Adjustment Layer

What You'll Do

In this lesson, you'll create an adjustment layer, choose Brightness/Contrast as the type of adjustment layer, adjust brightness and contrast settings for the layer, and then use the Layers palette to change the blending mode of the adjustment layer.

Understanding Adjustment Layers

An adjustment layer is a special layer that acts as a color filter for a single layer or for all the layers beneath it. Just as you can use a layer mask to edit the layer content without permanently deleting pixels on the image, you can create an adjustment layer to adjust color and tone. If you were to make changes directly on the original layer, the changes would be irreversible. (You could use the Undo feature or the History palette to undo your changes, but only in the current Photoshop session.) However, the color changes you make to the adjustment layer exist only in the adjustment layer.

Creating an Adjustment Layer

You can create an adjustment layer by selecting the layer you want to adjust, then using the Layer menu to click a new adjustment layer command or by clicking the Create new fill or adjustment layer button on the Layers palette. When you create an adjustment layer, you must specify which of the color adjustments you want to use. Color adjustments made directly on a layer or using an adjustment layer are described in Table 1.

QUICKTIP

If you use the Create new fill or adjustment layer button on the Layers palette, you'll see three additional menu items: Solid Color, Gradient, and Pattern. You use these commands to create fill layers, which fill a layer with a solid color.

Modifying an Adjustment Layer

You can change the adjustment layer settings by double-clicking the layer thumbnail on the adjustment layer. Photoshop identifies the type of adjustment layer on the Layers palette by including the type of adjustment layer in the layer name.

Using Multiple Adjustment Layers

You can use as many adjustment layers as you want, but you must create them one at a time. At first glance, this might strike you as a disadvantage, but when you're

working on an image, you'll find it to be an advantage. By adding one or more adjustment layers, you can experiment with a variety of colors and tones, then hide and show each one to determine the one that best suits your needs. Adjustment layers can also contain layer masks, which allow you to fine-tune your alterations by painting just the adjustment layer mask.

Merging Adjustment Layers

You can merge adjustment layers with any visible layers in the image, including linked layers. You cannot, however, merge one adjustment layer with another adjustment layer. Merging adjustment layers reduces file size and ensures that your adjustments will be permanent.

TABLE 1: Color Adjustments

color adjustment

description

color adjustment

description

Levels

Sets highlights and shadows by

Gradient Map

Maps the equivalent grayscale range of an image

increasing the tonal range of pixels,

to colors of a specific gradient fill.

while preserving the color balance.

Photo Filter

Similar to the practice of adding a color filter to

Curves

Makes adjustments to an entire

a camera lens to adjust the color balance and

tonal range, using three variables:

color temperature.

highlights, shadows, and midtones.

Shadow/Highlight

Used to correct images with silhouetted images

Color Balance

Changes the overall mixture of color.

due to strong backlighting, as well as brighten-

Brightness/Contrast

Makes simple adjustments to a

ing up areas of shadow in an otherwise well-lit

tonal range.

image. (Available on the Image > Adjustments menu.)

Hue/Saturation

Changes position on the color wheel

Invert

Converts an image's brightness values to the

(hue) or purity of a color (saturation).

inverse values on the 256-step color-values scale.

Match Color

Changes the brightness, color

Threshold

Converts images to high-contrast, black-and-

saturation, and color balance in

white images.

an image.

Equalize

Redistributes brightness values of pixels so that

Replace Color

Replaces specific colors using a mask.

they evenly represent the entire range of

Selective Color

Increases or decreases the number of

brightness levels.

process colors in each of the additive

Posterize

Specifies the number of tonal levels for each

and subtractive primary color

channel.

components.

Variations

Adjusts the color balance, contrast, and

Channel Mixer

Modifies a color channel, using a mix

saturation of an image, and shows alternative

of current color channels.

thumbnails.

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