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Adjustment Layers are a way to make nondestructive Adjustments in Photoshop. Although we've seen that many selective Adjustments can be made in Camera Raw, there are plenty of instances when I find it easier to make my selections in Photoshop using the many tools available and then adding my refinements to those selected areas using Adjustment Layers. In addition, when you use Adjustment Layers in Photoshop, you can use them in conjunction with blend modes or opacity. And you can even use the mask that is automatically created when you add an Adjustment Layer. So they're quite powerful.
Now before we start working with Adjustments, I just want to make sure that you understand the difference between adding an Adjustment Layer and making an Adjustment under the Image menu. If I choose Image and then Adjustments, if I select something like the Black and White Adjustment and then I click OK, you can see in my Layers panel, I've actually made a permanent change here. If I were to save this file and close it. And then later I decide that I want a color version of it. Well the color is no longer in this image, so any options that you select under the Image Adjustment menu, those are all permanent changes.
So let's undo that, and instead we're going to take a look at the Adjustments panel. Now if the Adjustments panel isn't showing, you can go under the Window menu and then choose Adjustments and you'll notice a lot of different icons here and each one of these is a different Adjustment. And as I position my cursor on top of each of these Adjustments, we actually get the readout of what the Adjustment is, in case the icon doesn't make sense. So let's scoot down to the Black and White Adjustment. I'll click on it in order to add it. That automatically expands by Properties panel and I can make changes. So for example, I can decide how I want the reds to be translated into a shade of gray.
But if we look over at the Layers panel, you'll notice that I haven't made a permanent change to the background layer. I've just added a secondary layer on top. And I can actually toggle this on and off to hide it or reveal it. I could also decrease the opacity of this layer by clicking on the Opacity slider and decreasing the opacity. When I decrease the opacity of the Black and White Adjustment, you'll notice that I can start seeing some of the color from the background layer. I can also use the mask which was automatically created when I added the Adjustment Layer.
If I tap the G key to grab my gradient, and then I click on the left side of the image and drag over to the right side, you can see that I'm selectively hiding and showing that Adjustment Layer. Now, yours might look different depending on the foreground and background colors that you have. But I was dragging from white to black. We know that white is going to show the Adjustment Layer and black is going to hide it. To make this a little bit more obvious lets increase my opacity back up to 100%. Now we can see where the mask is white we can see the Black and White Adjustment there and where the mask is black it's hiding that Adjustment Layer.
And of course if I Save this file and then come back to it tomorrow or next week or next year, I'll always have the flexibility of deletion or changing this Adjustment Layer and I'll have the original photograph underneath it. So you can see that Adjustment Layers, because they're non destructive and because you can go back in and re-edit them at any time they're much more powerful than using the destructive edits under the image menu. So stay away from those and use the Adjustment panel instead.
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