Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
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.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
164 Video lessons · 45097 Viewers
64 Video lessons · 83020 Viewers
86 Video lessons · 53232 Viewers
148 Video lessons · 90220 Viewers