Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Introduction to adjustment layers, part of Photoshop CC Image Optimization.
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I'm a huge advocate, of a non-destructive work flow in Photoshop. What that means is that with every adjustment, I'm applying, no matter what type of adjustment it might be, I'm always focused on not changing the original underlying pixel values. In a general sense, what that means is that I'm never changing pixel values on my background image layer. If I need to work directly on a pixel layer, I'll either create a new pixel layer, or I'll make a copy of an existing pixel layer. And in the case of adjustments, it means I'm always going to work with adjustment layers, whenever that's possible. Let's take a look at what an adjustment layer is, and get some sense of why they're so helpful.
Adjustment layers can be added by clicking on the Add Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the layers panel. I'll go ahead and click that button, and you can see we get a pop-up listing all of the available adjustments. That can be applied as an adjustment layer. I'll go ahead and choose one of these. I'll just simply choose Hue/Saturation in this case. And you'll see that a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer has been added on my layers panel. And I now have a set of controls for that hue/saturation adjustment on the Properties panel. So for example, I could shift the hue around, which in this case would not be all that good a result.
It's certainly interesting, but not something I'm likely to do for a photographic image. And I can also adjust the overall saturation, making the colors more or less intense for example. But let's not worry about the particulars of this specific adjustment, but rather just the simple fact that I'm applying adjustments separate of the actual image layer. In other words, separate of the pixels. I'm not actually changing the original pixel values in my background image layer. But rather, I'm adding a set of instructions.
In this case, for example, I might be telling Photoshop to shift the hue, and increase the saturation. But those adjustments have not actually affected the underlying pixel values. They're simply a set of additional instructions that I've applied to change the appearance of the image. To illustrate that, I can turn off the visibility of my hue saturation adjustment layer and now you see the original image. And that's one of the benefits of working with adjustment layers is that because we're separating the adjustment from the pixels, we can turn that adjustment off and on at anytime.
In order to see a before and after version of the image. Before the adjustment was applied by turning off the visibility of that adjustment layer and after that adjustment was applied by turning the visibility of the layer back on. The use of adjustment layers also means that I'm always able to go back, and refine my adjustment. So, if I don't like the effect of one of my adjustments, I can go back and make a change. And making that change doesn't reduce the quality of the underlying image.
I can adjust the settings for an adjustment layer as many times as I want, and it still only counts as a single adjustment. By contrast, if I were to apply multiple adjustments directly to the pixel values, over time I'm degrading the quality of the image. I'm reducing the level of detail in the image. For example, an adjustment layers help us to prevent those sorts of problems, there are of course a variety of different adjustments available. But the key thing to keep in mind is that whenever possible if you can use an adjustment layer to apply a particular adjustment.
You should do so because it helps to insure maximum flexibility as well as maximum image quality as you continue optimizing your photos.
- Configuring the Photoshop interface
- Basic RAW conversion
- Reviewing, refining, and resetting adjustments
- Cropping the image
- Improving tonality and color
- Using the Shadows/Highlights adjustment
- Dodging and burning
- Working with Curves
- Adding tints and vignettes
- Converting to black and white