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Creating and editing adjustment layers

From: Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth

Video: Creating and editing adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are the most flexible way to correct the colors and tones in an image. Most of the commonly used Photoshop image adjustments like Levels and Curves and Black and White and about a dozen more can be applied as adjustment layers. So what exactly is an adjustment layer and how do you make one? To show you that, I have my Adjustments panel open and I have my Layers panel open, and in the Layers panel you can see there are two layers in this file. I'm going to make the photo layer temporarily invisible so you can see that on the lizard layer, there is just this little lizard surrounded by transparent pixels. I'll make the photo layer visible again and turn the lizard layer off, so that you can see that the photo layer has this photo of a garden wall.

Creating and editing adjustment layers

Adjustment layers are the most flexible way to correct the colors and tones in an image. Most of the commonly used Photoshop image adjustments like Levels and Curves and Black and White and about a dozen more can be applied as adjustment layers. So what exactly is an adjustment layer and how do you make one? To show you that, I have my Adjustments panel open and I have my Layers panel open, and in the Layers panel you can see there are two layers in this file. I'm going to make the photo layer temporarily invisible so you can see that on the lizard layer, there is just this little lizard surrounded by transparent pixels. I'll make the photo layer visible again and turn the lizard layer off, so that you can see that the photo layer has this photo of a garden wall.

And I'll make both of those layers visible again. The first step in adding a new adjustment layer is to select whichever layer you would like to have the new adjustment layer come in above. I'd like this adjustment layer to affect both the lizard and the photo layers. So I'm going to select the lizard layer here in the Layers panel. Then I'm going to add an adjustment layer. If you've created adjustment layers in previous versions of Photoshop, you probably did that by going down to the Black and White icon called the Create New Fill and adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and clicking there and choosing one of the adjustment layer flavors from here.

You can still do it this way, but in Photoshop CS4 there is another and I think more direct way of applying an adjustment layer and that's from the New Adjustments panel. So I'm going to exit out of this menu without choosing an adjustment and I'm going to go up to the Adjustments panel. At the top of the Adjustments panel, there are 15 icons that represent the 15 different kinds of adjustment layers. If I move my mouse over any one of these, I see its name at the top of the Adjustments panel. I'm going to go over to the first icon, the Brightness/Contrast icon, and I'm going to click on that icon and that adds a new Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer in the Layers panel. I know this is an adjustment layer, because unlike a regular pixel-based layer, this adjustment layer has two thumbnails on it.

The thumbnail on the left is the thumbnail that represents the adjustment and sometimes, by the way, this may look like a generic icon, if you don't have a lot of room in your Layers panel. There is a also a layer mask thumbnail on this adjustment layer, because each adjustment layer comes with a layer mask that you can use to limit where the adjustment applies in the image, this I'll show you how to do in a later movie. When I clicked the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer icon, not only did I get a new adjustment layer in the Layers panel, but the Adjustments panel changed too to display the controls for the Brightness/Contrast adjustment.

That's different than in previous versions of Photoshop where each adjustment had its own dialog box. Now all of the controls always appear here in the Adjustments panel when an adjustment layer is active. I can use these controls to tweak the appearance of the image. So, for example, if I want this image to be brighter, I'll click on the Brightness slider and I'll drag to the right. You can see that both the lizard on the lizard layer and the photo on the photo layer have gotten brighter. Because, by default, an adjustment layer affects all of the visible content on the layers beneath it.

One important quality of an adjustment layer like this one is that it does not directly change the image pixels. So if I were to come in and make the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer temporarily invisible, by clicking its eye icon, you can see that I still have that same dark image on the lizard and photo layers below. This nondestructive quality of adjustment layers is really important, because it means that you are protecting your original image so that you always have access to it. That's true even if you save the image, close it, and then reopen it as long as you've saved it in a format that retains layers like the .PSD or Photoshop Document format, the TIF format or the Photoshop PDF format.

I'm going to turn this Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer back on, by clicking in its visibility field, so that I can show you that you can have more than one adjustment layer in an image. To add another adjustment layer, I need to get back to Icon view in the Adjustments panel. I can do that with the Brightness/ Contrast 1 layer selected by going to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and clicking on this green arrow. Back here in Icon view of Adjustments panel, I could choose a different adjustment this time. For example, I think, I'll apply a Black and White adjustment by clicking on this icon right here and that converts the image to black and white.

It brings up the controls for the Black and White adjustment layer here in the Adjustments panel, and you can see that there is a new adjustment layer in the Layers panel, the Black and White 1 adjustment layer. One of the great things about adjustment layers is that they remain editable, and that means that I can go back at any time and tweak the settings for an adjustment layer. So now that I've converted this image to Black and White, I can see that I'd like it to be a little bit brighter. So I can go back to the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer by selecting it in the Layers panel, and that brings up the Brightness/Contrast settings for that particular adjustment layer.

And here, I could come up to the Brightness slider and I could drag it further to the right or I could add contrast to the image by clicking on the Contrast slider and dragging it to the right. By the way, contrast means the difference between the light tones and the dark tones in an image. I've mentioned some of the unique qualities of adjustment layers, but in other ways, adjustment layers behave just like regular layers. You've already seen that I can make an adjustment layer temporarily invisible by clicking its eye icon. I also can change the stacking order of adjustment layers. So, for example, if I click-and-drag the Brightness/Contrast 1 adjustment layer to the top of the layer stack and release my mouse when the border above the Black and White adjustment layer turns bold, you'll see a slight change in the image, because adjustment layers affect not just regular layers beneath them, but also other adjustment layers that are beneath them.

I can also change the Opacity of an adjustment layer. So with this Brightness/Contrast 1 adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, I could go up to the Opacity field, click on the arrow to the right of it and drag the slider to the left to slightly reduce the strength or Opacity of the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. Similarly, I could change the layer blend mode of the adjustment layer from this menu or I could even delete an adjustment layer by selecting it in the Layers panel and then pressing the Delete key on the Mac or the Backspace key on the PC.

Now that you know what adjustment layers are and how to create and edit them, I hope you'll get in the habit of using adjustment layers. If you're still using direct adjustments instead, you're missing the important advantages that adjustment layers offer, which I'm going to spell out for you in more detail in the very next movie.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth
Photoshop CS4: Image Adjustments in Depth

48 video lessons · 16074 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 5m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. Using the exercise files
      59s
    3. Setting up a workspace
      3m 22s
  2. 21m 2s
    1. Creating and editing adjustment layers
      6m 38s
    2. Adjustment layers vs. direct adjustments
      6m 9s
    3. Using the new Adjustments panel
      5m 38s
    4. Reusing adjustment layers
      2m 37s
  3. 39m 57s
    1. Clipping adjustment layers
      4m 36s
    2. Including adjustment layers in a layer group
      3m 13s
    3. Including adjustment layers in a Smart Object
      7m 29s
    4. Using the adjustment layer mask
      5m 43s
    5. Using selections with adjustment layers
      4m 19s
    6. Using the Masks panel with adjustment layers
      8m 30s
    7. Using the Blend If sliders with adjustment layers
      6m 7s
  4. 49m 43s
    1. Reading the Histogram panel
      5m 23s
    2. Using the Levels adjustment for tonal corrections
      7m 42s
    3. Using the Curves adjustment for exposure
      8m 12s
    4. Using the Curves adjustment for contrast
      4m 14s
    5. Making On-Click Curves adjustments
      4m 0s
    6. Applying Shadow/Highlight nondestructively
      7m 59s
    7. Reviewing Brightness/Contrast
      3m 18s
    8. Dealing with exposure
      2m 22s
    9. Using adjustment layers with blend modes
      6m 33s
  5. 54m 36s
    1. Making Vibrance adjustments
      2m 22s
    2. Using Hue/Saturation adjustments
      7m 4s
    3. Understanding color correction
      3m 21s
    4. Using color samplers and the Info panel
      4m 25s
    5. Using Levels eyedroppers for color correction
      5m 54s
    6. Using Levels channels for color correction
      5m 7s
    7. Understanding Curves adjustments for color correction
      7m 21s
    8. Making Color Balance adjustments
      3m 49s
    9. Making Photo Filter adjustments
      3m 6s
    10. Making Variations adjustments
      6m 48s
    11. Using the auto-correction features
      5m 19s
  6. 13m 5s
    1. Using the Dodge and Burn tools
      4m 56s
    2. Dodging and burning nondestructively
      6m 38s
    3. Working with the Red-Eye tool
      1m 31s
  7. 16m 9s
    1. Applying Black & White adjustments
      7m 30s
    2. Making Channel Mixer adjustments
      6m 31s
    3. Understanding the Threshold adjustment
      2m 8s
  8. 25m 23s
    1. Colorizing with Hue/Saturation adjustments
      3m 9s
    2. Tinting with Black & White adjustments
      2m 8s
    3. Making a Gradient Map adjustment
      4m 18s
    4. Applying a Selective Color adjustment
      1m 49s
    5. Using the Replace Color adjustment
      4m 39s
    6. Making Match Color adjustments
      4m 24s
    7. Applying the Equalize adjustment
      4m 56s
  9. 42s
    1. Goodbye
      42s

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