Let’s take a look at another very powerful feature of Photoshop called the adjustment layer. Adjustment layers give you the flexibility and power to make powerful, dramatic improvements to your images WITHOUT altering any pixels. This will allow you the freedom to play with the image as you like and never harm the original file. Not only that but they are instantly disposable, temporary or permanent and easily alterable (change the settings if you don’t like them immediately). An adjustment layer appears on top of other layers in the layers palette and applies the layer of the adjustment itself to the visible layers beneath it. There’s a few ways to create these. First go to the Layer: New adjustment layer: and then choose and adjustment such as Levels.
Press OK when this box comes up unless you want to name it now.
Now you simply make your changes in the adjustment layer’s individual dialog box. Get the settings that you want and press OK.
And for the purpose of example just doing something pretty outrageous to show you the effect of what’s going on. Go ahead and move the outer sliders to the middle to really increase the contrast.
You can see the effect of the entire image is now extremely contrasted. Note the layers palette. This is important to understand; the layer order of the adjustment layers. It can start to get complicated when you get involved with multi-layer graphic designs and some of which include custom adjustment layers. But for now you need to understand that adjustment layers apply to all visible layers beneath it in the layers palette.
Just double click on an adjustment layer icon in the layers palette to bring up the editing field to make your ‘adjustments’. This is simply a fast and efficient way to touchup all of your photographs if you want. The other method is to duplicate your background layer to make an adjustment on that layer itself, but with an adjustment layer you have a tentative and flexible adjustment itself.
These work with any of the adjustments and are also in the middle of the layers palette on the bottom (pop up menu). Try bringing up an adjustment layer dialog box this way, press OK and watch it create an adjustment layer above your background image.
You use adjustment layers to fix and adjust your images. Note that whatever layer is selected/highlighted in the layers palette (is also the layer you are working on) will be the layer right beneath when you create an adjustment layer (adjustment will be created above the layer you have highlighted).
Here is the other method I’ve described of making adjustments onto an actual layer itself (changing it’s pixels). It’s good to know these different ways of doing things. Duplicate the background layer.
Now choose Image: Adjustment: Levels (or any of your choice) to adjust/change pixels on an actual layer.
Then just make your image adjustments and press OK.
Note that you have full access to all of the adjustments with these methods vs. a limited choice with the adjustment layer method. You should become comfortable using adjustment layers, they’re easy and fun to use. You’ll discover your own favorite adjustments for fixing up or enhancing your images.