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One of the primary uses of the Layer Mask is to apply a targeted adjustment. In other words, an adjustment that only effects a specific area of a photo. And one of the easiest ways to define which area of an image should be adjusted. And which area should not, is to paint to define those areas. In the context of a layer mask, black blocks and white reveals. And when we're talking about an adjustment, what we really mean is that black blocks the effect of that adjustment, and white reveals the effect of that adjustment. So, let's take a look at how we can apply a targeted adjustment by effectively painting areas of the image that define where we want to see the adjustment. I'll start off by adding an Adjustment Layers, so I'll go to the bottom of the Layers panel, and I'll click on the half-black, half-white circle icon. The Add Adjustment Layer button.
And from the popup that appears, in this case I'll choose Levels because I want to darken the left portion of the image without darkening the right portion or the image. Once I choose Levels, you'll see that a Levels Adjustment Layer has been added to the Layers panel and that layer has a layer mask attached to it. The layer mask is filled with white by default, which means that the adjustment will effect the entire image. So if I go down to the Properties panel and adjust the Levels Adjustment Layers, you'll see that I'm darkening or lightening the image. But I'm affecting the entire image, and that of course, is because the layer mask is filled with white and so the adjustment is revealed everywhere. But we can paint black into some of the areas of that layer mask in order to block the adjustment.
Or I could even fill that layer mask with black and then paint white where I want to see the adjustment. I actually prefer this approach because it means I'm then painting the adjustment into the image rather than painting it out of it, and that just makes more sense in my mind but either approach is perfectly fine. I'll go ahead and fill this layer mask with black, so I'll choose Edit > Fill from the menu, and then choose Black from the Use popup and click OK. Of course, I could have also just inverted that layer mask to switch it from white to black.
But now, because my layer mask is filled with black, the effect of this Adjustment Layer is blocked for the entire image. So I cannot see the effect of that levels adjustment. I do want the adjustment to affect part of the image. And so I'll choose the Brush tool from the Toolbox and then press the letter D on the keyboard to set the colors to their default values of black and white, and then I can adjust my Brush settings. I'll go ahead, for example, and choose just a regular soft-edged Round brush. And make sure that the Blend Mode on the Options Bar is set to Normal and the Opacity is at 100%.
And now, I can paint with white In the image in order to reveal my adjustment. I'll increase the Brush Size just a little bit. You can use the left square bracket key to reduce the brush size or the right square bracket key to increase the brush size. And then you can simply paint in order to, in this case, reveal that Levels Adjustment or the darkening effect in a portion of the image. So, I've used the Brush tool to paint the effect into the image, essentially, just painting with black in areas that I want to block the adjustment or white in areas that I want to reveal the adjustment.
It's a simple way to modify a layer mask determining which portions of the image will be affected by an Adjustment Layer.
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