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Limiting adjustments with layer masks

From: Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

Video: Limiting adjustments with layer masks

Every adjustment layer comes with its own built-in mask. You can use that mask to limit the area in an image where the adjustment shows up. I am going to show you two different ways to do that in this movie. But I also want to remind you that there is a new Masks panel in Photoshop CS4 that will also help you to limit adjustments with masks, which we are going to be looking at in a separate movie. In the first technique, I'm going to make an adjustment layer and then paint on the mask in order to hide the adjustment from parts of the image.

Limiting adjustments with layer masks

Every adjustment layer comes with its own built-in mask. You can use that mask to limit the area in an image where the adjustment shows up. I am going to show you two different ways to do that in this movie. But I also want to remind you that there is a new Masks panel in Photoshop CS4 that will also help you to limit adjustments with masks, which we are going to be looking at in a separate movie. In the first technique, I'm going to make an adjustment layer and then paint on the mask in order to hide the adjustment from parts of the image.

If you take a look at the histogram up here, you can see that all the pixels fall in the middle and that there are no white pixels and no black pixels in this image. That's calling for a Levels adjustment. So I'm going to go to my Adjustments panel and click the Levels icon here to change the Adjustments panel to the Levels controls and to add a Levels 1 adjustment layer in the Layers panel. I will come into the Histogram, I will click on the White slider, I will hold down the Option key on a Mac, that's the Alt key on a PC, and I will drag toward the center until I start to see some colored pixels, indicating that these pixels are going to become pure white.

I will do the same with the black slider, holding down the Option key on the Mac, the Alt key on a PC, and dragging to the right, until I see some colored pixels, which are going to become pure black. What a difference? Here is how this was a moment ago and here's how it is. It's pretty intense right now, so I am going to take the Gray slider and I am going to move that to the left to make the whole image brighter. Now that I have a Levels adjustment, I am happy with it on the cliffs but I don't like the way it looks in the sky.

So here is the part where I limit the adjustment to just part of my image. I am going to go to the toolbox and I am going to select this tool, which is the Gradient tool. What I want is a black to white gradient, so I check that my foreground is black and my background is white. If yours isn't, you can press D and then X on your keyboard. Then I look in the Tool Options Bar and I look in the Gradient field here and make sure it's showing a black to white gradient. If it isn't, click on the gradient and choose the foreground to Background gradient from these presets, and click OK.

Then I am going to go to the Layers panel and make sure that I have the Levels layer selected with the layer mask highlighted. Finally, I will come into the image, and I am going to draw a black to white gradient starting at the top of the screen and I will end around the middle of the image. It doesn't really matter where you end or in which direction you pull this line, you will just get a different result every time. So what I've done is to mask out this Levels adjustment from the top of the image and allow it to completely show through where the cliffs are.

Let me show you the mask that I just made by adding that black to white gradient to the Levels mask. I will hold down the Option key on a Mac, that's the Alt key on a PC, and click on the mask to show it here in the document window. The black hides, the white shows, and the gray only partially shows the Levels adjustment. I will Option or Alt+Click again on the icon on the Levels layer to come back and see the image. Now, let me show you yet another way to do something similar. This time, I am going to be using the second image, tent.psd, which is here in this tab, and what I want to do here is to make a selection first and then to apply an adjustment layer and the selection will automatically act as a mask.

Let me show you how. I am going to go to the toolbox and select the Quick Selection tool there. I am coming into the image and I am just going to drag out a selection, and I am going to include the sky as well as the red tent. I want to apply a Levels adjustment to the foreground part, which is too dark, and leave the awning and the sky as they are. So I need to invert the selection. For that I will go to the Select menu at the top of the screen and choose Inverse or I can use the shortcut Command+Shift+I or Ctrl+Shift+I on a PC.

Now I am going to feather the edge of this selection by going to the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar and there I am going to drag the feather way up high. This is pretty extreme but I don't want to see any transition between the adjustment on the foreground and the rest of the image. So I click OK and now I am ready to create a Levels adjustment layer. To do that, I will go to the Adjustments panel, and I will click the Levels icon there and then I will drag the White slider on the Levels histogram over to the left until it touches the pixels that represent tones in this image.

And then I will drag the Gray slider over to the left to lighten the whole thing. Now, let's take a look at what I have done. I am going to press the Preview button at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. That's how it was. That's how it is. So you can see that this adjustment is now affecting just the foreground, which I'd selected before I created the Levels adjustment. If you'd like to see that mask, I will hold the Option key and click on it in the Layers panel. Here is my mask with black hiding the adjustment, white showing the adjustment, and the gray in between caused by the feathering of the selection, letting the adjustment partially show through.

I will Option or Alt+Click again on the Levels adjustment mask icon. There are going to be many times when you want to limit the reach of an adjustment. No matter what kind of adjustment layer you've made, Levels or Curves, Hue/Saturation, Black & White, you can use these very same techniques I've just showed you to hide the adjustment on a portion of your image.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 Essential Training
Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

103 video lessons · 67328 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
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  1. 2m 31s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Using the example files
      1m 4s
  2. 25m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 25s
    2. Working with tabbed documents
      5m 15s
    3. Using tools efficiently
      3m 51s
    4. Arranging panels
      3m 53s
    5. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      2m 50s
    6. Saving a custom workspace
      3m 0s
    7. Changing screen modes
      2m 0s
  3. 19m 3s
    1. Touring the Bridge interface
      6m 31s
    2. Opening images from Bridge
      1m 20s
    3. Reviewing images
      4m 42s
    4. Finding images
      6m 30s
  4. 44m 53s
    1. Setting preferences
      4m 23s
    2. Choosing color settings
      8m 11s
    3. Zooming and panning
      5m 27s
    4. Resizing and image resolution
      3m 17s
    5. Adding to the canvas
      2m 2s
    6. Rotating the canvas
      1m 44s
    7. Choosing color
      4m 49s
    8. Sizing a brush tip
      3m 4s
    9. Undoing and the History panel
      5m 0s
    10. Saving and file formats
      3m 29s
    11. Creating a file from scratch
      3m 27s
  5. 37m 58s
    1. Making geometric selections
      6m 14s
    2. Modifying selections
      4m 43s
    3. Combining selections
      3m 16s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool
      5m 34s
    5. Refining selection edges
      4m 12s
    6. Using Quick Mask mode
      2m 18s
    7. Selecting with the improved Color Range command
      4m 32s
    8. Selecting with the Magnetic Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    9. Using the Background Eraser tool
      3m 7s
    10. Saving selections
      1m 34s
  6. 39m 56s
    1. Understanding layers
      5m 43s
    2. Creating layers
      5m 12s
    3. Working in the Layers panel
      2m 19s
    4. Locking layers
      4m 17s
    5. Working with multiple layers
      4m 6s
    6. Merging and flattening layers
      3m 55s
    7. Adding a shape layer
      4m 43s
    8. Basic layer masking
      4m 23s
    9. Using layer blend modes and opacity
      5m 18s
  7. 23m 19s
    1. Cropping
      3m 26s
    2. Straightening
      3m 17s
    3. Transforming
      4m 42s
    4. Working with Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    5. Using Content-Aware Scaling
      5m 6s
  8. 1h 10m
    1. Reading histograms
      4m 21s
    2. Using adjustment layers and the Adjustment panel
      6m 4s
    3. Adjusting tones with Levels
      7m 49s
    4. Limiting adjustments with layer masks
      5m 40s
    5. Using masks in the new Masks panel
      6m 9s
    6. Limiting adjustments by clipping
      3m 6s
    7. Adjusting with Shadow/Highlight
      5m 7s
    8. Adjusting with Curves
      7m 37s
    9. Adjusting with Hue/Saturation
      3m 42s
    10. Adjusting with Vibrance
      2m 16s
    11. Removing a color cast
      4m 26s
    12. Using the Black & White adjustment layer
      2m 39s
    13. Using the Dodge Burn and Sponge tools
      4m 11s
    14. Reducing noise
      2m 39s
    15. Sharpening
      4m 42s
  9. 38m 0s
    1. Using the Spot Healing Brush tool
      5m 17s
    2. Using the Healing Brush tool
      5m 51s
    3. Using the Patch tool
      4m 52s
    4. Using the Clone Stamp tool
      4m 8s
    5. Enhancing eyes
      9m 29s
    6. Changing facial structure
      5m 0s
    7. Softening skin
      3m 23s
  10. 44m 38s
    1. What's a raw image?
      4m 25s
    2. Touring the Camera Raw interface
      7m 35s
    3. Working in the Basic panel
      7m 54s
    4. Working in the Tone Curve panel
      2m 21s
    5. Working in the HSL/Grayscale and Split Toning panels
      3m 46s
    6. Looking at the other Camera Raw panels
      3m 45s
    7. Using the Adjustment Brush tool
      4m 2s
    8. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 56s
    9. Working with multiple files
      6m 54s
  11. 21m 6s
    1. Using the Brushes panel
      8m 30s
    2. Filling with color
      3m 49s
    3. Replacing color
      4m 14s
    4. Using gradients
      4m 33s
  12. 16m 55s
    1. Working with point type
      9m 59s
    2. Working with paragraph type
      3m 17s
    3. Warping text
      3m 39s
  13. 25m 23s
    1. Adding a layer style
      4m 6s
    2. Customizing a layer style
      3m 35s
    3. Copying a layer style
      3m 5s
    4. Creating a new style
      3m 32s
    5. Using Smart Filters
      5m 22s
    6. Working in the Filter Gallery
      5m 43s
  14. 13m 14s
    1. Auto-blending focus
      4m 47s
    2. Creating Photomerge panoramas
      4m 2s
    3. Combining group photos
      4m 25s
  15. 23m 27s
    1. Creating an action
      7m 16s
    2. Batch processing with an action
      6m 36s
    3. Using the Image Processor
      9m 35s
  16. 29m 20s
    1. Printing
      11m 32s
    2. Making a contact sheet from Bridge
      6m 12s
    3. Creating a web gallery from Bridge
      7m 17s
    4. Preparing photos for the web
      4m 19s
  17. 30s
    1. Goodbye
      30s

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