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I'm a huge advocate of a non-destructive workflow in Photoshop. And what that means is that instead of working directly on the pixels, on my background image layer for example, I want to work with separate layers. And that include both adjustments that just alter the appearance of the image, as well as all of my image clean-up work, creative effects, anything that I'm doing. In the context of image clean-up, what that means for the most part is that whenever possible, we're going to use a separate image layer for our clean up. This certainly isn't mandatory, but I consider it to be very, very important in terms of maximizing your flexibility. The ability to go back and change your mind.
Maybe to decide you didn't actually want to clean something up. Or perhaps you didn't do the best job possible in that clean up and you'd like to go back and fix it a little bit. I'll give you simple example. In this image we have some blemishes as it were some dirt and crud that is attached to the fence here. And I'd like to eliminate some of that. I could use a variety of different techniques. But what I want to emphasize at the moment is that I'm going to use a separate image layer for this clean up work. Instead of working on my background image layer. I'll go ahead and click the Create New Layer button.
That will add a new layer that I can perform my image cleanup work on. I also encourage you to rename your layers so that you know why they're there. You don't want to later see the layer and assume that it's empty. You can see that I have a checkerboard pattern here that indicates transparency, or the absence of pixels. And sometimes our cleanup work is done in very, very small areas and so you might assume that's an empty layer that can be thrown away. By simply giving it a name such as cleanup you'll make sure that you always know why that layer is there so you don't inadvertently delete the layer. I'll go ahead and just use the Clone Stamp tool to perform some very basic cleanup.
Don't worry too much about the specific techniques I'm using at the moment. Just understand that I'm performing some very basic cleanup effect. And that I'm going to do that on a separate layer. So when I copy pixels from one area of an image into another area of the image, in an effort to clean things up, to get rid of what I perceive to be a blemish, I'm doing that onto a separate layer. I can also do some blending here with the spot healing brush just to try to make sure that that image cleanup work blends in as seamlessly as possible. I'm not going to worry about trying to get that perfect though. I just want to illustrate this concept of working on a separate layer. If I later decide that for some reason I like that dirt that's hanging from this fence or that I'm just not happy with the quality of my results, I can always go back an clean it.
And that's because all of the corrections, all the clean-up work that I've done is contained on this Cleanup layer. I'll go ahead adn turn off the visibilty of that clean up layer and you can see that sure enough the original pixels are still in place on the Background Image Layer. I'm simply covering them up with pixels on a seperate layer, in fact ill turn off the background image layer so that you can see the cleanup work that was actually applied, so later if I decide some of this was less than ideal. I could for example erase some of the pixels on this clean-up layer.
I could also throw this clean-up layer away by dragging it to the trash can at the bottom of the Layers panel. The point is that by working a layer-based, non-destructive workflow, I'm ensuring that I can always come back to my image and fix or alter the clean-up that I've performed. It is important, of course, that since we're working with a layered document that we save our image in a format that supports layers. That generally means the Photoshop PSD file format or the TIF file format. We can do that by simply choosing File Save.
Note even though I'm starting with a JPEG image. Because I've added layers, Photoshop recognizes that I need to save this image in a different file format. And it defaults to the Photoshop PSD file format, you'll notice that the layers check box is turned on by default. And that ensures that if I save this image in this file format. That when I open it again later, the layers will still be there so that I can go back and fine tune my image to perfection. So I'll go ahead and click the Save button. And now my image has been saved. In this case as a Photoshop PSP file so that anytime I open this image, I'll have all of these layers intact.
I can always go back and refine my image, cleanup or just review my layers as needed.
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