Tonal Adjustments & Adjustments Layers

 

Adobe® Photoshop® CC: The Complete Guide

 

Lesson Info

Tonal Adjustments & Adjustments Layers

And we're back with another session, and let's take a look at where we're at. We're in week two, and in this session, we're gonna talk about tonal adjustments. This is the seventh day out of 20. And we'll get into not only tonal adjustments but also adjustments layers, which is how we're going to apply those. And, as usual, I wanna just jump into Photoshop and get started so we can spend as much time as possible there, and so let's do so. Here I have an image that already has some adjustment layers. In fact, I have a few different pictures open. And I'll show you how the adjustment layers work. But first, I wanna just show you what they might look like. If you ever open an image in Photoshop and you see a stack of layers that don't look like they contain any pictures, you don't see a big thumbnail that shows you what's in each layer, instead you just see a little symbol there, then you most likely have an adjustment layer. An adjustment layer contains an adjustment. It can be an adjust...

ment that brightens or darkens your picture. It can be one that makes it more or less colorful. It can do all sorts of things. And every one of those adjustment layers will have a layer mask attached to it, and that's why we covered layer masks before getting into this, so we know a little bit about how to think about those layer masks. When it comes to layer masks, I don't know if you remember from the session when we talked about them, you can click on a layer that contains a layer mask and press the backslash key. And if you do, you're gonna see the layer mask as a colored overlay. So that will show you which part of the image is not being affected. So this particular adjustment is affecting the top portion of the image but not the bottom. I can go to the next one up, and all the areas covered with red are not being affected. So this particular adjustment is only affecting that one isolated area. I can go to the next one and do the same thing to figure out where each and every one of these adjustments is applying. I can also turn off all the adjustment layers here. I'll turn 'em all off by dragging down this column, and we can see what we started with, and turn them on one at a time to see it build up the changes that are being done to the image. So adjustment layers are ways to adjust your picture where your adjustments appear as their own layers and they're not permanent 'cause you can always throw them away. Each one has a mask you can paint on to control where that adjustment happens. So let's start adjusting images with adjustment layers and talking about what I would call tonal adjustments. I'm separating all our adjustments into two categories, tonal adjustments and color adjustments. A tonal adjustment is one that only affects the brightness or contrast of your picture and it doesn't affect the color, or at least it shouldn't. Largely, it's not trying to affect the color. It might do as a consequence, but it's not the purpose of the adjustment. So I'm going to just open a random set of images and start adjusting away. When I wanna adjust an area, I have two methods for doing so. The first is I can choose Image, Adjustments, and here I have a list of all our adjustments. This whole list will apply only direct adjustments. That means an adjustment that needs to directly work on the image that you wanna change. What that means is if I choose Brightness and Contrast here and I add contrast to this image, and maybe I darken it a little bit, when I click OK, you'll notice that the adjustment is not a separate piece sitting here in the Layers panel. It directly affected this layer, and there's no evidence that it had been done. So if I save and close this image and open it a month later, there's no way for me to undo that. It's permanently affected that layer. And so I rarely go to the Image menu and choose Adjustments to apply my adjustments because they're permanent. I wanna do it in a way where I can always throw the adjustments away, I can always refine them, and make changes later. And so most of the time, I avoid this menu. Instead, I go to the bottom of my Layers panel. At the bottom of my Layers panel is an icon that is a circle that's half black and half white. That's the adjustment layer icon. And if I click there, I'm gonna have a list of adjustments. These are many of the same adjustments you saw a moment ago when I went to the Image Adjustments menu and saw the list. You don't have all of them available, but you have the majority of them. And if I choose from this menu, now my adjustment appears as its own layer right here, and therefore, it's not permanent. It's something separate from the image that's underneath, and therefore, I can always throw it away and I can always change the settings anytime in the future, and so it's my preferred way of making adjustments. When I do that, this little area called the Properties panel will pop open, and right now it's taking up too much of my screen. You see how it's covering up the majority of my picture? I might click on the word Properties and drag it. I'm gonna put it above my Layers. So if I drag around, you'll see some blue lines indicating where you're about to put things. I wanna make sure there's just a little bar at the top above my Layers. I'll let go so that now these two things are stacked. The Layers are down below, Properties are above, and anytime I wanna do my adjustment, I can access the settings here. Once I'm done, I can double click on the word Properties and it will collapse it down so that doesn't have to take up space unless I'm actually using it. If I want to use it again, I can double click on the word Properties, and it'll pop back open. So that's how I'll often do it. Then let's make an adjustment. Just like before, I'm gonna increase contrast in this image, and then I'm gonna lower Brightness. But now it's sitting there as its own layer, that's my adjustment layer, and so I can turn off its eyeball and see what the image used to look like. If I decide I don't like the adjustment, I can simply drag this to the trash. And so an adjustment layer is a method for adjusting your picture where the adjustment is not permanent. It's always changeable. That's why I prefer to use them. So let's start adjusting away and working on layer masks. In this session, we'll limit ourselves to tonal adjustments. That means adjustments that affect only brightness and contrast in your picture. And when I go to this menu, I have many choices available, but most of the choices that are tonal adjustments actually behind the scenes use one particular technique to make their change happen, and that's something called Curves. Curves is the most powerful tonal adjustment available in Photoshop, and so we're gonna concentrate most of our time on Curves. Because when you go here to Brightness and Contrast, it's actually using Curves behind the scenes to make the work happen. It's just trying to present you with a simpler interface. But by giving you a simpler interface, it's severely limiting what you're capable of doing with that adjustment. When you go to Levels, it's using Curves behind the scenes to make the changes actually happen. It's just trying to present you with a simpler interface. So we'll concentrate our time on Curves. But first, let's just take a basic look at these two choices just so we get 'em outta the way and so whenever you don't feel comfortable being in Curves 'cause there's something you just don't know how to do in there, you might be able to go to the simpler two adjustments called Brightness and Contrast and Levels. So with Brightness and Contrast, it's just two sliders. Brightness is literally gonna make your whole image brighter or make it darker. And Contrast is going to control how big of a difference is there between the bright and the dark areas, how big of a difference. If I increase contrast, there'll be a greater difference where darker areas get even darker and lighter areas get even lighter, so there's a larger difference between the two. If I lower contrast, then the brighter and darker areas will become more similar in brightness. There's less of a difference between the two. There is a checkbox called Use Legacy, and that's because this adjustment used to not do a good job. But they wanna make sure you can still do a bad job, like the old versions did, if you relied on it. They don't wanna like suddenly make it so you couldn't do what you used to be able to. And so now if I do brightness, you'll find areas turning white. Do you see how quickly the sky went white? Or I bring it down, do you see how quickly the dark areas in the bottom turn black? Whereas when I didn't have Legacy turned on, I could brighten this image a considerable amount before the sky went solid white. It still gets there relatively quickly. But Use Legacy is mainly if you used to using the old versions of Photoshop and you relied on it to create a particular effect. They didn't wanna take away your ability to do that so they put that checkbox in. There is an Auto button that tries to analyze your picture and adjust it for you, and it usually does a pretty bad job unless you have a terrible looking image. If you have an image that just looks like it's foggy, I mean, like where it's so dull that it's, you know, just looks terrible, then the Auto button might be able to do an okay job. But otherwise, Brightness and Contrast doesn't offer you much control. The problem here is I wanna darken the sky and I wanna brighten the dark part, and this won't give me the controls to allow me to do that. So I'm gonna stay away from Brightness and Contrast. I find Brightness and Contrast is useful for some things, mainly when I have textures. If I have a texture on a layer, it can be useful to just bump up the contrast a little bit or brighten or darken it a little bit, and I find it to be convenient. But otherwise, most of the time I avoid Brightness and Contrast just because it's so simple it's not useful, yeah? Levels can be useful. We've used it multiple times during these lessons so far. But let's take a look at it so we really get a better feeling for how Levels works. To do that, I'm gonna create a simplified document. Just take me a moment to make it. I'm gonna use the gradient tool in Photoshop, and when I do, I'm just gonna make a gradient from left to right. I'm gonna simplify this by applying something called Posterize. Posterize reduces how many brightness levels we have in the picture so that we just have some little bars here. We'll look at this simple image when we're talking about Levels because I think it'll make it easier to understand what it does. So let's go in here and choose Levels. There are a total of five sliders in Levels. The upper right one forces areas to white. So if I pull in the upper right slider, watch what happens to the picture. The brightest areas should eventually start turning white. If I pull in the upper left slider, it'll force areas to black. So if you watch the dark part of the picture when I pull this in, you'll see more and more of those bars, as I pull this over, turning black. Then if we go to the bottom bar, the one on the right is gonna take what is already white and darken it. It will actually make it so whatever's white in my image ends up being whatever color or brightness level this thing points at. So if I bring it in this far, whatever used to be white in my picture will be exactly this brightness level that this is pointing at. So watch the white bar on the right side. You see it getting darker? Darker, darker. And it changes the rest of the image so it all looks like it belongs together. But this just means how bright should the brightest part be. The slider on the other side takes areas that are currently black and makes them become whatever shade this points at. So if I pull this in, watch the black part on the left. You see it getting lighter and lighter until it ends up being the shade this is pointing at, and it changes everything else so it all looks like it belongs together. But really, if you wanna understand Levels, you need to think about this little bar. Because when I pull in this slider here, do you remember I said it forces areas to white? All it does is it takes whatever shade is directly below this and it forces that shade and everything brighter than it to white. That's what it did. When I pulled in this opposite side, it took whatever's directly below this, this shade right here, and anything darker than it, and it forced it to black. That's how it works. Then finally, the middle slider is gonna take whatever's directly below this and make it 50% gray. That means if I pull it over here and it makes this 50% gray, wouldn't that darken my picture? Because this used to be a lot brighter than 50% gray. And if I move this over this way so that now what used to be this dark becomes 50% gray, that's gonna brighten up my image a lot, isn't it? So this is really kind of an overall brightness control if you actually just watch the picture, overall brightness. Then we have a bar chart in here called a histogram, and that simply tells you which of these shades are actually found in this picture. So if you go to white and you go straight up, you see there's a bar there. Tells me there's white in the picture. There's not 1% gray, or 2% or 3% or 4% or 5%. The next darkest shade is this one right here, and if I go straight down from it, it's that shade right there. And the next darkest shade is this one, right there, and so on. The height of the bars tell you how much space things take up. One of the bars will always go all the way to the top up here. That's the one that takes up the most space. And then all the other bars are saying, compared to that one that takes up the most space, these others are taking up progressively less space. So I find Levels to be useful primarily when I'm working on simple things, usually when I have a logo that I just scanned, my signature I just scanned, and the sheet of paper that was there didn't come in solid white. Instead, I can see some gray in the paper. So I grab the upper right slider, which forces areas to white. I pull it in, keep pulling it in, until the entire sheet of paper turns white. Then I notice my signature, it doesn't quite look black. It looks like it's lighter than it. It's maybe 80% gray instead of black. So I pull in the opposite side, which forces areas to black, until the signature looks like it turned black. Those kinds of things. But the problem with Levels is it's not very useful when it comes to a normal picture. So let's open some pictures, and let's learn what is useful. And we'll see why Levels is not the best and Brightness and Contrast is not the best, and hopefully after a while, I'll convince you that Curves is worth learning 'cause it is so powerful it's crazy. So with this image, I wanna darken the sky, and I wanna leave the sand dunes that are here unchanged. So let's try to do that using Brightness and Contrast. Brightness changes the brightness of the entire picture, right? So it's not gonna do it. Contrast changes the contrast of the entire picture. So it's not gonna do it. It's gonna be useless. I'll come in here and try Levels. Which slider would affect only the sky? There's no slider in there that would only affect the sky. Every single one of these sliders affects the whole picture, and so it's not gonna be useful. If you want to affect only the sky, as long as the sky is different in brightness than the rest of the picture, we wanna go to Curves. This is what Curves looks like. We have the bar chart in there. It's the same as the bar chart that you see in Levels. It's just taller because there's more space to make it tall. So this is just telling me which brightness levels are found in my picture. So down here, these are all the brightness levels you can have, and it tells me in this case the darkest shade in my picture is right here. How do I know that? Because there are no bars on the bar chart going further that way. The brightest shade in my picture is right here 'cause there are no bars going any further than that, right? If I wanted the brightest part of my image to be white and the darkest part of my image to be black, do you remember how in Levels we had sliders to do that? We have the same two sliders right here. This, bringing it over, would force areas to white. This would force areas to black. So I could do that. In this case, I just made the brightest parts close to white, the darkest parts close to black. But there's this weird curve thing in here. It starts out as a diagonal line, and then you can click on it and add little dots, and you can push and pull on those dots, and a lot of people try to learn it on their own. If you try to learn it on your own, good luck, because you can easily do stuff like this and like this. Weird stuff, look at that, sky looks pretty cool now. (chuckles) But you can do all sorts of weird stuff. You really need somebody to help you learn Curves. But the concept is dead simple. Let me show you the concept. The bar at the bottom, the horizon one, shows you all the brightness levels you can have in your picture. The diagonal line tells you how much light it would take to create those colors. So for instance, how much light do you need to make black? None, right? So the diagonal line is all the way at the bottom above black, indicating you need no light whatsoever to make black. Over here, we have white on the right side, and if you go straight up from it, do you notice the diagonal line is all the way to the top, it's as high as it could possible go? That's 'cause it's telling you you'd have to use as much light as you can possible use in order to make white. In order to make this middle shade that's right here, just go straight up from it until you hit that diagonal line and it tells you that that's the exact amount of light you'd need to use, half as much as you could 'cause we're half the way to the top. Imagine that this is just a dimmer switch. Imagine you had a dimmer switch in your hand, and if you move the dimmer switch all the way to the bottom down here, you'd have no light whatsoever. If you move the dimmer switch all the way to the top, you'd use as much light as you possible can, and in Photoshop, that means you have white. That's the brightest we can make something. And then you can go anywhere in between, and this just tells you what setting would the dimmer switch be at to create any one of the shades that are below. You just find any part of the diagonal line, look straight down, and it says to make that shade right there, your dimmer switch would be up this high compared to how high it could go, all the way to the top. So that doesn't tell me much as far as how to use this. Well, let's try to figure it out. In here, there's a little hand tool. Do you see it right there? I'm gonna click on the hand tool to make it active, and in fact, I want that hand tool on every single time I use Curves. and there's a feature in Photoshop that can automatically turn it on for me. And the way you do it is when you're looking at a Curves adjustment layer, you go over here to the right side in this little corner, and that's where you get a side menu. There's a choice called Auto-Select Targeted Adjustment Tool. It should be called click on the hand for me. Okay, that's what it means. Okay, so when you do that, all it does is push in that hand and it makes it so that every time you bring up Curves, the hand will be active. So what the heck does the hand do? Well, let's move our mouse on top of the image now. Now when I go on top of the image, do you notice in Curves there's a circle? Do you see it? If I move around, that circle will jump around, and all that's doing is telling you where is the dimmer switch for this area of my picture. It's really telling you how much light is being used to make this part of my picture. So if I go up here to the sky, you see where the circle is, and it's just saying that in the sky, you're using that much light. All the way to the top would be white, meaning as much light as you can. All the way to the bottom would be black, meaning no light whatsoever. And here, it's telling me that's just over, what, about three-quarters as much as I could use. That's how bright the sky is. What it's really doing is it's just finding the sky, the brightness of the sky, in that horizontal bar at the bottom. It just finds it and then puts the circle on the Curve directly above. Well, here's what's cool, though. I can click on the sky, and by clicking on the sky, it's gonna add a dot right where that circle is. Watch, click. Then, I don't even need to move over to Curves. I can stay right over on my picture. I'm gonna keep the mouse button held down. I happen to have left go, but it doesn't matter. I can just click again. And then I'm gonna drag straight up or straight down, and if I do, in my mind I'm thinking I have a dimmer switch in my hand, not the kinda dimmer that you turn, the up-down kinda dimmer switch, and that's exactly what I have. So if I move my mouse straight up, the Curve will move up. If all the Curve is doing is telling you how much light you're using, by moving it up, aren't you adding light? It's just like taking a dimmer switch and moving it higher, and I could end up brightening up that sky. Now the rest of the Curve, it moved up as well. So the rest of the image got brighter too. So I might then come down here to the sand dunes and say, well, I'm gonna click on this part of the sand dune and I didn't wanna brighten that so much. So I click on the sand dune, and now it's like having a dimmer switch for that part of my image, and I'm gonna pull it straight down. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get it back to exactly how bright it used to be before I worked on the sky? Well, I can. If you look in Curves, do you notice there's a little faded diagonal line in there? That represents where you started. That's how much light you used before you started adjusting your picture. So any part of the Curve that is above that diagonal line is causing your image to get brighter. That means across almost the whole brightness range, it's getting a little brighter. And if I come here and click on the sand dune, I could just pull it right back down to where that diagonal line is. That means I just pulled the dimmer switch for this part of my image right back down to where it used to be when I started. So now if I turn off the eyeball at the bottom of my screen, that's gonna hide this adjustment so you can see what the image looked like before we ever adjusted it, before. Then I'll turn it back on, and you'll see what it looks like after I adjusted it. Do you see the sky getting brighter? That's what I wanted to do. Now the sand dune is changing, and that's because, if you look at this little bar chart thing, it's only one spot where it used to be. See the diagonal line? It lines up with it. This part here, do you see it dipping below? If you had a dimmer switch and you moved it down, wouldn't you be darkening? So that's telling me I'm darkening. I could fix that. Just add a dot here and manually move it. Get the line to line up with where it started. Do you see how it's lining up with where it originally was? That means all these dark shades in here, they're not changing at all now, and only when it gets to about here is where it starts deviating, getting brighter. So now let's see if that's any different. Yes, look at that. I got the sky to change and not most of the rest of the picture. You can't do that with any other adjustment where you can isolate something like that with that much precision. But it's gonna take us a while to get comfortable with this because so far, it's kinda like, what? It's just some weird line you're moving around. But the concept is simple. It's like having a bank of dimmer switches. They just happen to be so many that it looks like a line, but this is like having 256 dimmer switches side by side, where whatever's happening right here is affecting black. Whatever's happening right here straight up from it is affecting what used to be this brightness. Whatever's happening above this is telling you what's happening on what used to be this bright in your picture. So if you look at this particular Curve, look at where it lines up with where it started, the diagonal part. If it lines up precisely, then look straight down from that and look at the shades in that bar at the bottom. Whatever shades are below the part that lines up with the original have not changed at all 'cause the dimmer switches are in the same spot they started at. Then starting right here, we started making it a teeny bit brighter 'cause those dimmer switches have been moved up a tiny bit, and then we made it even brighter 'cause we're moving further away from where we used to be. You don't have to completely understand that stuff. I'm just gonna start showing you how to use it, and the more you use it and the more you get little hints about how to think about it, the more comfortable you'll get. So let's say that I would like the sand dune to pop out more, to just pop. I'm gonna do that by trying to make the bright part of the sand dune even brighter and the dark part of the sand dune even darker so there's a bigger difference between the two. Let's see if I can accomplish that. I'm not sure if I can do it while still keeping the sky the way we have it. We'll find out. I'll move my mouse onto the image, and I'm gonna try to find the darkest area within the sand dune. I don't have to be completely precise but just in generally be close. So I'm gonna guess either right in here. Or maybe is it right down in here? Somewhere in there looks like it might be the darkest, at least to my eye, and if so, I'm gonna click, and when I click, look at where it is on the Curve. Do you see it's right by the middle? Okay, so I'm just gonna remember the middle equals dark part of sand dune. Then I'm gonna come up here to the bright part of the sand dune, and that's either gonna be probably this highlight right here looks to be some of the brightest. So I'll put my mouse on top of that, and I'll click to add a dot. Now I don't need this one in the middle 'cause that was there due to the other adjustment I was trying to make. I'm gonna get rid of it just to simplify. And so these are the different brightness levels in the sand dune. If I go straight down, this is how dark the dark part of the sand dune is. Go straight down from the other one, this is how dark the bright part is. If I wanna make the bright area even brighter, if I'm using a dimmer switch, I'd need to move it up, wouldn't I? Up means more light with a dimmer. So I can click on the upper dot and just move it straight up, and as I do, the brightest part of the sand dune is getting even brighter. Then I wanna take the dark part of the sand dune and make it even darker. So I grab the lower dot. Lower always means less light 'cause they're dimmer switches. So if there was a dimmer that was sitting lower, it's using less light. I'm gonna click on its dot and pull it straight down, and as I do, the dark part of the sand dune's gonna get even darker. Let's go real dramatic with it. Cool. But I can do that kinda thing. The curve looks really weird. Doesn't this shape look weird? But let's see if we can interpret it, see if we can figure out what it's doing. First off, think about everything in the image that is between black and about not quite 50% gray, maybe, I don't know, whatever shade that is. What do you think happened to 'em? If these are dimmer switches side by side that's controlling how much light is in the areas that used to be this bright, what would happen if you moved the dimmers all the way to the bottom? Wouldn't you get black? Moving it all the way to the bottom would be no light whatsoever. So if there's any part of my picture that happened to be in this brightness range, I just turned the lights off in there, and it became solid back. Now the bar chart tells me if there was actually something in my picture that was there, and I see there was. Do you see just a little bit right there, that part of the bar chart? So somewhere in the picture, something became black. I'm guessing that's over here somewhere. Probably right down in there. If I didn't want that to happen, I could add a dot there and just kinda pull that part up. And if I do, I'll lighten up 'cause I'm adding light to that area, and I might like that. But Curves becomes infinitely more useful when you start isolating areas using not just Curves because Curves can only isolate areas based on brightness, but you start making selections and you start painting on masks. When you do that, you don't have to know that much about Curves to make it very useful. And so let's start doing that on some images. Let's open up that one we had earlier, and let's see what we can do. I want to pull out detail in the bottom portion of this picture. To accomplish that, I'm gonna create a Curves adjustment layer. The hand tool's automatically turned on. Why? Because I had at one point gone to the side menu and turned on that thing. Remember that? You only have to do that once. Now in order to pull out the detail that's here, the way you make detail pop out is you make a greater difference in brightness between the areas you're thinking of. So for instance, when I look down here, if I want the detail to pop out, if I made everything that was this brightness right here darker and made everything that was this brightness over here brighter, wouldn't you be able to see the difference between the two more easily? That's what we're gonna do, okay? So to accomplish that, all you need to do is to add two dots to your Curve. What you do is you visually look at the area where you wanna pull out detail and you guesstimate where the darkest area is. I'm just gonna guesstimate it's right here. You click to add a dot. Then you go to where you guesstimate the brightest area is, and I'm gonna say right there of the stone area down here, and you click so you have two dots. And then over here, move the upper dot higher. Move the lower dot lower. What's that gonna do? The upper dot's the bright area. When you move it higher, it's like having a dimmer switch in your hand. You're gonna brighten it. The lower dots, we're using less light, and when you move it down, you're gonna darken that. So watch what happens. When I grab the lower one and move it down, look what happens to this dark area. See it getting dark? I'm gonna grab the upper one and I'm gonna move it up. That's gonna take this brighter area and make it even brighter. Watch what happens to the image. Now I can see that brightness difference much easier now, the difference between those areas. So if I turn off the eyeball, before and after, isn't it make it easier to see all this little detail that's in this rock? If I turn this off, harder to see the detail. On, easier to see. Makes the detail jump out. And so we can do that for any part of the image. Let's do it, instead, I'll grab these dots and pull 'em all the way off the edge. That's how you get rid of 'em. Let's do it for this little reflection of the sky in here. I'll ignore the shadow that's here and look at the main part here of the reflection of the sky. I'll click on the bright area and click on the dark area so we have two dots. I wanna make that jump out, so I'm gonna move the lower dots further down. That's gonna darken the reflection in the sky. Then I'm gonna grab the upper dot and move it higher, and that's gonna make the bright part that's in that reflection get brighter, and I can fine tune it, control exactly how bright each of those areas are getting. But the problem with that is it's affecting the entire picture, and I only want it to affect where that puddle is. So that's where you go to your layers and you got a mask sitting there. You paint on the mask to control where it applies on the image. Wherever the mask is white, it allows the adjustment to affect your picture. Wherever you introduce black, it will not allow it to change your image. If it's only a small area you need to change, then what I would usually do is get the mask to be black. You can do that by choosing a choice called Invert. I think we used that when we talked about layer masks. I usually just type Command + I 'cause it's something I do a lot. But Invert, watch the mask in my Layers panel. You see it just went black? And now I can zoom up in here, grab my paintbrush tool, and I'm just gonna be painting the adjustment into my picture as long as I paint with white. So now I got my adjustment on a brush. Paint that in. Okay, now let's just repeat that process for other parts in this image. I want the sky to be darker. So I'm gonna do a Curves adjustment layer, just stack one right on top of the other. Curves adjustment layer. And in this case, I'm gonna keep the dark part of the sky about the same darkness it is right now. I'll do that by just clicking on it. When I click on it, it added a dot. That effectively locks in the brightness of that area. So unless I move that dot, it shouldn't change. Then I'm gonna go to the bright area of the sky and, in fact, the bright area I think is all the way up there at the top. I'll just grab the dot that's already there and just pull it down. That's gonna darken up my sky. I want the dark part of the clouds to be a bit darker. So I find the dark part of the clouds. You see it right there. Click, and I can just drag straight down. I'll show you before and after by turning off this little eyeball. Before, after. Might wanna keep the brightest part up a little higher. Okay, let's see what we're doing. Eyeball off, on. Do you see we're getting more detail in those clouds and things? It's easier to see. But I don't like what it's doing to the bottom of the picture. It's making the bottom of the picture really dull looking. So that's when I grab my paintbrush. I paint with black because in a mask, black hides things. We're just gonna hide the adjustment from down here. Get rid of it. I'm using a soft edge brush, and I might need to be precise around the edges of those outcroppings and things, but I'm not going to right now just for time's sake. Let's say I wanna pull out some detail down here at the bottom. What do I do? I just create a new Curves adjustment layer. I just stack 'em one on top of the other, working on different areas until I got everything I like. So I'll do a Curves adjustment layer. And if I wanna pull out detail down here to make it pop a little bit, I find the bright and dark areas. So for this general area down here, I'm gonna ignore this little crack kind of area where the puddle is. I would say that the dark area is approximately here. The bright area's probably about there. And now I can control those two areas. I want the bright area to get brighter. That means the upper area should go higher, and the dark area, I don't know if I needs to be darker. No, I don't like it when it goes darker. Bright area could get brighter. But then I don't like what happens to the sky. So I grab my paintbrush, and I paint with black, and I say don't affect that stuff up here. And I can bring it back. So most of the time when I'm doing Curves, I add two dots. I think about whatever area it is I want. It's usually a surface of some kind, like a door or something else, and I add two dots, one for the bright part, one for the dark. Then I can precisely control how bright the brightest area is and how dark the darkest area is. For instance, on this tree, isn't it hard to see a lot of the detail in it? It's kinda dull looking in the tree. So let's do a Curves adjustment layer. Let's click on the bright stuff, and let's click on the dark stuff. We should end up then with two dots. Those are dimmer switches. So when I look at the tree, I'm gonna ignore the rest of the image and just look at the tree. I think the bright areas could be brighter of the tree, and if so, that would make it pop out. So bright is always higher on the Curve 'cause higher means more light. So I grab that upper dot and I move it straight up. I'm ignoring the rest of the picture. I'm only looking at the tree in my mind because I'm gonna paint on the mask to limit where this affects the image. And so I bring it up until I start liking the bright part of the tree, somewhere around there maybe. And then I look at the dark areas, and I say, well, anything going on there? Do I want to adjust it? If so, I got a dot right here. I can move it up if I wanna brighten those dark areas. I'm ignoring the rest of the image in my mind. I'm looking only at the tree. I kinda like it about there. So if I turn off the eyeball, here's before. Looks rather dull. Here's after. What I'm doing is simply precisely controlling what's happening to the bright and dark part of the tree. Now my challenge is to paint on the mask so that all I have is the tree being adjusted. So how might I do that? Well, we haven't talked about advanced masking yet. Advanced masking is a different session that we will get into, and it would give us an idea of how to select the tree, but we could probably cheat in this case. Let's see. What if I were to make a general selection like this? And we'll use the tragic wand. Magic Wand, the Magic Wand Tool, I used this once another time I think when we had a bird on the screen in a different session. And I'm gonna go right here onto the sky and hold down the key that takes away. Shift would add to, Option takes away. Or if you don't remember keyboard shortcuts, these icons do it, and if you hover over this icon here, you'd see it would subtract, so you could click that icon. And so I'll just go like that, and that's an okay selection of the tree, right? And so then I can go to my mask, and I want the tree to stay white. I want everything else to turn black. So I'm gonna select Inverse, get the opposite of what I currently have. And then let's fill that with black. So I'm working on the layer mask in my Layers panel. I choose fill with black. It looks like I missed the parts in between the branches. That's okay. We can easily get 'em back. Let's just grab Magic Wand, make sure we're working in the layer that contains the actual picture, and we'll just grab inside here. I'll hold Shift to add to to get these other portions. Like that, and I'll go back up to my mask and say fill with black again, okay. Cool, now down here at the bottom though, I still had a really basic selection there I can see the edge of. I'll grab my paintbrush, and with a soft edge brush, I'll paint with black right down here to get that to kinda fade into the bottom, get those areas. So let's see what we've done. I'll turn off my eyeball. Do you see the tree popping out? Okay. Then we can do adjustments on other areas. We can say now I wanna think about the sky. So I do another Curves adjustment layer. Most of the time, I add two dots, brightest, darkest. And it doesn't have to be absolutely precise, just the bright-ish areas. It doesn't have to be brightest. Click there. I notice that was all the way at the top, so there was already a dot there. And then down here for the darkest, and I can now control them separate. So I grab the lower dot, and I'm thinking if I darken that part of the sky, it could be more dramatic. I ignore the rest of the image in my mind. That's starting to look kinda cool. Maybe like that. And now I need to work on the mask again, and that's the hardest part and that's why we have sessions about selections and advanced masking and things. So let's see if there's anything we can do. Well, don't we already have a mask right there? You can drag masks between pictures, between layers. If you just drag it up here, it'll ask you, do you wanna replace that mask with this one? See, replace mask. Yes, but it moved it. It removed it from the previous layer, so I'll choose Undo. If you want to move a copy, you need to hold Option. You'll get used to it over time 'cause it's consistent. If you wanna move a copy of a layer, you hold Option. If you wanna move a copy of a layer style like drop shadow, you hold Option. So over time, you'll get used to it. But I hold Option, and I drag it up there. And now that's the exact opposite of what I want because white is where it would affect things. It would affect the tree. I want it to do the exact opposite. So I can go up here and Invert the mask. That means give me the opposite of what I currently have. And if I do, now if you look at the mask, white is where it would affect things, and black is where it wouldn't. So you notice it wouldn't affect the tree then, right? And now I just need to add the ground down here to make it black. So I'll grab my paintbrush, I'll paint with black, and I'll just say don't affect this stuff down here, although it might not be a bad adjustment to affect down there. Now I can tell my mask above wasn't perfect. I can see little openings in between the branches that I didn't have. That's where I should've clicked with the Magic Wand when I was in there. I didn't. For time's sake, I'm not gonna be perfect with that stuff. Now this little bush, I'd like to do something with it. So what do I do? A Curves adjustment layer. And in Curves, what do I do? I add two dots, bright and dark, right? So I come in here and I think the dark part would be down in here where it's almost black. Bright part might be up in here. About there maybe. And if I look at that bush, it just looks dull and dark, doesn't it? So might I not wanna take the bright part of the bush and brighten it? So I'm gonna grab the upper of the two dots 'cause upper always means brighter. This is just telling you how much light there is so upper means more. And I'll grab that dot and push it straight up. Now the whole image is changing, but I'm just looking at the bush. And I'm gonna say about there it's starting to really pop. Now we need to paint in the mask. Now that's a small spot, so I don't wanna paint with black over everything else. So I think I'm gonna Invert my mask to get it black to start with. Then I'll grab my paintbrush, I'll paint with white, and I'll say let's bring that in just right down there. Now with advanced masking, if we knew how, we could actually get it where we don't get it in between those little whatever they are. (chuckles) I don't know the terminology here. But we could make it so it's not effecting that area in the distance if we knew about how to do advanced masking. We just don't know that part yet. So let's see, if I turn off the eyeball, do you see that bush popping a lot more? I notice some of the rocks changing around it so I'll switch to paint with black and I'll get it off of the rocks. Now let's work on the rocks. Let's just do another Curves adjustment layer. Guess what I'm gonna do? Two dots. It doesn't always have to be the absolute brightest and absolute darkest. It's just the general area you're looking at. Click on a bright-ish thing and a dark-ish thing. So I'm gonna come down here, and I'm thinking about this is the general brightness I'll click on and then this up here is the brighter area. Okay, and I think I'm gonna make the brighter a little bit brighter, make it pop out. Yeah, oh, right about there I like it. Okay, then I'll just grab my paintbrush and say, what do I not want to affect? I don't want to affect all this stuff up here. Okay. Do you see how you just build it up one on top of the other on top of the other until you've gotten all the areas you wanna change kinda of optimized. And so if you wanna see what it's doing to this particular image so far, let's turn all these off and see what we started with. Okay, kind of a dull looking picture I think. I like the composition, the little curved tree and the bush and the sky. It has some potential possibly, but, let's see, here we brought out some of the tree. Then we brought out some of the sky. Then we came over here and did the bush. And then we did that area there. And each one being optimized, and you could just keep going until you get every area that you don't like. You can fine tune the brightness like that, but it's when you combine painting of the masks with the doing the Curve that it's useful and I find two dots on the curve, bright and dark, are usually the most useful. The other things you can do here is once you've done this, I usually double check my masks. To double check your masks, click on each layer and there's a way to see the mask as a red overlay on your picture. When we talked about layer masks in general just in a different session, I showed you, and it's the backslash key. So let's take a look. Topmost layer, I'll just hit backslash. Red indicates where it's not affecting the image. So I see, okay, that's at the bottom of the photo, and I just look of any potential problems with this mask. Maybe in here, I want to paint with white and just get it on that little bush. That, or maybe I want to avoid the bush because I am adjusting the bush separately somewhere else, so maybe I want to come in here and do something like that to avoid that one messing with the bush. Then I go down to the next mask and I hit backslash again, and there I can see that some of the background is in there and I might not like it. That's where I'd usually use advanced masking techniques to get in between those, but for now since we don't know those, I'll just kinda refine that a little bit. It could be that I lower the opacity of my brush, maybe I bring it down to 50%, and then I paint over that way to just partially get it in there. 50% now, that means apply the adjustment 50% of the way there. Bring my opacity back up. Then I go to my next mask, backslash, and you see where the tops of these little trees might not have been hit right. So I could possibly do something there. I could do some advanced masking here 'cause this is simple advanced masking 'cause we used it before. I can click down here in the bottom layer 'cause that's where the picture is, copy it, come up here to the mask I wanna use it in, remember this mask here, view the mask, and I'll just paste it in, Command + V, paste. And then I'll adjust that using Levels so that the black part turns black, the light part turns light. They're just two humps on the histogram. You move it so these are at the ends of both. Click OK, and now do you see how that thing is nicely masked all the way around there? That's a simple advanced mask. We're gonna have an issue right here where this selection ends. So I'd have to touch that up. You can see a few... areas that I'd have to touch up right here. Just paint that. And I might need to touch up a few, but that's a pretty good mask. If you wanna see it, I'll show you the mask. You can hold down the Option key and click on the mask, and you'll see it. So you see that actual thing? Now, there I can see where I need to clean it up, and that's another reason why it's really good to review your masks when you think you're done. So when I think I'm done and I'm about to close a document, I inspect all these masks and I look to see is there any junk in them that needs to be fixed. Most of the time, it's when I paint over a huge area like this. There'll be gaps between my paint strokes that I might not be able to see. But here, do you see some of that? And so that's where I come in and just touch it up when I think I'm done. And so I view my masks in two different ways. I look at it with the red overlay to look for problems. There I see the gaps in between in the branches, so I have to click on the layer where the branches reside. I use my Magic Wand Tool, and without zooming in, it might be hard, but I select those. Wow, I think I got 'em. And then I go to whatever layer I was working on. I don't remember if it was this one or, I think it was this one. Yeah, and I'm gonna fill with black. Option-Delete is fill with your foreground color, so I just type that. And I might touch it up there and stuff. Anyway, I would inspect it. Is this making some sense? And you get the idea though that if I used Brightness and Contrast, I wouldn't be able to do any of this because I would have an overall brightness control, but I wouldn't be able to control how much contrast do I get in the tree. No, it would be the image as a whole. What happens is, when you use Brightness and Contrast and you bring up contrast, it simply makes bright areas get brighter and dark areas get darker. Well, you remember the other image that I worked on that had that sky. Well, the entire sky is bright. So Brightness and Contrast will not be able to make the sky pop more. It will simply make it brighter as you increase contrast 'cause bright things'll get brighter, dark things'll get darker. With Curves, I can target the exact brightness range where we're making it more contrasty. Any time you make the curve steeper than it used to be, you're adding contrast. So what Brightness and Contrast does is it goes into Curves and it just does this, which is a generic let's brighten the bright stuff 'cause isn't that the part of the curve that's above where it started? And let's just darken the dark stuff. And what we're doing is instead of doing this where it goes across the entire curve, we're targeting a very specific brightness range, like this vertical thingamajiggy. I'm gonna click on the brightest part and I'm gonna click on the darkest, and now I'm targeting exactly that range and then I can make only that part steeper. In this case, it happens to be centered in the middle. So Brightness and Contrast would tackle it, but if instead I was working on the sky and I clicked on brightest and darkest, it's not. It's in this upper area, and Brightest and Contrast can't get in there and do that little part. And with Levels, we also can't target it like that. Curves is the only thing that allows us to really do that a lot. So you'll find that if I go in here and open one of my images that actually has some of these adjustments in it, you'll just find a boatload of adjustment layers. Sometimes it's something simple. In this case, there's only one. But do you see that making the dark portions kinda cutting through the fog that's there? I can tell you what's in there already, two dots, a bright one and a dark one. And just by looking at the change, isn't the dark one move down? Let's see if that's the case. Let's click here. Two dots, bottom one got moved down. That means the darker area got made darker, right? Then oftentimes, I need to combine it with other types of adjustments. So here, I might show you a few examples. I'll turn off these adjustment layers. Let's just look at the image, and I'll show you how it kinda got refined with adjustment layers. First, this bottom most adjustment layer, if I hit the backslash key, do you see the part of the image it's affecting, the part that's not red? And if you look at that area of the picture, do you notice it has yellow in it? It looks kinda yellowish up there at the top? Well, you can't tell as much on here, but I can see it on this screen. And this is making that less colorful. We'll talk about that kind of an adjustment later. Here, I have a Curves adjustment, and look at what part of the image it's affecting, the part not covered in red. Okay, let's see what it does. If I turn it on, it's darkening up that edge. It's just to make your focus be more on the middle of the picture and less on the outer edge. And if I put that over there, you can see how the mask was. And I'm guessing there, that's either one dot on the Curve or two, and they're moved down. Let's take a look. One dot, well, no, it moved this one too. So I'm guessing the brightest part of the wood was up in here and the darkest part was there. They were both dark in just different amounts. Then I have another Curves adjustment layer here. If I turn it on, you see it's only that very top edge of the picture that's not covered in red, and that's because I like having the edges of my photograph usually a little darker than the middle. It keeps your attention towards the middle of the picture. So if I turn that one on, it's just darkening up that edge to get rid of the stuff. It's probably one or two dots. Most of the time, it's two. Oh, it's just one. That's the brightest whatever used to be white, bring it down so it's less. So if I turn those off, before, after. You just build 'em up. Always put new adjustment layers on top, on top. Don't put a new adjustment layer underneath some existing ones because whatever's at the bottom is done first and then this one's done next and then this one's done next. So if you put something down here, it's gonna change the way the ones above affect the image. It's as if you're feeding it a slightly different photo and that it'll become a little bit unpredictable. All right, then, I don't know, we can just adjust a bunch of pictures and you can see how we can really do this. This image I like because there's some writing on the wall over here. You see the writing up here? And it's easy to see it here, but when it gets down to here, isn't it really hard to see? It's hard to make out. Well, let's say that's what I liked in this photo. So I go to Curves. You can probably guess what I'm gonna do. Add two dots, one for the bright area, one for the dark area. And if I want the text to show up more, wouldn't I make the darker area darker to make it easier to pop out and separate from that wall? You can use the arrow keys to move these if you've added a dot and it's white. Whatever dot is white in here is the active one. And you just click between them, and whichever one you click on turns white. You can use the up and down arrow keys. So when I down arrow that, do you see that detail starting to pop out? I can decide exactly how much do I want for it to come out. Maybe somewhere there. If I turn this off, before, after. But then I look at the image as a whole and I'm like, well, that's way too dark where the stairs are. So I type Command + I. Do you remember what Command + I does? It's Invert. It means make my mask black. Command + I. I grab my brush, and I paint with white, and I just say, well, I wanna put that in here. Look at it as just spraying in detail. Maybe I want some over here. Him, his outfit might be too dark at the bottom. Well, let's go over here and do a Curves adjustment layer. Let's add two dots, one for the bright part of his outfit, one for the dark, and let's move the dark one up a bit. I'm ignoring the rest of the picture, looking just at kid. Somewhere around there maybe. And then I'll Invert the mask, and now I can paint it on the kid, although I probably wouldn't paint it because painting it precisely on the kid would be hard. I'd click on the bottom layer where the kid is located, and I would use the Quick Selection Tool to say let's select the kid. I don't know if you wanna change his head. I'll leave his head out of it. And then I go to my mask and I say, okay, let's make just that part. So I can fill with white. Go to Edit, Fill if you want. Or if I Invert right now, it's gonna only invert the area that's selected. The opposite of black is white, so that should, Command + I, do it for me. Then I might paint a little more to further isolate it 'cause I don't want his shoulder to change. Maybe right where his head was or something. But let's see if that's doing anything. Before, after. It's becoming a little less colorful. There are some changes where we could avoid that, but we'll talk about those when we talk about adjusting color. Let's see. Here's another one that's got I think some adjustment layers already in it. So you might see how I build things up. These are all Curves adjustment layers. Let's just turn 'em all off and look at the image. When I look at the image, my eye goes to the right side where it's bright. I didn't want it to. I wanted my eye to go closer to here. So here's an area. You see it's gonna work on that part over there, and if I turn it on, you see how it darkened it up? Make it look a little bit more like this other area, so my eye's not pulled quite as much over there. Then over here, do you see that part? Those areas look brighter than the rest of the image, don't they? And I didn't want my eye to go there so much, so this is darkening those areas. It's probably two dots to control the brightness of the bright and the dark. Here I said direct eye away. (laughs) Let's turn it on, and what that's doing is it's making it have less contrast. If you make the curve flatter, make it less steep, you're lowering contrast. And so this is most likely two dots and they're becoming, no, it's only one dot. Usually it'd be two. And I'm moving them closer to the same height, meaning closer to the same brightness. This one here says eye towards. It means make my eye go there. The way I make my eye go there is I add contrast. That means two dots and make it steeper between the two, so a steeper curve. You see how that pops out? Almost guarantee ya it's gonna be two dots. Yep, one where the difference in height between the two has been exaggerated. Got another one, overall contrast, that's gonna make the whole image pop. That's probably two dots. Two dots, they're really close together. That's been moved a little steeper in between the two. So when I look at the image as a whole and I turn all those off, there's what we started with. There's my end result. You can see how I just build it up. And if you wanna see before and after, it's useful to move your mouse to the eyeball that's at the bottom here and just Option-click on it. That's gonna hide everything but the bottom layer. So Option-click, here's before. Option-click again, here's after. Do one last one, this guy. Do you see that little thing right there? Well, how can we tackle it? Let's try, let's go to Curves. Here's what I'm gonna do. See if this makes sense. I'm gonna click right here, add a dot, and I'm gonna move up to here and see how low it is. Do you see how low the circle is? I'm gonna not add a dot there. I'm just gonna move the dot I already have down to that height because I'm in the area, do you see where my mouse is, where it's the right brightness. So I'm just gonna down arrow it. I think it was about there. The thing moves along with it. Then I'll Invert my mask, grab my brush, and paint it in. It might not be precise there, but I can also move the dot a little further if I need to, a little less, until it blends in. The wood is getting too dark. Let's see if we can isolate it. I'll see if it's separate. Yep, click there. I'll move it up. Little too far. Anyway, you get the idea. All right, so this has been tonal adjustments concentrating on Curves because it is the most powerful by far. You can do a lot in it and stuff, but the main thing is two dots. Exaggerate the difference in height to get contrast, lessen the difference in height to mellow something out, and just move things up and down. Tomorrow, we're gonna get into color adjustments and we're gonna use Curves for part of it, and we'll also use adjustments like hue and saturation as well, and I'll show you the most powerful adjustments when it comes to adjusting color. Once you know how to do both color and the tonal adjustments, then it's crazy how much better your images can look once you really master that. But before then, why don't you head over to our Facebook group, and if you wanna know the web address for it, it's right there at the bottom. And that's where I'd love to hear your questions and comments about this session and the other sessions. It's also where you can just chat with other people who are taking the class, ask them how they use things, or whatever. And then finally, if you wanna find me on the web, here are a bunch of different resources. One in here, if you haven't, excuse me, been there yet, @theworldismyyogamat is where I take pictures of my wife doing yoga, excuse me, all over the world, and there's so fun images there. Hope to see you next time. This has been Photoshop CC, the complete guide.

Class Description

Join one of our best software instructors, Ben Willmore, to learn how to work effectively in Photoshop. Ben has made a profession out of teaching Photoshop and has been doing it for over twenty years. 

In this series, you'll learn:

  • Retouching
  • Compositing
  • Masking
  • Layers
  • Troubleshooting 
You'll also learn how Photoshop's adjustment capabilities are essential and how they go way beyond what is available in Adobe Lightroom. By the end of class, you should feel proficient in the workings of this complex program. If you've been paying for Adobe's Creative Cloud Photography plan every month and only use Lightroom, then it's time to take full advantage of your investment by learning Photoshop.

Don't have Photoshop yet? Get it now so you can follow along with the course!


Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.5

Reviews

Mary
 

Ben Willmore is exceptionally and intimately knowledgeable about Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, including Bridge and Camera Raw, and how they work together. He's also a wonderful photographer. That's great, but what's even better for us is that he's an incredible and generous teacher. He shares his knowledge and experience in an organized, thorough, thoughtful and relatable way. I envy his efficiency with words and ideas! He isolates hard-to-understand concepts - things we'd be unlikely to figure out on our own - and explains them in simple terms and with on point and memorable examples. I completely enjoy Ben's teaching methods and his personality. His admiration and appreciation of his wife, Karen, are telling of what a good guy he must be, and he's got just an overall pleasant personality. I love his amusement when something "ridiculous" happens during an edit! This bootcamp is fantastic and just what I need. It's only one of Ben's many CL classes that I've watched and learned from - they are all excellent. Thank you, Ben Willmore. (And Karen!)

Lynn Buente
 

I purchased this course ---SMART MOVE!--because, at 74, I learn more slowly and need more practice. While I've had some "novice" experience with PS, this course is moving me along in a totally different way. Most tutorials just tell you what to do. Ben tells you not only WHAT to do, but WHY (--or why not) and HOW. Understanding better can lead to using the practices in PS more fluently AND to greater freedom to be creative. I find Ben's approach to be kind of a "come as you are" session. No matter where you are on the learning spectrum, there is something to review, something new, or a brand new challenge. The relaxed manner of presentation is great, but doesn't minimize the content of the class. I appreciate the additional explanations and theory. These help to make total sense of the tools and practices of good editing. I would really recommend that, if possible, you purchase the course. The practice images, the homework, and the evolving workbook are great review and reference points. Personally, I have downloaded the classes by week so I can view, re-view, and stop, start, and repeat segments as often as I need to --which is often! Also, sometimes I like to view and work on one segment of the class at a time. My study of this course will be a LOT LONGER than four weeks, and I know I'll be referring to it as long as I'm a Photoshop user. Thanks, Ben! (And thanks to your wife for her contribution as well.)

Carol Senske
 

I've used PS for about five years in many of it's various versions. Learning on your won is a tough proposition, and I've struggled the whole time. Seeing work I admired and that inspired me to strive for great er things then not being ablr to figure out how to do them was a major frustration. The jargon was sometimes foreign, the complexity of the program overwhelming but I soldiered on and learned bits and pieces. A friend recommended Ben's course and I immediately came to CL to see what she was so thrilled about - I was amazed! Ben is down-to-earth, explains each step, gives shortcuts, defines terms, and shows how to accomplish what he's teaching. After two weeks I bought the class. I not only bought the Photoshop course but I added the Lightroom course as well. I'll do that, on my own, when things slow down a bit, and I have no doubt that course will help me even more than the PS course. I'm totally at sea with LR. I like Ben's teaching style, appreciate all the homework and extras included, and greatly appreciate the magnificent, easy to use, workbook by Ben's wife. I give my wholehearted endorsement for this course!