Using Levels


Adobe® Photoshop® Intensive


Lesson Info

Using Levels

And now we're going to open up possibly the flattest lowest contrast foot of the golden gate bridge you've ever seen to date I took the shot really proud of it. Okay, so what we're going to do to fix this images we're going to use a levels adjustment and the levels adjustment changes or lets you change rather the intensity of the shadows, mid tones and highlights in your image and just like everything else in fed a shop, there are several different ways to use this adjustment and we're going to look at all of them one of those ways will resonate with you more than one of the other ways don't feel like you have to memorize every different technique I'm gonna show you using levels okay? One of them will feel more comfortable t than another, so what we're gonna do is we're going to trot down to the bottom of the layers panel and we're going to click the little half black, half white circle and we're going to choose levels levels adjustment gets its name because it adjust the levels of bri...

ghtness in the shadows, man tones and highlights so it's been just a moment talking about what just popped open in the adjustments palin again, if you're using I want to say version cs three, then you are not going to have an adjustments panel, but what will have had happened is dialog box would have opened with the same stuff in it ok, so don't let that throw you so when is a man a little bit? Talk about what we're seeing this little guy right here miss adjustments panel at the very top you've got a list of presets for this adjustment photoshopped contains fiddles and gobs of process and I would encourage you to take them for a spin at your leisure because some of them were really quite useful because they'll play around with those place a lot of useful presets up here. This little button right here auto will is really you tell a photo shop a flower shop I understand that levels really powerful I don't know what the heck to do that please take care of it for me that's perfectly fine and with the changes that we made to our target colors telling photo shop what we really like our black toe look like and what are why are highlights? We want to look like we'll take advantage of that information so don't be embarrassed if you want to just click auto and be done with it on some images that may be all you need. Okay this little poppet menu right here let's you access the information contained in each individual channel, okay, you read channel your green channel in your blue channels different information in each channel this thing right here is called a history ram and what it is if we could zoom in on it is a collection of really, really skinny bar graphs that tell you how many pixels at a given level of brightness are contained in your image. For example, if we were to draw a straight line down from this really spiky, really tall bar graph here, if we draw a straight line down to the grey scale bar underneath it, that bar graph is corresponding to that level of brightness in your image. Really tall bar graphs mean you have a slew of pixels at that particular level of brightness, and what level of brightness is it? Draw a straight line down from the bar graph to this grady and bar that's the level of brightness. So since I've got a pretty good a pretty wide area here of these bar graphs that air really tall and I draw a straight line down to this area in my grade a bar that's telling me that I have a slew of pixels better this level of brightness. Now if I zoom back out for a moment and I kind of remember what that area looks like it's really, really light and I look at my image, I would have to agree I do have a slew of pixels that are really, really like let's zoom back in if you don't have a bar graph like if this end I don't have any bar graphs here it all there might be like a little tiny went down there is really, really short, which means I have precious few pixels that are what level of brightness was draw a straight line down from that area down to our grading bar here so it's telling me that I have very few, if any pixels that aarp your wife ok, most of that I have a bunch of pixels that are really, really like gray, but I don't have much of anything that's why? So what you really want in the history of is you want a nice kind of soft eroded mountain chain if you want, because that's, what this history and looks like to me is a mountain range spiky mountains, our ideal because that means you've got, you know, a whole bunch of one color of pixels and what you really want is a nice medley of all the different levels of rightness in your image. Ok, so you also see some sliders underneath this history amore this mountain range, you'll notice that the slider on the right hand side is filled with white, and if you draw a straight line down to that grady in bar, it would concur that you are indeed dealing with white okay, so this slider controls what color white really should be in your image on the left hand side of the history and you'll notice that the sliders filled with black this in mr graham deals with your shadows and if utah straight line down from that slider down to the grady and bar you see the indeed we're in the darkest range of levels of brightness there so from looking at this history ram and looking at this grayscale bar I can tell that I don't have it any dark colors in this image it all okay because there are no bar graphs over here none at all and in their teeny time either really really short bar graphs here which means you don't have hardly any pixels in your image at that corresponding level of brightness ok, I have a slew of pixels in this range which is the's level of brightness is right down here you just draw a straight line down from that history ram to that grace go bar and that tells you what you're looking at a little bit cryptic but you'll get used to it you can also turn on this history and on the lcds of your camera you may have to route around the owner's manual to figure out how to turn that on but that can be helpful because if you see this history ram when you're here out shooting then you might adjust your exposure and we take the shot okay because ideally you you don't want gaps on either side of your mountain range if you don't remember anything else about this levels discussion remember that the goal is for these sliders to be snug up against the foot of your mountain range on either side if we do just that one thing this image is gonna look five hundred times better so in essence what we're going to do is we're going to say hey phone shop yeah, I know you think black I know you think my shadows ought to be jet black yeah, but we don't have any of those pixels in this image so what we're going to do is if we move the shadow slider over to the the foot of our mountains okay that's really saying where we stopped the slider draw a straight line down it's really you telling photo shop yeah take all the pixels that air this color and make them dark make them black dark in them ok, so you're resetting the black point in your image by dragging the slider around same thing with highlights if we move this highlights latte or in tow where the data actually starts in our history graham we're telling photo shop wherever we stop with that slider draw a straight line damn we're telling it okay instead of you thinking is that have you making you know white pure why we want y two b this level of brightness right here this really, really like gray, so it will lighten those pixels so it's easier to understand if we see it in action, somebody go ahead in his email and I'm gonna click and drag my highlight slider and drag it in to that first big bar graph. Now I'm gonna take my shadow slider and I'm going to drag it in so where I actually start getting some taller bar graphs in the history and right here when you get into a situation like this, where you've got little bitty bar graphs it's a subjective call on where you stop with that slider but you don't want there to be gaps on either side of your history. Um so now if I toggle the visibility I often on of the levels adjustment layer that has now appeared in our layers panel we can see the before and the after of that image and that is a heck of an improvement. Okay, now what if it was an improvement but if it's a little bit too strong let's look in our layers panel since that adjustment ran on its very own layer, we could bring down the opacity a little bit to back off of that adjustment to make it look good so now here's our before and are after so you can adjust the opacity of the color correction that you just performed without affecting anything else without affecting, you know the opacity of your original image or anything. Now, if there were areas of this image that didn't need the levels adjustment at all, well, every adjustment layer comes with layer mask automatically. You don't even have to add it it's right here, ready to be used. So if there were certain areas in the image that did not need that levels adjustment, go ahead and let it run on the whole image, but then come back in and edit this layer mask with either black to conceal or if you want to conceal a little bit of it, you could paint with gray, and then if you print this thing, are you sent it to a client and they don't like it. Then you can pop open this photoshopped document that you've saved as a psd, and if you I'm just going to click on the background layer to kind of close that adjustments panel. But you can come back in here and just like you double clicked the layer thumbnail of the solid color feel layer to reopen the color picture to continue editing the color. If you double click this icon, you're going to open up that levels adjustment and your change is there going to be right there. Which means that you can always get back and find tune them and tweak them whenever you need tio it's really really incredible now what if I'm gonna take the opacity back two hundred percent what if this levels adjustment improve the image but it still needs a little bit of work how about duplicating your levels adjustment player yeah you can do that too so I'm just gonna press command j on a mac or control j on a pc now I've got a double levels adjustment layer if one was too much everyone was not enough and two is too much you could drop me a pass city the second one to ten percent or fifteen percent or five percent so the point I'm trying to make here is that by doing your correction with an adjustment layer it happens in its own space and it becomes infinitely flexible you can duplicate it if it's not enough play with the layer capacities to get it just right you can use the included layer mass to hide the adjustment from the part of the image that doesn't need it and you can also uh you know just lower opacity of the one layer without duplicating it to back off of that change so infinitely flexible somebody go ahead and delete that second layer that I created by activating impressing the delete key so that's one way to use levels okay and again that is simply dragging the highlight and the shadow slider in to the foot of your mountains if you've got a gap on either side, this is the quickest way tio fix it is to drag those two sliders into the foot of your mountains. We haven't talked about this slider yet. This fighter is filled with gray, and it stands for your mid tones, so if you've got black and why, and you've got grays in between and again, we're not really talking about color. We're talking about levels of brightness, which effects color, basically. So I like to use this slider to increase or decrease contrast, if you drag it to the right, the museum out, if you drag it to the right, you're going to increase contrast. If you drag it to the left, you're going to decrease contrast, okay, so I usually drag mine a little bit to the right and that's it have not harmed my original image. Heck, I've not even had tio unlock the background layer yet so that's method number one of using levels, let's, look at method number two, I'm gonna go ahead and hide the visibility of that layer, so we get back to my original, do you have a question? Why aren't you doing this on us smart object? Why am I not doing this on a smart object? Because the level's adjustment will run on its own layer adjustment layer. You know, the change happens in its own little space, so I don't really need to use the smart object to protect my original image. Ok, so now we're gonna go, we have another question run to that microphone. So could you do this with a raw image, or does it have to be a j pig? You could do that with the wrong image, but honestly, if you're shooting in raw, it is easier to do this kind of color and lighting correction in camera, raw software, vintages and photoshopped okay, so now I'm gonna create another levels adjustment layer, and we're going to look at another way to use it. I'm gonna go back down to the bottom of the layers panel, click the half black, half white circle, choose levels this time we're gonna look at the different history grams the different a bar graph sits our mountain ranges for each individual color channel one for red, one for green, one for blue, because they will be a little bit different. The goal with this method is to determine how different they are if the gaps on either side of your history graham very greatly between the channels than it will be who view to adjust them individually. Okay, so what we're looking at right now, if we look at this poppet menu right here, it says rgb, which means that photo shop is showing us in this history. Graham a mash up of the bar graphs in the red channel, the green channel in the blue channel well, we can use this, pop it many to see them individually. Ok, so the first thing you want to do is click the red channel and you want to have a good stare, if that history of note the gap on either side of the history graham in this channel and you just kind of got him, remember it now, let's compared those gaps to what we're going to see in the blue channel or the green channel. Rather, those are vastly different. Ok, so let's, go back to the red note the gap on the left so it's going to double in size in the green channel? Okay, now, let's, look at the blue channel. Now we've got a honking big gap. Ok, so if the gap on either side of your history graham varies greatly between the red, green and blue channel doesn't make a hill of beans. What the gap is in the rgb channel, okay, in this method of using levels, you're looking at the individual channels so forget the rgb channel because it's a mash up of all three of them you want to pay attention to the gap in the individual channels and if it varies greatly and this one does here again keep a watch at that gap on the left side overshadows gets bigger in the green channel and its honking big in the blue channel that means we're going to yield a better, more visually pleasing correction by adjusting those sliders in the individual channels instead of the composite channel the rgb channel okay, you don't do both you either adjust the shadow highlight sliders in the individual channels or in the composite channel so since we landed on the blue channel well go ahead and adjust that first so here again we're simply dragging the shadow and the highlight slider in tow where the information starts into the foot of arm rams now we're going to go to the green channel and it doesn't really matter which chain lee do you first I'm just going up and down in the pop up menu so now I'm gonna pull in my shadows for my green and my highlights and again when you're dealing with a situation with a history in like this it has to be your own visual call of where you stop with that slider now we're going to go to the red channel and I'm gonna drag that shadow slider into where the day to start in this situation over here, we've got little bitty bar grass and then a spike that again is a personal call for you stopped the slider where it looks good you may not want to adjust this one I'm going to I'm going to go ahead and drag it in a little bit big again that's got to be your own call so now menacing back out and their image is looking really good ok, so just a little before and after ok, so here's the before here's the after and try to remember the color because we're going to turn on the first levels adjustment that we made when we adjusted on lee the composite channel okay, so here's that will be adjusted the individual channels and that's what we got when we adjusted the composite to me we've still got a little bit of a blue color cast going on we'll be adjusted only the composite channel, so it is worth the time to take a little spin through these individual channels and just check you know when when I was in the teaching in the uk, I got such a charge out of getting on the subways and the disembodied voice would go mind the gap that's really what you're doing take a spin through these channels in mind the gap on either end of the history um okay, so after you've done that the museum back in another time after you've done that, if you have adjusted the shadows and highlight sliders in the individual channel lt's, then you may I give you permission to go back to the composite channel, the rgb channel, the mash up of all the history rams you may adjust the mid tones there, so save your mentone or your contrast, suggest mint for the composite channel. But if the gaps on the other side of your history in different greatly between the channels a gesture, shadow highlight sliders there, case on the helmet and increased contrast this little bit by dragging my gray slider slightly rightward and here's the image that I can produce by adjusting the individual channels to have questions. I'm wondering if you would treat this any differently if you had a hike ear loki image would you avoid bringing, like your black slider all the way into the foot of the mountain? If you had, like, a high key image, if you had a low key image, would you avoid bringing your white slider or is it just the same? I don't think that that would really make any difference. Hi theme is just to really over exposed. Kind of image that's what it looks like to me I don't think it would make that much of a difference, but again you would have to test that out just kind of see but that's the great thing about doing this on a on adjustment layer you are completely safe, you know give it a shot and see what it does to your image. We've got another question over here happening to the history graham are we losing information it's very lot of white spaces in between well that's a good question what's happening to our history and after we made that adjustment well, what it's doing is it is spreading the information out okay among all the levels of brightness see before our information was kind of compacted in the middle so we didn't have any shadows really, you know and we didn't have anything pure why so in adjusting the levels of brightness throughout the image, we're spreading out the information more evenly across all the different levels of brightness that we've got your image isn't being harmed, but this is a dang good indicator if you ever get image and you don't know if it's been adjusted before or not if you've got a history and that looks like a comb it's been adjusted that's how you can tell for image has been messed with is taking a peek at the highest agrium, which is a funnel trick you ready for the third way to use levels? This is a quick one, all right? So we're gonna turn off the visibility of that adjustment later we're going to add another one go back down to the half black half white circle choose levels this time we're going to use the eye droppers so just like the sliders underneath the history graham were filled with color letting you know which levels of brightness they control. These eye droppers do the same thing, so if clicking and dragging the sliders doesn't excite you, then you can click the eye droppers and then mouse over to your image and click to do basically the same thing you'll notice that one eye droppers filled with black one is filled with gray and one is filled with white and as you would suspect, the one filled with black a gesture shadows the one filled with gray just your men tones and the one feel with why I just you're highlights. Basically, what you're going to do with these eye droppers is you're going to click one toe activate it now you're gonna mouse over to your image and since I have chosen the eyedropper filled with black, I need to click somewhere in my image that really ought to be black so I'm gonna look around in my image and I'm going to try to find something that really should be black in real life not something that's black just because the color in this image is messed up but something that really has the color black in it so I could guess and I'm going to say that probably in the corner of the bridge stress here it's probably one of the darkest areas in the m and so I'm going to give that a click and what a shop suggested the levels of brightness according to what I just told it ought to be black now if you don't like the results you get from that first click you can keep clicking and the history and will keep changing okay the problem with doing it this way is it it can be really tough to find what's supposed to be black in your image hey that's the caveat with using the eye droppers but let me show you a trick I'm gonna end you a couple of times to get back to square one with that adjustment layer okay, so now I've got the black eye dropper activated I'm going to press and hold a modifier key ok option on a mac or alter on a pc let's say that I've been staring at this image and I cannot figure out what the hicks supposed to be black you know good luck I'm gonna hold on option on a mac or all time a pc male I'm going to click and drag the shadow slider to the right in my history graham as soon as I click my whole image goes white as I hold on that modifier key and holding down my mouse button and I begin dragging that slider to the right the first areas that start to appear in neon color are really in fact my darkest areas of the image this is a little trick that you can use to find the darkest parts of your image so then what you need to do is remember where that color stars take your slider back to the lift, release the modifier key and come back in and click that area so that's a trick to finding the darkest part of your image now let's suggest the white point so I'm gonna grab my why eyedropper by single clicking it to activate it and now I'm going to stare at my image and see if I can find something that really should be white now I know that you're probably thinking their home we'll just click on that big o building right clearly sits obviously why I don't believe that it's why I think that it looks why? Because the sun was reflecting on it it's not a true white and that's what you gotta watch with this method is you don't want to click on a reflective why you want to click on something that really has the color of life and it can be hard to find but you can use that same trick we just used to find the darkest parts of our image, and that is holding down the option chiana, mac or all on a pc, so give it a click and then click and hold down your mouths. But on the highlight slider, the air your image should go completely black, but the areas of neil in color are your lightest areas, and as you drag that shadow slider into the left than other areas start to illuminate, but the first ones that you see in that meal and color are the lightest parts of your image. Okay, so if you don't have any meal in color when you first click the slider, then keep dragging it to the left and areas will be illuminated, but in this particular image, I can see that I've got, you know, quite a bit of white, actually there, you know, there is some pure white in there, so just remember where those areas are and then come over and click it. So this was one of the first areas that came in down here, somebody go ahead and click. It didn't notice much of a change visually in the image, but nevertheless the white point was reset now the third's I dropped her here the one from mid tones that's the hardest one to find it all because the option ault sliding trick doesn't work with mid tones. So what? You really want to deal with the midtown eyedropper it's? Just click around on the grays in your image until the image looks good visually to you there's no magic trick for that one, so I'm just going to start clicking on various shades of gray in my image, and then when I like the color of the overall image, then I'll call it done and stop so that's how you can use the eye droppers. So we've looked at three ways to use levels, so I'm gonna go ahead and collapse the adjustment. Palin just so we can see my layers paying a little bit more and let's, just take a spin through these guys, okay? So here's, what we got by using the eye droppers this is what we got by adjusting the shadow highlight sliders in the individual channels and adjusting the mid tone slider in the composite channel only versus what we got by adjusting the composite hissed a gram, dragging the shadow and highlight sliders inward on that mash up of history. Grams, in my opinion, we got the best results from adjusting the shadow highlight sliders and the individual channels and adjusting mid tones in the composite but but, seriously, if if you're then tempted tio, well, I'm just going to adjust the individual channels as a rule from here on out. Don't it won't help you unless those gaps are vastly different. Okay, unless the history rams are vastly different between the channels. It's not going to benefit you it all to adjust them individually, so you really do need to take a spin through them and give them a good look. Before you decide to do that. If they're not very different at all, then adjust the composite channel and be done with it. It'll save you time.

Class Description

In this special photoshop tutorial, you'll dig into Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 with Lesa Snider, author of Photoshop® CS5: The Missing Manual. There is so much to cover in Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 that we need almost a week to cover everything. In this special 4-day workshop you'll dig into Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 with Lesa Snider, internationally acclaimed instructor and author. Lesa is informative yet entertaining with a unique way of explaining difficult concepts so you understand the "why" behind the "how". Get ready to spend a fun, high-energy week digging into the power of Photoshop.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1


1Introduction: Nitty Gritty Basics + Layers 2Workspace Overview 3Q&A: Workspace 4The Truth About Resolution and File Formats 5Changing Resolution Without Changing Quality 6Q&A: Resolution and File Formats 7Resizing with the Crop Tool 8Cropping with the Ruler Tool 9Resizing with Content-Aware Scale 10Resizing for Print/Web 11Layers and Layer Types 12Duplicating, Moving, and and Aligning Layers 13Q&A: Layers 14Creating Reflections 15Layer Alignment Tools 16Simple Slimming Technique (Resizing Layers) 17Colorizing a Black and White Image 18Creating a Solid Color Fade with Fill Layers 19Layer Masks: Hand Painted Image Collage 20Layer Masks: Gradient Mask Collage 21Layer Blend Mode Collage (Include Load Images as Stack) 1Using Selections Part 1 2Using Selections Part 2 3Q&A: Selection Tools 4Color Selections: Fixing Animal White Eyes 5Tightening Up Layer Masks 6Painting Selections with QuickMasks 7Using Vector Drawing Tools 8Vector Shapes: Creating an Oval Vignette 9Vector Shapes: Rounded Edges to Photo 10Use Channels to Create Selections 11Tough Selections Around Hair & Fur 12Refine Edges Part 1 13Refine Edges Part 2 14Creative Edges on Photos 15Embellishing with Vector Art 16Creative Vector Photo Frames 17Editing Smart Objects 18Smart Objects Template: Creating Dark Edge Vignette 1Smart Objects: Selective Blurring 2Smart Objects: Selective Sharpening 3Sharpening with the High Pass Filter 4Q&A: Sharpening 5Auto Color Adjustments 6Shadows and Highlights 7Using Levels 8When to Use Smart Objects 9Using Curves 10Lightening and Darkening with Blend Modes 11Enhancing Eyes and Teeth 12Changing Colors with Hue/Saturation 13Changing Colors by Hand Painting 14Faux Dodge/Burn: Reduce Wrinkle 15Color to Black and White 1Healing Brush 2Content Aware Fill 3Using Text in Photoshop 4Designing with Baseline Shift 5OpenType Fonts 6Placing Text Behind an Object 7Barely There Text: Faded and Hollow Text 8Pushing Photos Through Text 9Adding Texture to Your Text 10Convert Text to Paths 11Combine Images using Advanced Blending 12Realistic Photo Aging 13Faking HDR 14Wrapping Texture Around an Object