Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Using a layer group, part of Photoshop CS6: Selections and Layer Masking.
I try to make an effort to work as efficiently as possible, and when it comes to applying adjustments in a targeted way, I try to make sure that I am retaining as much flexibility as possible, but also making sure that I'm minimizing any work I might need to do later, if I need to fix something. For example, with this image if I wanted to modify the sky I would probably start by creating the selection of the sky and then add an adjustment layer, so that the layer mask associated with that adjustment layer reflects the selection. But if I apply several adjustments, that means I'll have several copies of the same layer mask on each of the individual adjustments that I'm adding.
That can be problematic if I later discover that my selection was less than perfect, and so I need to modify the layer mask. That would mean modifying several layer masks in the same way. There's a smarter approach, though, that will enable you to use a single layer mask for multiple adjustments. Let's take a look at how it's done. I'll go ahead and start by creating a selection of the sky. I'll use the Magic Wand tool and then simply click in the sky and Shift Click in a few additional areas of the sky, so that we're able to add to that selection until we have what we believe to be a perfect selection.
For illustrative purposes only, I'm going to make sure that this selection is not perfect. I'll go ahead and choose the Lasso tool, and then I'll hold the Shift key to access the Add to Selection option. And I'm just going to add an area to the selection essentially taking a chunk out of the roof, adding that as part of the selected area of the photo. The idea here is if I added several adjustment layers, each with a layer mask based on this flawed selection, then I would need to go back and fix that layer mask in three different places.
Instead I'm going to use a single layer mask for multiple adjustments. The key is to add a layer group. So at the bottom of the Layers panel, I'm going to click on the Add Layer Group button. It looks like a file folder. That will add a layer group. I'll double-click on the name and type a new name. We'll just call this Sky, and I'll press enter to apply that change. And then with my selection active, I'm going to add a layer mask to the layer group. So I'll click on the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the layers panel. And you can see now, that this layer group has a layer mask that reflects my selection.
Now, with this layer group active, I'm going to add an adjustment layer. We'll start off with a curves adjustment, for example. And you can that that curves adjustment has been added inside my sky layer group. And so the layer mask associated with that layer group is constraining the visibility of my curves adjustment. So the curves adjustment is only affecting the sky, well, only the sky and a bit of the roof, in this case, but I'll fix that in a moment. First let's add another adjustment. I'll assume that I'd like to increase the vibrance for the sky, for example.
And maybe I'll shift the color balance for the sky. At the moment I'm being a little bit arbitrary in my adjustments of course. I just want to make it clear that I can apply multiple adjustments that are all constrained with one layer mask. And of course if I later discover my little mistake here, I can fix it very, very easily in only one place. I don't need to fix layer masks for multiple adjustment layers. I can simply go back to the layer mask associated with my layer group and then correct just that layer mask. That one layer mask, effecting the behavior of multiple adjustments. I'll go ahead and choose the Brush tool.
And then I'll make sure that I'm working with a hard edge brush, since I've not yet feathered the layer mask and I had not feathered the selection. And then I can paint with black to block the adjustment or white to reveal the adjustment. In this case I want to block the adjustment from this portion of the roof, so I'll press the letter X to switch my foreground and background colors so that black is my foreground color. And of course if I didn't have the default colors set initially I could also press the letter D on the keyboard to set the colors to black and white. Or in this case white and black since I'm working on a layer mask and then press X to switch foreground and background colors.
But now that I have black as my foreground color I can simply paint over this area in order to block the adjustment from that portion of the image. So again, I'm only modifying a single layer mask but it is affecting the visibility of multiple adjustments. And of course I can add as many adjustment layers as I'd like inside this layer group. So by using a layer group with the layer mask attached to it, I'm able to use a single layer mask to constrain the visibility of multiple adjustments making sure that I can work as efficiently as possible, especially if I ever need to modify that layer mask later.
- Anti-aliasing and selections
- The case for not feathering selections
- Adding, subtracting, and intersecting
- Inverting a selection
- Mixing and matching selection tools
- Advanced selection techniques
- Creating composite images
- Applying targeted adjustments