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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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