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Advanced Adjustment Tips & Tricks in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 1 of 13

Limit Brightness Range of Adjustments

Ben Willmore

Advanced Adjustment Tips & Tricks in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

1. Limit Brightness Range of Adjustments
See how Photoshop’s Blending Sliders can limit the brightness range an adjustment will affect so that it does not affect the shadows and/or highlights as much as the rest of the image.

Lesson Info

Limit Brightness Range of Adjustments

Welcome to advanced adjustment tips and tricks in Photoshop. This is we're going to learn to push your adjustments to the next level and we're gonna look at a wide variety of techniques, a lot of them having to do with adjusting color, but also adjusting tonality using both adjustment layers in all sorts of other features in Photoshop. So let's dive in and get started. Let's take a look at how we can limit where an adjustment applies within an image based on the brightness of the picture and therefore we can prevent an adjustment from affecting the brightest or darkest areas. I'll do this related to turning a white object to color but it can be used for any kind of adjustment. So we'll start with this. This is a picture of my wife in Amsterdam and she only wears shades gray, white being a shade of gray. That's pretty radical for her. I would like it to be a color shirt. So let's start by making a selection of the shirt. I'll just come up here and choose object selection tool and with t...

hat I can draw a rectangle around what I would like selected and it will look within that rectangle to see if you can find an object but it selected more than what I'd like to change. So I can either click on the icon near the upper left, right here that takes away from a selection or I prefer to hold down the option key on a Mac Alton Windows, which temporarily select that option and I'll make a rectangle around what I don't want included in my selection and see if it can remove the areas. I'm thinking about one More. Try up here at the top in a little bit more there now. This is not about selection so I'm not going to make this selection perfect. But we might as well talk about some issues you might have with your adjustments that aren't the fault of the adjustment. There are the fault of the selection. You used to isolate an area. So what I like to do is after making a selection like this one is I'll type the letter Q. Q. Turns on quick mask mode. It's the same thing as clicking the icon that's found just below your foreground and background colors and it puts a red overly on your picture and if you zoom up here you'll find that the areas that are not selected are covered with red. But look at areas that used to be selected before I told the tool to take away from a selection like for instance this arm, do you see a little area right along here that doesn't have red on it. Well that you're gonna run into quite often. So grab your paintbrush tool in this case, I'll grab a hard edged brush paint with black and I'm just going to paint over that little rim to ensure that it truly clean that up. I see the same thing around my wife's head right here where that head used to be selected and when I told it to take away from it, it still has that little hint of an edge that has to do with a concept known as anti alias scene, but it's beyond the scope of this particular class. I'll just fix this little area here. Often times I'll go into a corner like that and then I'll just switch the color I'm painting with. I need to add some back and therefore I don't have to always go to a tiny brush to fix things up, but I can't touch this up in any areas where it's messed up. I'm gonna type the letter X X, exchanges my foreground and background colors and therefore I can switch to painting with black and I'll fix the couple other areas where I notice it's messed up but I'm not going to make this selection perfect. So there we go. I can type the letter Q to get out of quick mask mode and now let's change the color of the shirt to do. So I'm going to use an adjustment layer. I'll come down here to the adjustment layer icon and I'm going to choose hue and saturation with human saturation. You'll find the sliders in here for Hugh won't do much, there's only a hint of color already in the shirt. And so he was not going to do much saturation. Sure if I bring it way up, I can tell what color was in the shirt, but it's not going to let me add a color do the shirt. I do that by turning on the colorized checkbox when I do, it's gonna put in a default color of red And it has the saturation just defaulting at 25, but I could crank it higher or lower. The problem is we need that shirt to be a lot darker if you wanted to look like there's color in it. So I'm just going to take the lightness slider and bring it down until I have the brightness I want. Then I'll come up to saturation and get the amount of color to be approximately right. And finally, I'll come up here to hew to choose which color I'd like to use and I'm gonna make it. So she's got a blue shirt on and I can fine tune the other settings. But when I do this, the first thing I noticed is my selection could have been better. I noticed around here, around the top that I see some of the old white shirt showing through, we might have time to fix that later, but we're not talking about selections right now, so I'm going to ignore that. But what I really don't like about this is if I compare that shirt to something else that's already in colour like this bicycle, look on the bicycle at the dark areas of the frame of the bike where you know, it's in color, but if you look like right in this area, you'll find that there's next to no color in the dark areas. But over here in the version we just created, we do have a lot of color in the dark areas, so let's figure out how we could get rid of that. What I'm gonna do is a second adjustment layer. Again, I'll do human saturation in this time, I'm just going to take the saturation slider and turn it way down maybe around 60 or 70% and that will make it a lot less colorful. The problem is that's happening to the entire picture, including that bicycle. But if I go to the bottom of my settings for my human saturation adjustment layer, there's this icon right here with the down pointing arrow. When I click that, watch what happens to the adjustment layer I'm working on, you're going to find a down pointing arrow appear. And what that does is it causes this adjustment to use the same mask that's down here. It's as if that mask was copied in, placed up here. So now it's only affecting her shirt, but I don't want that to affect the entirety of her shirt. I wanted to only affect the dark areas. So here's where we can start limiting adjustment based on brightness. Here's how it's done. Go down here to the letters FX at the bottom of the layers, panel, click and choose the top option, it's called blending options. When you do, you'll get a screen with a whole bunch of options. We'll ignore most of them. And we're going to concentrate on these sliders here. This is going to allow us to reveal parts of the underlying layer and make it break through the layer we're working on or take parts of this layer and make it disappear based on its brightness in whatever it says this layer and the layer you're working on as an adjustment layer. It thinks that that layer contains the result of your adjustment, whatever the picture looked like as a result of your adjustment. So what I want to do in this case is I want to hide the bright areas with this adjustment results so I'm gonna bring this in and nothing in the shirt is really bright anymore. So I'm gonna have to bring this in quite a distance before I see anything happening. But eventually I should start seeing a colorful shirt show up again and I'm gonna keep moving this over and tell the only areas that don't have the colorful stuff on it are the really dark shadows which I'd say are about there. Then if you look at this slider, if you look at it real close, you'll see it's actually two sliders stuck together. That's what the vertical line in the middle indicates is that it's too stuck together to break them apart. You hold down the option key Alton Windows and grab either side and pull when I do that it starts to fade out and apply less and less and I'm just gonna grab that and pull it all the way to the left and therefore it starts being up to apply it full strength all the way in the shadows and it applies less and less and less until it gets to right here where it applies and not at all, then I can fine tune the position of the slaughter when I look at the shirt to decide exactly how far I wanted to extend into the rest of the image. Let's say about their and then I'll click OK, now I can turn off the eyeball on this adjustment layer and turn it back on and you can see that. Now it's pulling a little bit of color out of the darkest portion of the shirt and that's going to make it more look like the effect of the color in the bicycle. But also if you look at the bicycle and you look at areas where the sun is really hitting the bicycle, like right up here, there's a very slim area where you can see a bright highlight or right there, you'll find that those bright highlights also do not contain much color. So let's see if we can get something similar on our shirt, we'll take a different approach in this case, I'm going to take the background layer and I'm going to copy it and put it up on top. There's a bunch of ways of doing that. What I'm going to do is unlock it by clicking the lock symbol and then any time you move a layer doesn't matter if it's a normal layer or an adjustment layer, you can hold down the option key when you're dragging it and that means move a copy. So I just moved to copy up to the top. Now whatever I do with this particular layer, I only wanted to affect her shirt, I don't want it to affect the rest of the image. So I'd like to have that same down pointing arrow appear next to this layer but we don't have an adjustment layer with that little icon to click on. So we have to use a different approach. If I go to the layer menu, there's a choice in here called create clipping mask. That's what's going to add that down, pointing arrow. So watch my layers panel and you'll see that little arrow. So now this is using that mask as well but it's just covering up our colored version of our shirt. What I want is to have this only show up in the absolute brightest areas. So let's go back to the letters FX and choose blending options and this time let's work with this layer and let's just hide the dark parts which is just gonna be by pulling this in. I'm gonna pull it in quite a ways until all I see is bright highlights out there. Then I'm gonna split the slider in half remember you do so by holding down the option key Alton Windows, and I'll pull that away and I'm going to experiment with the position of these. In fact, I'll bring the one side all the way to the right, and then adjust the other and I just want to get a smooth transition from the highlights into wherever it needs to go. Let's say about their it starts looking smooth, then I'll click OK, But then the effect is too strong. So I'm gonna just this opacity control this opacity is the same as the one that's found at the top of your layers panel. So I'll bring it all the way down to nothing, so I can just see the version of the shirt we had before and I'll slowly bring it up to get the highlights to have a little less color in them, which is usually going to add a lot more realism to the end result. Let's click OK. Now, what we've done is made out of three layers, so let's clean it up and finish it off. What I'm gonna do is name these layers, I'm going to call this highlights because that's bringing highlights into the image. I'm going to call this shadows because it's controlling uh the color in the shadows and I'm going to call this white two blue because it's making a white shirt turned blue, then I'd like this to look like a single layer in the layers panel. Just so it's simplified. I already have the bottom most layer of what we made selected. So I'll hold shift and click on the top one to get all the layers in between. Then I'm going to click the folder icon that's going to put them into what's known as a group. And finally I'll name my group. Yeah. Now you can do this a little bit differently if you'd like if I expand this group to see the layers that are contained within. You know how we're using those down pointing arrows in. That caused all these layers above to use this mask. Well, there's a problem with that that you'll run into on occasion and that is when you end up using the down pointing arrow, which is known as a clipping group. Not only does it use the mask that's on that layer below, but it also looks at the opacity of the layer and the blending mode of the layer, which is a little menu at the top of your layers panel. And so if you have either one of those at a setting that you would not want to be applied to the layers above, then you'll want to use this technique instead. What I'm gonna do is we have that in the group, I'm just going to take this mask and drag it to the group. Therefore it's going to apply to all the layers within the group. Then I no longer need these little down pointing arrow is not that they're hurting anything right now, but to get them to turn off when one method for doing so is to go to the horizontal line that separates two layers, hold down the option key. Alton Windows and click on it. The other thing you could have done is gone up to the layer menu here, I'll choose undo and there's a choice called release clipping mask. It does the same thing, but now we have it so the mask is on the group and that mask affects all the layers contained within. The other thing that I often do is if I ever have a layer mask that I'm not planning on using, I'm not gonna put any black in it, I just drag it to the trash and therefore when I hit the league, it's obvious that I know that these layers apply everywhere. So there we've turned a white shirt to blue

Class Description


  • Precisely match the color of two objects
  • Change black objects to any color.
  • Add drama to dull overcast skies.
  • Apply multiple adjustments in a single adjustment layer.
  • Utilize uncommon settings such as Knockout.


Are you looking to up your adjustment skills so you can be more effective and efficient by utilizing a wider range of advanced features? Do you run into features in Photoshop that you do not utilize such as Knockout Deep, Knockout Shallow, Pass Through mode and wonder how you could utilize them? Then this class is for you.

Ben has been pushing Photoshop to its limits for over 30 years. Learn his best tips and tricks for getting the most out of Photoshop’s adjustments.

You’ll be able to tackle a much wider range of challenges once you expand the range of features you use on a daily basis. You’ll also reduce guesswork while increasing the precision of your adjustments.


  • People who are generally experienced using Photoshop, but want to push their skills to a more advanced level.
  • Those who want to tackle difficult tasks efficiently.
  • People who want to understand the more powerful and less commonly used features in Photoshop.


Adobe Photoshop 2021 (V22.5.0)


As a photographer, Ben Willmore has shot in all 50 states and explored over 80 countries. He has been pushing Photoshop and Lightroom Classic to their limits since the beginning. Ben is part of a select group of non-employees that Adobe trusts with pre-release beta versions of their software so he can have a voice in the future direction of their software. He has written more than a dozen books on digital imaging that have been translated into 9 languages, has written over 100 articles for major magazines, and was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame. He has been a featured speaker at events on all seven continents where he has taught well over 100,000 people.

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Alicia Orth

I've been using Photoshop for years and still learned lots of great tips from this class. Would love to see more classes like this.

Eric Johnson

Terrific - lots of great information. Way to go Ben!

Marco Basile

Really enjoyed how succinct and sharp the presentation was. Great information I hadn't seen elsewhere. Thank you Ben.