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Adjustment Layers and Masks This example will show you how to get an adjustment layer with a mask to allow you to darken parts of the photograph.
This will work with full Photosop CS or in Elements.
Open a photo Make sure your layers palette is open :- On the top menu go to Window and make sure that Layers is ticked.
In the layers palette you will see a circular black and white icon - click it
Choose Levels (if you have Full Photoshop CS you can choose curves here if you prefer)
Slide the centre grey indicator on the histogram to the right - this will darken the whole photo but that’s OK for now. (This technique does not apply anything directly to your Background photo – it merely applies an effect on a layer above it. Think about it as drawing on a sheet of clear plastic placed on a painting.)
In the layers palette you will see a new layer – this is called an adjustment layer. There will be a white box on the RHS of the layer – this is the mask The Levels adjustment that you have just carried out (darkening the photo) is being applied to the whole photo because the mask is white.
Remember - White reveals Black conceals
Click on the white mask to make sure you have selected it.
Hold down the ctrl key and press i This will invert the mask colour and make it black. Since White reveals Black conceals the effect of the levels adjustment you carried out is not showing on your photo because the black mask is hiding the whole effect.
We now need to apply the adjustment effect (darkening in this example) to part of the photo and we do this by painting with a white brush on the black mask.
Click on the white mask to make sure you have selected it. On the LHS (usually) of Photoshop you will have your Tools palette. If you can’t find it go to Window on the top menu and click on Tools
On the Tools palette click on the brush icon. You will see a small circle under your mouse. You can adjust the size of the brush using the [ and ] keys ( square brackets) . And adjust the softness of the brush by holding down the Shift key and pressing [ or ] Check that you have a white brush – at the bottom of the tools palette there is usually a white box partly over a black box. This indicates that the foreground colour (which you will be painting with) is white. You can swap to a black brush by pressing the two way arrow near the boxes (notice that black now is over the white). If the colours are not black and white press the tiny black and white boxes.
Now paint on the photo on areas you want to darken. (While you appear to be using the brush on the main photo area what is actually happening is that that you are painting on the mask.) You will notice on the dark mask that areas will be white were you have painted. This allows the adjustment to come through. White reveals Black conceals If you find that there is too much adjustment effect (darkening in this example) being applied you can change the opacity of the adjustment layer – the opacity slider is at the top of the layers palette.
To further refine the technique try changing the opacity of the brush. You can change this at the top of the screen – it’s usually set at 100% but change it to less than 25% and use the brush to gradually apply the effect - works best with a soft brush. If you want to reverse the effect at certain areas then paint with a black brush.
This method can be used with any of the adjustments found under the small black/white circle e.g. try a new layer for lightening using the Levels Adjustment.
Remember that painting on the mask with black or white just allows the adjustment to be blocked or shown. The adjustment can be anything – darkening, lightening, increase contrast (using levels or curves), increasing or decreasing saturation, hue changes etc.