Adjustment Layers in Photoshop
We talked about vector-based layers, we talked about raster-based layers, which were our first and second types of layers. The next type of layer that we need to talk about is going to be the adjustment layer. And the adjustment layer is, as we said, it's that calculation-based layer that's making calculations on what's happening below everything, and what better to show than something like a black and white conversion for this? So let's go ahead and open up these. Bring those into Photoshop. So, the adjustment layers, I typically have my layout setup like this in Photoshop. So my adjustment layers will be down here at the bottom. It's a little circle with a semicircle kind of cut through it. If you want to get to your adjustment layers in a different way, you can go up to Window and you can click on adjustments, and you're gonna see the adjustment layers folder. It's basically a folder of all the different adjustment layers that you have. I have never really quite gotten accustomed to...
this way of working with my adjustment layers. It's a total personal preference, if you choose that, that's fine. I tend to just use this little drop-down that's down here in the lower right-hand corner of my Layers palette. So, from these layers we have solid color layers, we have gradient fill, we have pattern, we have brightness and contrast, levels, curves, exposure, vibrance, hue/saturation, all kinds of different things that we can select from. What I want to talk about when I talk about adjustment layers is black and white conversions, because black and white conversions, there's many programs and there's many plugins out there to do black and white conversions. And I've never really been one to adopt any of them. I pretty much stay in Photoshop to do my black and white conversions. That being said, I do not convert my images to black and white in either Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom either. For those things I might actually use Adobe Camera Raw to see what my image might look like as a black and white, but I won't convert to black and white in Adobe Camera Raw. There's just, there's not enough capability there for me to do the things that I want to do with my black and white images. So just to give you an idea of some of the ways that you can convert your image to black and white. If you were to do something like desaturate your layer. So, by desaturating, we have three qualities of colors. We have hue, we have saturation, and we have luminance. Hue is simply, what color is the color? Saturation is, how intense is that color? And luminance is, how much black or how much white exists within that color? Okay, and those are three things to really understand when we get into black and white conversions. Because if every color has three possible things that can be edited, and we go into a program or even an adjustment layer here in Photoshop, that just allows us to adjust the luminance, we're missing out on two really key ingredients that could alter the color of the images in our black and white photographs. So if I were to desaturate this layer, and to desaturate is basically to just take all of the saturation that exists within a color and remove the saturation from it. So to do that, there's a hotkey for that. It's Control or Command + Shift + U. That's desaturation. There are some conversion methods out there that will desaturate your image. Watch what happens when we desaturate our photograph. We're taking all the highest potential of color in our image, we're dropping that saturation all the way down to make it 50% gray. So now all that color data, that beautiful color data that exists within your photograph is now washed to 50% gray. Now that wouldn't be every single color because obviously you're not gonna just do a black and white conversion and see a gray photograph. This is the highest potency of color being dropped down and reduced in saturation. So that would be your 255 red, the highest form of red dropping down into that 50% gray. You're basically just saying, pull the saturation out of that color. If there's different luminance within that color, or lightness or darkness in that color, you will still see a transition of colors translating to tones. But if we were to also use something like a hue/saturation adjustment layer on this, and drop the saturation down in the HSL, you see the same thing. This could be a color conversion method that you would use. As a matter of fact, if you go into something like Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, when you click Convert to Grayscale, it's just dropping the saturation down and then giving you the ability to manipulate the luminance values of the colors, and just the luminance values, rather than just the hue, the saturation, and the luminance. So if we look at another different adjustment layer, those were both adjustment layers, the hue/saturation was an adjustment layer. Or the first one was actually just desaturating the entire image. If we look at another adjustment layer, which is the black and white adjustment layer, this is another, it's a very valid form of making a black and white image. But what it's doing is it's calculating above everything that's going on below and showing you that in that representation for that layer that's above. So we said that vector-based images, pixel-based images, and adjustment layers, adjustment layers were kind of the wildcard. They work outside of the scope of regular image editing, because they calculate everything that goes on inside them. The cool thing about adjustment layers is that they know no bounds. So while our pixel layer might be this big, our adjustment layer is infinity. You can't grab an adjustment layer and move it around, it will always be the same. If it has a mask on it that's a different story, but we'll talk about masking later. So, when it knows, because it knows no bounds it has no limitation on its size. It's a calculation for what's happening for whatever you're giving it underneath. This is where we get into black and white conversions that could actually be pretty successful with something like the black and white tools that we have here. If we look here, this is changing the luminance value of the color red. It's making the red lighter, it's making the red darker. This is changing the luminance value of yellow, and this is the luminance value of green. That's what's happening to your images when you are doing a black and white conversion with that black and white layer. I do a lot of things with diagrams. As a matter of fact before I even jump into any type of black and white conversion, or if I'm testing any of the effects that I'm making, I'll do it on things like this. I'll do it on the color wheel to see what it's doing to my colors. Because it's one thing to do it on an image, but you notice if you do an effect, especially a black and white conversion on one image, and you pull it over to another image, and you're like, why doesn't it look the same as it did before? I mean, this could technically be a very easy process. I've got a great black and white adjustment layer that I use here. Why not just carbon copy it over to another image? Wouldn't it look fine all the time? It's not the same, because every image has different data that comes in. So we can't always use the exact same effects for other images. But there's one thing that I know that always stays stable, and that's the color wheel. The color wheel will always stay stable for me. It's always the highest potency of red, cyan, blue, magenta, and yellow. So another adjustment that I like to do when it comes to black and white conversions, and this is actually my preferred method for black and white conversions. There's many out there, those are just a couple of examples that I've showed you, is to use the gradient map. And the gradient map is a phenomenal way to do black and white conversions, because what do we notice that it's doing here? If we turn this layer on and off, look at the color blue and the color yellow for me, because those are our darkest and lightest colors. It's making our darkest and lightest colors as close as it possibly can to the color black and to the color white on the tonal spectrum, okay? So when you pull an image in and you do a gradient map conversion on it, it's assessing the colors in your image and turning those colors into tonal values, and it's doing it all in that calculation step that we see in that gradient map above. So it's not altering the image at all. It's not flattening it down, it's not doing anything destructive, and it's allowing us to see our image in terms of black to white in a gradient map. Now, the gradient map is based off of whatever tools you have in your tool, in your color palette. So if I click on this gradient map, if I were to change this to this red and green one, see what's happening here now. It's taking all of our darkest colors and it's turning them into reds. It's taking all of our lightest colors and it's turning those into greens. And this is not a black and white conversion by any stretch of the imagination, but what I'm showing you here is how a gradient map assesses the tones in your image, and applies whatever is on the left-hand side here to your darkest darks, and whatever is on the right-hand side here to your lightest lights. So our darkest darks are becoming red, our lightest lights are becoming green. And that's all a calculation that's happening within that adjustment layer. So I'm gonna change that back to that black and white, press OK. So, in looking at this adjustment layer, black and white conversion. We can look at an image like this, and we can change this into black and white by pressing the gradient map, and it doesn't just stop there though. Because we can stack these things, just like we stacked any of our circles and our squares before, we can stack adjustment layers. So this adjustment is a calculation for all of the colors in my images to turn into tones. But if I click on this background layer, and I add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer underneath it, now I'm getting access to the HSL, which is the hue, the saturation, and the lightness of the colors in my image underneath the gradient map. So, before we looked at the black and white adjustment layer, right? The black and white allowed us to just adjust the luminance values, which is a very great black and white adjustment. But this one allows us a lot more control. So right here in this adjustment layer, this calculation layer as we're calling them, if you look right here you'll see Master, and then you see Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Magentas, and Blues. We can individually go into the color red, change the hue of the color red, change the hue of the color yellow, or the saturation, or the luminance of those colors. So if I assess my image and I look at this image and I see what I'm looking at here, I've got some blue and I've got some yellow in the foreground. I don't necessarily need to know what those colors are either, because there's something right here called the Targeted Adjustment Tool. And if I click on this Targeted Adjustment Tool I can click on any of the areas in my image and it will tell me what color that is. So now not only do I get to manipulate the hue, saturation, and luminance of any of my colors, but I also get the ability to select the colors that I want to be more or less potent in terms of tone. So if I were to go to the saturation adjustment here, and bump up the saturation, you'll see an increased saturation in the color blue. If we go all the way up, it's really bad. It's pixelating, it's getting really bad, but we can also come down to the luminance of that color blue, and make that color blue a little bit darker. So there's our blue darker, there's our blue lighter. We can also adjust the hue of that blue, so if I move the hue over we can start getting that blue a little bit darker up there in that upper corner of our image. If we turn that gradient map off, you see what's happening to the colors. They don't look that great. The colors that are actually happening right now are not the most beautiful colors that we would use in a normal or traditional edit for a photo. But because we're working in the world of black and white photos here, having that gradient map above, we can alter the colors how we see fit underneath. So if I click on the hue/saturation adjustment layer, Targeted Adjustment Tool, click on my yellows, I can start increasing the luminance value of the yellows in the image. Maybe even the intensity of that yellow, and maybe even the hue of that yellow if I want that area to get darker or brighter. This gives you a lot of control over the image when you're doing black and white processing. The other really cool thing about this is the hue/saturation adjustment layer has this really cool feature down here that shows us exactly what color it's selecting as blue. So if you see this color right here, this top color is the color blue that we're selecting, but because we changed the hue down here, if you look at the secondary bar down there, that's saying that now our blues are actually a little bit more magenta. So if we manipulate this and move this over and make that a little bit darker there, we can also adjust the spread of what blue is. So, right here, we're just selecting blue, but we can transition this out a little bit more to grab some of our cyans. So this bar down here is one of those question mark bars. It's one of those things that you just, really you have to experiment with, to see how you can grab a certain color and extend its range into other colors. So yeah we selected blue, but we can add more of that cyan into there as well. Another very common adjustment layer that you're gonna see here, beyond the gradient map, is the curves and levels adjustments, and I really want to talk about curves and levels individually. So there's a lot of adjustment layers here and over the course of this course we're gonna be talking about a lot of these adjustment layers. Maybe not every single one of them, but they will sneak up here and there. But the ones that I really want to separate right now and talk about are levels and curves. Because curves, quite possibly, is one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop next to masking and some of the other features like selections. So, between those three things, we have unprecedented control over an image. But a lot of times people get curves and levels confused. So let's look at these other two calculations or adjustment layers, these are our two types of layers. I'm gonna put a Levels adjustment layer here, and I'm gonna put a Curves adjustment layer here. So if we look in our Properties here, I'm gonna go ahead and close this down so we get more. This group right here just needs to close. So we can see a little bit more here, okay, perfect. So if we look at the layer that we have here, we have a curves adjustment layer, and it pops us open with what looks like a histogram back here, and a line with two levels at the bottom, and we can move that line to manipulate the highlights, shadows, the highlights, midtones, and shadows of our image. The levels on the other hand gives us a histogram, and it gives a black point, a white point, and a midpoint. So if you look at how these two relate, they both give us the ability to manipulate the white point and the black point in our photographs. The curves is actually more of like a three dimensional look at levels. If you were talking about two and three dimensions now again on this secondary, this other level of thinking with Photoshop. Levels is two dimensional, or maybe one dimensional in that you can grab the points and move them in to make your image lighter or darker. So what this histogram is telling us here with this calculation layer, or adjustment layer, is that we don't have any white in this area of the photograph. There is no white that's happening right here. So if I move this over, we can start brightening up the image to make it a little bit more bright and white. So there was a low contrast, there's a more higher contrast now because we're adding more white to the image. On the same note, over here this is saying that we have very little black. The really interesting thing about this is if we press Alt or Option while we do this it's gonna show us where we start to get areas of what we call blowouts, okay? So this is again a temporary look at this calculation layer or this adjustment layer, that's telling us, hey your reds are blowing out in the left-hand side of the image, and now your blues and your cyans are starting to blowout or clip. So you're basically clipping off that information and saying, no, blue and cyan, where you are there, you are now white. So that curve information is really important. If we do this, it might look like it's a little bit better, but if we were to zoom into this image, it's just gonna be all white in a place that should have some detail. So we don't necessarily want to do that. so we'll press Alt or Option, pull this over until we just get a little bit of white information in there. If I go to the left-hand side, press Alt or Option, and now I can pull in on the black side. Get a little more shadows in there. Now we have an image that came in pretty low contrast, now has a higher contrast, or a much more greater range between areas of light and dark. Now, what's happening here? We have our pixel-based layer underneath that is not getting any modifications done to it, and we have our calculation layer above that is doing all of that work for us. If I turn those layers off, all we see is that pixel-based layer, and we have our adjustment layer or our calculation layer above. So, with levels here we also have the midtone slider, where we can tell the midtones to become a little bit darker or a little bit lighter, depending on where we want them to be in the image. And that is actually a pretty good adjustment for this photograph. But we get a little bit more advanced when we get into something like the curves adjustment layer. So I'm gonna turn this visible layer off here and make that invisible for now, and go to this curves adjustment layer. Notice how we still have the histogram, we still have our points on the right and left-hand side for our white point and our black point. If I press Alt or Option and move this over, again it's gonna show me where areas are blowing out in this or clipping in this image. I'll go ahead and do that over here too. Make our darks a little darker, our lights a little lighter. But we don't have a midtone adjustment here, do we? What we do we have is we have this curve, and this curve, it's a line. There's a lot of math that's happening here, like sine, cosine, tangent, all those things that I just don't have the brain for. But I do know this, and this is one thing that I want you to also grasp, is that we don't necessarily always need to know exactly what is happening with the math of something as long as we know how to repeat a pattern, okay? So as a child, I knew exactly what made my dad mad, and I never did it again. I knew the pattern, I knew how it repeated, and if I repeated that process, I would get in trouble. The same thing happens in Photoshop. If we do something and we like it, repeat it on another image. If it keeps giving you the same result, or a desired result or a result that you like, go with it. So with this curve, the pattern that we see here is that the lower block, these lower four blocks control our shadows. These middle blocks control our midtones, and these upper right blocks control our highlights. So if we were to grab this curve and move it up, I'm now telling my midtones to become lighter. But it's also smart, and it's not just saying, okay make the midtones lighter. It's feathering that lightness to the highlights and to the shadows. Unlike what we saw with levels. When we move levels, we basically just grab those midtones, we made them darker, we made them lighter. Whatever we did with those midtones, just made it darker or lighter. Whereas here we get the option to pull up in the midtones on that curve, and make them a little bit brighter. Pull them down, we make them darker. So if you can envision this curve, this curve is, the top of it will make things brighter, the bottom will make things darker. We have our highlights, we have our shadows, we have our midtones. So now let's think about this. We can make our highlights brighter, or our highlights darker. Our shadows darker or our shadows lighter. We can make our shadows lighter or our shadows darker. So, think about the sliders in Adobe Camera Raw. The sliders in Adobe Camera Raw give me, what, highlights, midtones, shadows, whites, blacks. But they don't give me the ability to make, to individually manipulate the dark areas of those shadows. It's just, you just get the shadows, you just get the highlights, you just get the midtones. When we talk about masking, when we talk about masking certain areas of the image, and then also bringing in the curves adjustment layer, unprecedented control over the images. So let's just start right here with the curve. So if I were to make a point right here, and a point right here, and a point right here, I am now individually segregating my highlights, my midtones, and my shadows. If I press Alt or Option right here, I can also bring in those white points and those black points to give me some information in the image. And now I can mark the darks brighter or the darks a little bit darker. I can make the midtones a little bit brighter, or the midtones a little bit darker, and the highlights a little bit brighter or the highlights a little bit darker. So the difference here is that not only do I get control over the points of the image, I also get control over, not just the white point and black point of the image, I also get control over what points I want to make brighter or darker within that curve. Now the curves adjustment layer is something that we're gonna see a lot throughout this course, because it's one of my absolute favorites, I love it. We're gonna touch a lot more on that curves adjustment layer. But what I want you to take away from this is that our first inclination is to reach for something like levels because it looks familiar. It looks like something that we can handle. It's got three settings here. It doesn't go too far outside of the spectrum of something like a slider in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. Whereas the curve is like whoa, I got this histogram, I've got these points, I've got this wavy little curve. But, if we talk about like a governor in a truck. A governor in a truck is designed to make that truck not go too fast, or not go over a certain speed limit, right? This doesn't have a governor, okay? So if I pull this all the way down and pull this all the way up, and pull this all the way down, it's gonna do some really nasty things to your photograph. So you do have to have a light hand on this. You don't want to be too heavy handed when it comes to your curves adjustment layers here and the work that you do with that. But, as we said, this is completely nondestructive. It's a calculation layer that is working on top of your pixel-based layer. Nothing has been edited, nothing has been destroyed, and at this point all we have to do for this is either reset that curve, we can reset that curve, or we can just delete it, and we don't need it anymore. The other thing about curves adjustment layers is when we get into individual colors is it allows us to not only do this for the RGB channel, which is what we're doing right now, which is all the luminance. When you put red, green, and blue together, it's the luminance in your image. But we can actually go into the individual colors, like the red channel, the green channel, and the blue channel individually. So if I were to click on red, this is allowing me to add more red to the image. If I bring it down, it's adding more cyan to the image. When we talk about these certain things in here, when we talk about the digital color wheel, the digital color wheel is designed in a way, which is the color wheel that we looked at before when we were doing our black and white images. I believe it was right here, yeah. So, looking at this color wheel, look at the relationship between red and cyan. They're across from each other on the color wheel. Look at the relationship between blue and yellow. They're across from each other on the color wheel. Look at the relationship between green and magenta. You can obviously say, Blake, yeah they're across from each other on the color wheel because we're repeating a pattern. But, where that is important is when we talk about editing our images. So when we look at this layer, and we look at the red channel now of the curve, I pull this up, it makes it more red. I pull it down it makes it more cyan. Look at the relationship on the color wheel. Their relationship on the color wheel is they are directly across from each other on that color wheel, so they are complementary colors of one another, and they complement each other. So as you're working on your images in Photoshop and you're thinking about color combinations, be thinking about things in terms of complements. Complement is a great way to easily add a nice color grade to your image to get a predictable result, because they work well together. If we go to green, pull this up it's gonna make it more green, pull it down it's gonna make it more magenta. But at the same token, if we were to go into our greens again, and make points here, now we're adding more green to our shadows, or more magenta to our shadows. Or, more green to our highlights or more magenta to our highlights. So, when we talk about editing sunsets here, we can have a really horrible sunset and fake all of our friends to believe it's the most magical thing ever, because we're adding these beautiful robust colors with this type of color control. If we were to go into our blues, bring it up, it's making it more blue. Bring it down it makes it more yellow. This kind of control you don't necessarily get with in Levels. If we go to Levels you do have the RGB values of the colors, so you can go into Red, and you can do the levels of red. You can also do the levels of green and of blue, but this is more of a simple version. It's the simplified version of curves. If you think about things in terms of that old adage that we probably learned in geometry class that a square can be a rectangle but a rectangle can't be a square. I don't know, but people will prove that wrong on the internet. But it's the same thing with curves and levels. Curves can essentially in a way be levels, because you have the ability to adjust those white points and those black points. But levels can't necessarily do what curves can do, when you can get into the midtones and just segregate those midtones, and say get a little bit whiter, get a little bit darker with that curve. Now I just added three points there. You could add 10 points, you could add as many points as you want, but just understand that that governor thing is gonna kick in. So I know we covered a lot in this lesson. We covered how layers work, the idea of looking at layers in our images the transparency, opaque. We also covered the different types of layers. The vector-based layer, the rasterized layer, and the adjustment layer, which we'll talk more about those vector-based layers as we go through this course. And then we talked about how those adjustment layers work as calculations, which of all the things that I really want you to grasp in this, not only just the organization of layers, but also the adjustment layer. Because that adjustment layer, especially when you're doing any finishing touch work is gonna be a really powerful tool to calculate what's going on in your image, be nondestructive, and give you phenomenal results. So do we have any questions on layers at this point?
When you were talking about layer stamp, would that be similar to flattening?
That's a great question, so flattening an image and a layer stamp are two different things. Flattening the image will take all of the work that you've done, and sandwich it all down, and that's basically something that I would do at the very end of something. Let's say I've got a PSD document open which is the working document of all my layers. I would flatten that down if I'm going to save it as something like a JPEG, and send that to a printer. But flattening an image takes everything and just says, sandwiches it all down. Whereas a stamp gives you the same concept of flattening, but puts it at the top of your work to protect everything below.
When you were at the very beginning saying about types of layers, you said that the adjustment layers could be curves, levels, gradient maps, and something called HSL. What is that?
Oh yes, so HSL, the question was, what is HSL in terms of adjustment layers? HSL is just the shortened version of hue, saturation, and luminance. So when we looked at the different adjustment layers that we had in Photoshop, we had the hue/saturation adjustment layer, which is what I was showing you how to use to manipulate your gradient map black and white images.