adjustment layer to that layer. This maneuver is a lot easier in Photoshop CS4 than it was in previous versions of the program, thanks to the new clipping icon in the Adjustments panel. I am working here on a file that has four layers. To show you what's on each layer, I'm going to hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC as I click on the eye icon next to each layer in turn. Now you are looking at just the content of the image layer, which is this photo of a model against a white background. I'll Option- click or Alt-click on the eye icon spot next to the dot graphic layer and you can see that it contains just this dotted red line in the shape of a flower on a transparent background that's represented by these gray and white pixels.
I will Option-click or Alt-click on the love graphic layer and you can see, if you look closely that on this layer there are transparent pixels and the word love over and over again in the shape of a heart and I'll Option-click or Alt-click on the candy box layer so you can see that contains this photo of the candy box against transparent pixels and Option-clicking or Alt-clicking one more time on the candy box layer, makes all of the other layers visible again. I am going to add an adjustment layer and I'll start off with that adjustment layer at the top of the layers stack. So I'm going to select the candy box layer in the Layers panel and then I'm going up to the Adjustment panel, then I'll select the flavor of the adjustment. I'm going to use an Invert adjustment and as you can see this has an extreme effect on the image. It inverts the content of all of the layers below it to their negative color.
I choose this kind of an adjustment layer so it would be easy for you to see, but you can do the same thing I'm doing here with the Levels adjustment or Curves adjustment or any of the adjustment layers. Now I don't want this Invert adjustment to affect all of the layers below. I want it to affect only the content of the love graphic layer, which you can remember is just this graphic of the word love in a heart shape. So I'm going to take the Invert 1 adjustment layer in the Layers panel, click on it and drag down, so it's between the candy box layer and the love graphic layer and when the border between those layers turns dark, I'll release my mouse.
Now the content of the candy box layer is not affected by this adjustment, because it's above the adjustment layer in the layers stack, but the adjustment layer is still affecting the content of all three of the layers beneath it. I can limit this adjustment layer to affect only the love graphic layer by clipping it to the love graphic layer. Now in previous versions of Photoshop clipping two layers together wasn't the easiest or most intuitive thing to do. We had to move your mouse over the border between the two layers, hold down the Option key on the Mac or the Alt key on the PC and click when you saw this particular icon. I'm not going to do it that way, instead with the Invert adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, I'll go up to the Adjustments panel and as you can see this particular adjustment layer has no controls or no options, but at the bottom of the Adjustments panel there is the Clipping layer icon.
All I have to do is click on that and the adjustment layer has been clipped to the love graphic layer and as you can see in the image it's now inverting the color of only the content of the love graphic layer. I can tell that these layers are clipped together because the Invert adjustment layer is indented and it now has this arrow on it, which means it's clipped to the layer just below it. Now what if I wanted to take this step further and have this adjustment layer affect not only the love graphic layer, but also the dot graphic layer, can I do that? Well, let's see, I'm going to move my mouse over the border between the love graphic and dot graphic layers and hold down the Option key on the Mac, the Alt key on the PC as I just showed you and when I see that double circle icon I'll click. And that includes the love graphic and the dot graphic layers in the clipping group with the Invert adjustment layer, but I don't get the result that I want.
If you look in the image, you can see that the content of the love graphic layer has completely disappeared and that's because a clipping group like this uses the bottom-most layer. In this case, the dot graphic layer that contains this dotted flower as the base layer for the clipping group. Now there are two ways around this problem. I can either use a layer group or a Smart Object to confine the effect of an adjustment layer to multiple layers, but not all the layers in a layered file and I'm going to show you how to do that in the following movies.
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