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Controlling which layers are affected by an Adjustment Layer


Photoshop CS5 Essential Training

with Michael Ninness

Video: Controlling which layers are affected by an Adjustment Layer

One very important thing, or aspect, about Adjustment layers you need to learn is how to control which layers are affected by Adjustment layers. Let's kind of run through a couple of scenarios, so you can see what I'm talking about. I'm going to add a Black & White Adjustment layer to this image. We'll go ahead to the Adjustments panel and click on Black & White. I'm going to go ahead and go with the default settings here. That's fine for this exercise. You'll see, by default, the Adjustment layer affects every single layer underneath it. So, it's implying and affecting the entire stack.
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  1. 6m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 47s
    2. What is Photoshop?
      2m 49s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 34s
  2. 28m 29s
    1. What is Adobe Bridge?
      1m 54s
    2. Getting photos from a camera
      3m 39s
    3. A tour of the different workspaces in Adobe Bridge
      4m 58s
    4. Customizing how thumbnails are displayed
      3m 35s
    5. Changing obscure camera file names with the Batch Rename command
      2m 36s
    6. Adding basic metadata to every image with metadata templates
      3m 36s
    7. Creating and applying keywords to images
      4m 6s
    8. Viewing images in Full Screen Preview mode
      4m 5s
  3. 23m 4s
    1. Using Review mode to filter out rejects
      5m 27s
    2. Protecting the keepers by saving them in collections
      3m 18s
    3. Rating images
      3m 15s
    4. Using the Filter panel to view different subsets
      4m 43s
    5. Viewing final choices in a slideshow
      2m 12s
    6. Organizing groups of images into stacks
      4m 9s
  4. 30m 50s
    1. Raw vs. JPEG files
      5m 13s
    2. Why you should start in Camera Raw instead of Photoshop
      5m 9s
    3. A tour of the Camera Raw user interface
      6m 44s
    4. Previewing before and after adjustments
      4m 2s
    5. Toggling onscreen Shadow/Highlight clipping warnings
      2m 37s
    6. Choosing output settings
      2m 45s
    7. Saving a copy without going to Photoshop
      4m 20s
  5. 41m 34s
    1. Eliminating red-eye with the Red Eye Removal tool
      1m 13s
    2. Improving composition with the non-destructive Crop tool
      3m 33s
    3. Correcting a rotated horizon line with the Straighten tool
      3m 5s
    4. Fixing color casts with the White Balance tool
      2m 13s
    5. Fixing blown-out highlights with Recovery
      2m 36s
    6. Revealing hidden shadow detail with Fill Light
      1m 47s
    7. Reducing distracting color noise with Noise Reduction
      5m 37s
    8. Removing color fringes with Chromatic Aberration
      2m 36s
    9. Sharpening the details
      8m 59s
    10. End to end: Taking a so-so photo and making it great
      9m 55s
  6. 39m 5s
    1. Fixing blown-out skies with the Graduated Filter tool
      4m 34s
    2. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool
      5m 41s
    3. Making local adjustments with the Adjustments Brush
      4m 28s
    4. Quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity
      4m 33s
    5. Converting to black and white
      3m 36s
    6. Editing images directly with the Targeted Adjustments tool
      4m 18s
    7. Easy sepia and split tone effects
      2m 35s
    8. Adding digital film grain texture effects
      2m 46s
    9. Adding vignettes and border effects
      2m 13s
    10. Saving variations within a single file with Snapshots
      4m 21s
  7. 15m 48s
    1. Copying settings from one file and pasting across another in Adobe Bridge
      3m 7s
    2. Processing multiple files in Camera Raw
      2m 28s
    3. Saving and using a library of Camera Raw presets
      5m 33s
    4. Using Image Processor to batch process multiple files
      4m 40s
  8. 30m 39s
    1. Opening files from Adobe Bridge
      3m 1s
    2. Opening files from Mini Bridge
      3m 28s
    3. Customizing the Mini Bridge panel
      2m 57s
    4. Changing Mini Bridge so it auto-collapses
      1m 20s
    5. The Application frame
      2m 16s
    6. The Application bar
      1m 16s
    7. Switching and saving workspaces
      4m 23s
    8. Panel management
      5m 31s
    9. Switching tools using the keyboard
      3m 18s
    10. Customizing the keyboard shortcuts
      3m 9s
  9. 16m 12s
    1. Tabbed documents
      2m 1s
    2. The Arrange Documents widget
      1m 38s
    3. How to stop Photoshop from tabbing documents
      3m 34s
    4. Pan and zoom
      5m 21s
    5. Cycling through the different screen modes
      3m 38s
  10. 36m 59s
    1. File formats
      13m 6s
    2. What resolution does your image need to be?
      10m 15s
    3. Resize vs. Resample
      9m 40s
    4. How big a print can you make with your image?
      3m 58s
  11. 42m 17s
    1. Crop options
      4m 12s
    2. Hide vs. Delete for the Crop tool
      3m 30s
    3. Bringing back hidden pixels with Reveal All
      1m 34s
    4. Making the canvas bigger with the Crop tool
      6m 1s
    5. Making the canvas bigger by a specific amount with Relative Canvas Size
      1m 39s
    6. Correcting perspective with the Crop tool
      3m 5s
    7. Straightening a crooked image
    8. Scaling, skewing, and rotating with Free Transform
      4m 12s
    9. Nondestructive transformations with Smart Objects
      4m 2s
    10. Warping images
      3m 40s
    11. Preserving the important elements with Content-Aware Scaling
      9m 32s
  12. 54m 42s
    1. The Background layer
      5m 14s
    2. Using a layer mask instead of deleting pixels
      4m 12s
    3. Loading multiple images into a single Photoshop document as layers
      1m 30s
    4. Naming, hiding, creating, and deleting layers
      4m 18s
    5. Changing the stacking order of layers
      2m 51s
    6. Selecting layers without using the Layers panel
      6m 28s
    7. Transforming layers
      7m 16s
    8. Aligning and distributing layers
      3m 51s
    9. Changing the opacity of layers
      2m 57s
    10. Organizing layers into groups
      2m 55s
    11. Saving variations with layer comps
      5m 3s
    12. When to merge and rasterize layers
      5m 0s
    13. Flatten vs. Save As (a Copy)
      3m 7s
  13. 1h 4m
    1. Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
      7m 23s
    2. Transform selections
      2m 40s
    3. Quick Mask is your friend
      4m 31s
    4. Converting a selection into a layer mask
      6m 33s
    5. Using the Quick Selection tool
      3m 1s
    6. Re-selecting a previous selection
      1m 35s
    7. Improving a selection with Refine Edge
      4m 21s
    8. Touching up a layer mask with the Brush tool
      12m 7s
    9. Changing the opacity, size, and hardness of the painting tools
      2m 59s
    10. Blending images with a gradient layer mask
      4m 53s
    11. Swapping heads in a family portrait
      3m 53s
    12. Combining multiple exposures with the Blend If sliders
      6m 26s
    13. Replacing the sky in an image
      4m 19s
  14. 1h 1m
    1. Introducing adjustment layers
      7m 57s
    2. Starting with a preset
      4m 25s
    3. Improving tonal quality with Levels
      10m 28s
    4. Increasing midtone contrast with Curves
      5m 4s
    5. Removing a color cast with Auto Color
      5m 56s
    6. Changing the color temperature with Photo Filter
      2m 55s
    7. Shifting colors with Hue/Saturation
      9m 0s
    8. Making washed out colors pop with Vibrance
      2m 46s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      5m 49s
    10. Controlling which layers are affected by an Adjustment Layer
      7m 28s
  15. 11m 32s
    1. Shadow/Highlight
      9m 3s
    2. Matching color across multiple images
      2m 29s
  16. 34m 12s
    1. Removing blemishes with the Spot Healing brush
      6m 21s
    2. Quick technique for smoothing skin and pores
      8m 23s
    3. Taming flyaway hair
      4m 47s
    4. Making teeth bright and white
      1m 43s
    5. De-emphasizing wrinkles
      4m 41s
    6. Removing unwanted details with Content Aware Fill
      4m 26s
    7. Body sculpting with Liquify
      3m 51s
  17. 21m 6s
    1. Creating panoramas with Photomerge and Auto-Blend
      7m 20s
    2. Combining multiple frames of an action sequence
      8m 30s
    3. Combining group shots with Auto-Align
      5m 16s
  18. 25m 36s
    1. Overview of filters
      4m 6s
    2. Applying filters nondestructively with Smart Filters
      4m 45s
    3. Giving an image a soft glow with the Gaussian Blur filter
      4m 41s
    4. Adding noise to an image with the Add Noise filter
      3m 34s
    5. Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask
      4m 12s
    6. Giving an image more texture with the Texturizer
      1m 17s
    7. Applying a filter to multiple layers
      3m 1s
  19. 30m 44s
    1. Cycling through the blending modes
      4m 43s
    2. Three blending modes you must know
      6m 41s
    3. Adding a lens flare effect with Screen
      3m 33s
    4. Making a cast shadow more realistic with Multiply
      4m 33s
    5. Creating a diffused contrast glow effect with Overlay
      6m 2s
    6. Sharpening an image with High Pass and Overlay
      5m 12s
  20. 21m 39s
    1. Character (point) type
      8m 19s
    2. Paragraph (area) type
      4m 42s
    3. Type on a path
      2m 54s
    4. Clipping an image inside type
      2m 24s
    5. Warping type
      3m 20s
  21. 20m 35s
    1. Adding a drop shadow effect
      4m 43s
    2. Adding an outer glow effect
      3m 13s
    3. Adding a border around an image
      2m 53s
    4. Copying layer effects and applying them to other layers
      2m 3s
    5. Saving layer styles and applying them in other documents
      2m 42s
    6. How (and when) to scale layer effects
      5m 1s
  22. 16m 6s
    1. Creating PDF contact sheets
      6m 41s
    2. Exporting web photo galleries
      6m 8s
    3. Saving for the web
      3m 17s
  23. 1m 19s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 19s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS5 Essential Training
11h 15m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

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In Photoshop CS5 Essential Training, author Michael Ninness demonstrates how to produce the highest quality images with fantastic detail in the shortest amount of time, using a combination of Photoshop CS5, Adobe Bridge, and Camera Raw. This course shows the most efficient ways to perform common editing tasks, including noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, retouching, and combining multiple images. Along the way, Michael shares the secrets of non-destructive editing, utilizing and mastering Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, layers, adjustment layers, blending modes, layer masks, and much more. Exercise files are included with the course.

Topics include:
  • Automating image adjustments with Camera Raw
  • Adding keywords, ratings, and other metadata to images
  • Filtering a large collection of images down to the "keepers"
  • Cropping, correcting perspective, and straightening images
  • Creating, naming, hiding, and deleting layers
  • How to make selections and masks quickly
  • Improving mask quality with Refine Edge
  • Techniques for combining multiple images
  • Non-destructive editing techniques with adjustment layers and Smart Filters
  • Retouching essentials, such as blemish removal and body sculpting
  • Color correcting images
  • Using the essential blend modes, layer effects, and styles
  • Creating contact sheets and web photo galleries
Design Photography
Michael Ninness

Controlling which layers are affected by an Adjustment Layer

One very important thing, or aspect, about Adjustment layers you need to learn is how to control which layers are affected by Adjustment layers. Let's kind of run through a couple of scenarios, so you can see what I'm talking about. I'm going to add a Black & White Adjustment layer to this image. We'll go ahead to the Adjustments panel and click on Black & White. I'm going to go ahead and go with the default settings here. That's fine for this exercise. You'll see, by default, the Adjustment layer affects every single layer underneath it. So, it's implying and affecting the entire stack.

Now, once you have an Adjustment layer chosen in your Layers panel - see here I have the Black & White Adjustment layer - there is a button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel that lets you determine if that Adjustment layer affects all the layers or just clip it to the layer directly below. So, I'm going to click that button once, and you'll see that that Adjustment layer indents in over to the right. You get this little down-pointing arrow. And the layer it's been clipped to is now underlying in the Layers panel. You can see, instead of all the layers becoming black-and-white, only that one Dahlia layer there at the very top is being affected by that one Adjustment layer.

You can toggle this on and off, so I can click that button again to make that adjustment happen to all the layers that come underneath the Adjustment layer. So, there's one way to control it. Just clip it to the layer directly below the Adjustment layer. If I just want the background image, this daisy so to speak, to be grayscale and everything else remain in color, then, of course, the simplest way is just to change the stacking order of where that Adjustment layer occurs. If I only want that background layer to be converted to black-and-white, then I'm just going to click on that Adjustment layer icon and drag it down below on top of that last layer.

There you can see it's only applying to that one Background layer and everything else is remaining color. Okay, so that's the easy scenario. Just clip it to one of many layers in the stack or physically drag it down to only affect the range of layers that you want by putting that Adjustment layer above the range of layers where you want it to be affected. But what if I want to do something a little bit more complicated? I'm going to drag the Black & White Adjustment layer, again, by clicking on its icon, not its layer mask. All right? If you click in the layer mask, Photoshop is going to think you want to move that mask to a different layer.

So, click on the little icon itself of the Adjustment. We'll drag that back to the top of the layer stack. What I want here is only the four layers of the flower icon, those little squares, to be affected. So, to do that, I need to get a little bit fancier. I'm going to select all five of the layers, so the Adjustment layer and those four little squares there. What I want to do is group them, put them in a folder. So, I'm going to do Command+G or Ctrl+G on Windows. Now at first glance, it doesn't look any different, correct? Right there is Group 1. If I turn the twisty down, you'll see all four of those image layers in the Adjustment layer are now in the group.

By default, Photoshop changes the Blend mode of the group to something called Pass Through, meaning don't change the composite of this arrangement of layers just because it's in a group. What I want to be able to do is change the Pass Through option to Normal. What that does is constraints the Adjustment layer to only affect the layers in the group. So, be Normal within that subset instead of Pass Through, which says, let me apply to everything in the layer stack, regardless of if these layers are in a group or not.

So, there you have that little, nice workaround. If the Adjustment layer itself does not have its own Blend mode, right, it's set to Normal, it doesn't have any other type of Blend mode, then set the Group to Normal, and that will constrict that Adjustment layer to only occur to that one particular group. I'm going to go ahead and undo the group by clicking the Trashcan. I've got the Group selected. I'm going to click on the Trashcan, and it says, "What do you want me to do? Do you want me to get rid of the Group and its contents or just the notion of the Group?" Just the Group only. Great! Now what I want is to have these four layers here be, not changed to black-and-white, but changed to a particular color, have a colorization effect.

So, to do that, I'm going to turn off the Black & White Adjustment layer, and then I'll go ahead and select this first image layer here. One of the Adjustment layers that's not available from the Adjustment panel itself, the Adjustment layer panel, is a Solid Color adjustment. You can access that from the bottom of the Layers panel. There's an Adjustment pop-up menu, and you can see I've got names of all the same Adjustment layers that are in the Adjustments panel with those little icons. But there are some others at the very top that aren't necessarily available. One of them is Solid Color.

I'm going to go ahead and choose Solid Color, and I'll pick, let's say, this kind of nice blue, and right there, click OK. Here, it's changing the color of the entire document because it's at the top of the layer stack here. I'm going to change the Blend mode of this Color Fill Adjustment layer to the Color Blend mode. And what that does, it says, "Use the color of this layer but the detail of all the layers underneath it. Okay?" So, what I've got here is Adjustment layer with a Solid Color Fill of this blue set to the Color Blend mode.

But now I only want these four images here in these four rectangles, or squares, to be affected by this. Well, how am I going to do that? Well, let's try that Group trick again. I'm going to select the Adjustment layer, select those four little flower squares and group them again, Command+G or Ctrl+G. You can see it's got that Pass Through set. Okay, let's go back and change that to Normal, like we did before. That didn't work. Why? Because in the previous example, we did not apply a Blend mode to the Black & White Adjustment layer.

It was just set to Normal. But in this example, when you look at the Color Fill Adjustment layer, remember, we changed its Blend mode to Color. So, this isn't going to work for us. So, let's get rid of the Group again. I'll select on the Group. I'll click the Trashcan and say Group Only. There is the Color Fill layer. What I need to do is somehow treat these four images as a single image that can then be affected by just that one Adjustment layer. How do we wrap up four different layers here in this example to be treated as a single thing? It's not a Group.

We just saw that that didn't work. What I'm going to do is turn them into a Smart Object. You can actually select any range of layers and encapsulate them into a single image that's nondestructive. You can go back and still get to the individual pieces, but turn it into a single Smart Object. So, I've got these four layers selected. To do that, I just clicked on one, held down the Shift key and clicked on the last one. Then I'm going to right-click on the name of one of these layers and say Convert to Smart Object. It shows up as a single item. You can change its name if you want. I'm going to leave it at Dahlia for now. I'm going to go back and select that Color Adjustment layer.

Now because this was an Adjustment layer that wasn't available on the Adjustments panel, I don't have that little Clip button that we had before where we could clip it to just one layer. So, there's a workaround for that as well. I'm going to hold down the Option key on the Mac or Alt key on Windows and put your mouse right between the two layers, and you see the cursor change. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click right there, and that's the same as clipping that Adjustment layer to only affect the layer directly below it. And there you have it. There's your workaround. I've got that Color Fill Adjustment layer set to the Color Blend mode, affecting just these four images, not the entire layer stack below, because I wrapped up those four images into a Smart Object first.

So, you can see there are several different ways you can control and specify which layers get affected by Adjustment layers, and depending on what you're trying to accomplish, you might go back and forth between these various different methods, depending on what your needs are.

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