Join Jan Kabili for an in-depth discussion in this video Using adjustment layers and the Adjustment panel, part of Photoshop CS4 Essential Training.
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When you're correcting colors or tones in your photographs, the best way to work is to apply adjustment layers rather than to apply direct adjustments. Adjustments layers are preferable because they won't permanently change the pixels in your photographs. Another benefit of adjustment layers is that they remain editable. So you can come back at any time even after you've saved and closed a file and tweak the adjustments that you've made. In Photoshop CS4, adjustments have gotten even better, because now there's a separate panel, the Adjustments panel, from which you can apply and manage your adjustment layers.
My Adjustments panel is open over here. If yours isn't open, you can open it from the Window menu at the top of the screen. There are two main sections to this panel. In the top portion are icons that represent all of the available adjustment layers. If I click here, I'll apply a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. Here is Levels adjustment layer, a Curves adjustment layer. Down here is a Black/White adjustment layer, a Hue/saturation adjustment layer, a Vibrance adjustment layer and more.
We will be looking at some of these in detail in other movies. For now, I'd like you to see how the Adjustments panel works and get a sense of the benefits of using adjustment layers. The bottom part of the Adjustments panel consists of presets for each of the kinds of adjustment layers. We will take a closer look there in a minute. But first let's go ahead and apply an adjustment layer. This photo is a little dark. So I am going to start with a Brightness /Contrast adjustment layer right here. I will click that icon and two things happen.
First, the Adjustments panel changes to show me just the controls for the Brightness/Contrast adjustment. And second, down in the Layers panel, you will see a new Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. An adjustment layer looks a little different than other kinds of layers. It has this adjustment icon on the left and it comes with its own layer mask. In another movie, I'll show you how to use that layer mask to control the areas where an adjustment appears and where it's hidden. For now, let's go up to the Adjustments panel and I'll work with these two sliders.
The Brightness slider darkens the photo if I pull it to the left and brightens the photo if I go to the right. I am going to brighten this photo a bit. And you'll notice that that histogram in the panel above changed when I made that adjustment. I use the Histogram panel as a guide. For example if I go too far with the brightness adjustment, I will see a spike over here on the right side of the histogram. That will tell me that I went too far and I will back off a little on the adjustment. In the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment panel I also can adjust contrast, lowering contrast by pulling to the left or increasing contrast by pulling to the right.
You can have more than one adjustment layer on an image. So let's go back to the Adjustments panel in its initial state and add another adjustment layer. To do that, I will click this green arrow at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. That takes me back to the initial view and from here, I am going to click on another adjustment layer icon, the Black & White Adjustment icon right here. You can see that the Adjustments panel is now replaced with all the controls for the Black & White adjustment. And in the Layers panel, there is a second adjustment layer, a Black & White adjustment layer.
I will leave the controls in the Black & White adjustment layer at their default for now. As you can see the image has changed to black and white. I am going to leave all these controls at their defaults for now, and I am going to go back in assume that I am working else where in my image, making other adjustments and tweaks. And then say that I decide that I don't like the way the Black & White adjustment is. I would like to change it a little. At any time, I can come back and just click on that Black & White adjustment layer and my controls come up to the same settings as I left them.
At this point, I can change the adjustment however I like. I could move any of these sliders, or I could just come up and click Tint, and that will change the black and white look of the image to a tinted or a colorized look. I did that because I want to show you the Preview icons at the bottom of the Adjustments panel. If I click this Eye icon, I am taken all the way back to before I applied any black and white adjustments. I will turn that back on to show you the next icon here. If I click on this icon and hold, I get a preview of the last state of the Black & White adjustment.
If I want to return to the last state of this adjustment, I click the next icon, and I go back to before I added the tint. If I want to delete the Black & White adjustment completely, I can click this trashcan and I can click Yes in this dialog box, and the Black & White adjustment layer disappears from the Layers panel. I would like to show you one more thing about the Adjustments panel. So I am going to go back to its initial view by clicking this large green arrow. And I wanted to show you how easy it is to apply an adjustment layer preset.
Let's say that I think I need a little more contrast in his image. I can just click on the arrow to the left of Levels presets, scroll down this list of available presets, and choose the one that I want. I am going to try Increase Contrast 2. That did increase the contrast in the image. It also opened the Levels controls here in the Adjustments panel and it added a Levels adjustment layer in my Layers panel. At this point I could come up to this menu at the top of the Levels Adjustments panel, and I could choose a different preset.
They appear here as well as in the initial Adjustments panel. Or I could leave things as they are or I could tweak these adjustments as necessary. I am going to leave them as they are for now, and recommend again that when you need to adjust your photographs, you turn to adjustment layers rather than direct adjustments. When you use adjustment layers, you can feel confident that you are preserving your original image and that you can come back at any time and tweak or even delete your adjustment.
- Learning and customizing the interface and workspace
- Utilizing various manual and guided selection techniques
- Working with Adobe Camera Raw
- Adding special effects with layer styles and Smart Filters
- Creating Photomerge panoramas
- Optimizing photos for the web and creating web galleries