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JimD's picture
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Don't destruct, just adjust!

PS_adjust_layer_1.gifIt never fails to bring a tear to my eye when I see a designer or graphic artist making color corrections & adjustments directly to an image. When you use the levels, curves, brightness and other filters on an image, you are destroying pixels - and there's no way to get them back once you save and close the file. These are called "Destructive" filters for a reason, they physically add, change or remove pixels!

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever apply levels and other color adjustment filters to the main image. Instead, go to the layers palette, select the image layer you want to adjust and click the little Adjustment Layer icon (4th icon from the left) at the bottom of the layer palette.

Then, from the menu that will fly out, select the filter from the list. Most all of the major color, tone, hue and brightness filters are in there, including my personal favorite - Selective Color. Once you select a filter from the list, a dialog box for the filter will appear as it normally does. Make your adjustments and hit OK to apply the adjustment.

PS_adjust_layer_2.gifThe resulting image will appear as it would if you applied them directly to an image, the only difference is that you will see a new layer in your Layers palette named with the filter you used. That layer is what contains the "adjustment" you made. The best part about making Levels, Curves and other adjustments this way is that all the original pixels of the image are still intact, and you can not only turn them off completely by clicking the little "Eye" icon in the layer palette, but if you double click the layer, you can go back to the adjustment dialog box and make further adjustments to the ORIGINAL image.


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Ivan's picture

Good post Jim! It's very important to remember this.

sPECtre's picture

A sub-tip: if you use PS CS, you can re-map the shortcuts. So you can replace "levels" by "levels adjustment layer" when hitting Command+L, and so on...

This will allow you to use adjustment layers as fast as it was when you were using destructive adjustments!

The only issue is that you cannot use an adjustment level on a layer mask, you'll have to resort to navigate to image>adjustments to adjust it.

Just try it, it may suit your workflow!

Anonymous's picture

It's called "Save As..."

Terry Thornhill's picture

Most of the time, when I'm editing an image, by the time it makes it into the project folder (or wherever I keep "working images"), I'm actually working on a copy, so that part doesn't bother me because I always can grab the image again if need be.

Seems to be a "6 of one or half-a-dozen of the other" issue as for editing using adjustment layers, which I personally reserve for showing the client multiple proofs of the same image without altering the original.

Once they select the one they want, I flatten that sucker and am done with it.

Great post though.

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