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2.3 Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers are wondrous things in Photoshop. They combine the editing power of the Image > Adjustments menu features with all the flexibility of Layers. Once you master using Adjustment Layers, your workflow will never be the same again.

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2.3 Adjustment Layers

Hello, everybody, welcome back to Advanced Photoshop Techniques. We are now on lesson 2.3, where we take a look at adjustment layers. So we're back here in Photoshop again, and I've got another image prepared here with two layers that are identical to each other. One's just a copy of the other one. And I want to show you how adjustment layers contribute to this idea of nondestructive editing. Let's first start out with this beach 1 layer. If we go to the image menu, there is this adjustment sub-menu that contains a lot of very useful tools that are used quite frequently for adjusting things like color, or lighting, or the luminous values within a layer or image. For example, if we go to the Hue/Saturation, this is a very common technique where we would change some of the hue by using the hue slider and maybe add some saturation to it. You can see how in this top layer that sunset is becoming really yellow, and the skies are very blue, and it's drastically changing the colors. So I'm gonna remember these settings. That's +7 and +65, hit OK. Now that Image Adjustment menu is a destructive way of creating these changes. The non destructive way of going about doing the same thing would be using adjustment layers. So let's use this Beach2 here, go to the Adjustments panel, and select the hue saturation from there. And we get the same settings up here in this properties box and we'll use just what we did before, 7 and 65. Notice there's no okay in this, cuz we're not actually applying this effect. This serves as almost like a lens or a filter in which our view goes through, because it's another layer. Also notice it's impacting both of these layers because it's sitting up here on top of them. If we didn't want this original layer to be impacted by that, one solution is to move it up above the adjustment layer. So the adjustment layers only impacting the pixels on the layers that are beneath it. As we toggle it on and off you can see it clearly had an effect on that bottom layer. Now notice this top layer, those pixels are irreversibly changed. We cannot easily get that original color back but by having this as a adjustment layer you can easily turn it on and off, or you can remove it entirely. You can delete this out completely. Something to note though, is that not only is it making a difference to the layer, it's also making a difference to this grey background. And that's a little difficult to see. Just for illustrative purposes I'm going to click this colorize box to show you how it does impact that gray background as well. So if we only wanted to affect this beach two layer the best solution is to clip it to it. And we do that by using the alt or the option key. And hold that down while we mouse right between these layers, and we clip it just to that. Now you can see how that hue saturation adjustment is only taking place on this bottom layer, even though it is above that grey layer too. And the main advantage of using this as an adjustment layer is not only because it preserves the pixels of that original layer, but also because the effect is live, which means you can still go in and readjust this. If we say we wanted that hue brought down a little bit and that saturation is really just way too hot, pull that down some too. It's really a very flexible and dynamic way of editing these images. And there's more to it than that too. You can stack these up if you wanted to have curves adjustment layer on top of it too. You can still do that. And again, you probably want to clip that to the other one. There's still more even. Each of these adjustment layers have their own layer mask. Which means you can have even more control over the pixels of that layer that this adjustment layer is affecting. So once again, let's try using this Gradient tool and we can fade this adjustment out along the image so it's only affecting the sky, and not the sandy area here. And it doesn't end there. Because this is a layer, it has all the other layer properties. For example, you can change the blending mode. Why necessarily you'd want to do this? I'm not entirely sure. It can lead to some interesting results and it's fun to play with. You can change the opacity. You can change the fill. You can even add layer styles. That's right. You can add layer styles to your adjustment layers. I think this squarely falls into the category of why would I want to do that, and I'm not entirely certain. But, it's here, it's available, you may be able to find some very creative uses or applications for this. In my own personal view, one of the most useful aspects of using adjustment layers is that it's easy to just keep what these settings are. if you find a hue saturation values that you really like and you like how it works within an image, you keep that as an adjustment layer and then this can be copied, and you never have to worry about trying to re-find what those settings were so that you can duplicate them again exactly. It's all contained within the adjustment layer. For example, let's say we copied it up to this top one, and now I'm holding down the Alt key as I'm dragging this layer up, which means it's creating a duplicate of that layer and it still holds the same settings. For me, this is just a really easy way of keeping track of the way I set things up and knowing that I can reproduce the effects exactly. Especially on something like curves, if you spend a long time crafting a very specific curve sometimes that's hard to reproduce exactly. You don't have to worry about trying to. Just use it as an adjustment layer and you can always drag that over onto even new files or above different layers to reapply it. Adjustment layers are one of the greatest features in the entire program, when it comes to a nondestructive workflow. They contain all the power of image adjustments, with the benefits of layers. Learn to use them well within your own work and you'll find they become a fundamental tool that you use in any of your digital art.

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