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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
More often than not, if I want to apply a targeted adjustment to an image, I'm actually going to apply multiple targeted adjustments to that same area. For example, if I wanted to adjust the pebbles in the foreground of this image, I might want to increase contrast, increase saturation, and also shift the color balance. In other words, I want three adjustments for one specific area. You can certainly create multiple adjustment layers, each with their own layer mask, that focuses the adjustment on those pebbles. But it's much more efficient if we create a selection once, and utilize one layer mask for all of those adjustments. Let me show you what I mean.
I'm going to start off by loading the selection that I've already saved with this image. So I'll go to the Select menu and choose Load selection. The pebbles selection is the one I want, and so I'll choose that from the channel popup, and then click OK in order to load that selection. Now, because I only want a single layer mask controlling the behavior of multiple adjustments, I'm not going to start off by adding my adjustments. But instead I'm going to add a layer group. That's essentially a folder that can contain multiple adjustment layers.
So, at the bottom of the layers panel I'll click on the Folder icon to add a layer group. And you can see that, that adds a group, or a folder to my layers stack. I'll double click on the name for that group, and I'm going to call this Pebbles Adjustment, so I'll type that in, and then press Enter or Return on the keyboard to apply that name change. And now I'm going to add a layer mask to this layer group. Yes, I can add a layer mask to a layer group, and then everything inside that layer group will be constrained based on that layer mask. So, with my selection active, and my Pebbles Adjustment layer group active on the layers panel, I can simply click the Add Layer Mask button in order to add a layer mask to my layer group, based on the active selection. Of course, this layer group and this layer mask are accomplishing nothing just yet, but that's about to change.
I'm going to add an adjustment. And because my layer group is currently active, the adjustment layer that I add will go inside that layer group. I'll go ahead and add a curves adjustment, for example. And then on the properties panel, I'll apply an adjustment with that curves adjustment, and you can see that I'm only affecting the pebbles. I'll go ahead and apply another change. So for example, I'll add a color balance adjustment and then I'll shift the color balance for that area of the image, and you can see that once again, only the pebbles are being affected by that change.
Perhaps I'll adjust the saturation as well, so I'll add a vibrance adjustment, and I can increase or decrease the saturation of that area as I see fit. So now I have a single layer mask that is constraining the behavior of at the moment three adjustment layers. And that's because the layer mask is attached to the layer group. And I have multiple adjustment layers inside that layer group. The beauty of this is that if I decide that there's a problem with my layer mask, I only have to fix it in one place.
I can go directly to the layer mask for my layer group and fine tune this layer mask to clean up any problems and all 3 of my adjustments will therefore be affected as well. So utilizing a layer mask with a layer group in order to constrain adjustments is a very efficient way of working, when you want to apply to multiple adjustments to the same area of a photo.
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