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Adjustment Layer Basics

Before adjustment layers, our digital darkroom techniques involved duplicating the Background layer to use as an editing layer. Since all the edits were made to the duplicate, the original image was never damaged. Adjustment layers do the same thing, but they do it automatically, and with a much smaller RAM footprint. We mention this because it's much easier to get your head around what happens with an adjustment layer if you think of it as a copy of the base image, particularly when you start using adjustment layers in conjunction with blending modes.

The controls in adjustment layers work exactly as they do in flat files. You can apply Levels, Curves, Color Balance, Brightness/Contrast, Hue/Saturation, Selective Color, Channel Mixer, Gradient Map, Photo Filter, Invert, Threshold, and Posterize as adjustment layers. We use Levels, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and Photo Filter far more often than the others, but we encourage you to experiment. You can't do any harm, because your original image stays intact on the Background layer until you flatten it.


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