Photoshop Top 40, Feature #16: Adjustment Layers

Feature #16: Adjustment Layers

It's difficult (verging on impossible) to exaggerate the importance of color adjustments in Photoshop. In the 19+ years I've been using the program, I don't think I've come across a single image that I haven't adjusted to some degree or other. And while there's no single best command for adjusting colors (Feature #28: Hue/Saturation for one image, Feature #24: Curves for another), there is a best method: adjustment layers.

An adjustment layer is an independent layer of color adjustment that you can edit any time you like. Plus it affects all layers below it, consumes very little space in memory, and affords you the opportunity to make selective edits. In other words, it's small and nondestructive. (Compare this to Feature #18: Smart Objects, which is huge and nondestructive.) The modest adjustment layer is also relatively easy to use--by Photoshop standards, anyway. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #17: Layer Effects

Feature #17: Layer Effects

In reviewing the prodigious creative free-for-all that is Photoshop Top 40: The Contest, I've noticed how many entrants end their lists of Top 40 features with "plus much more." As if to say, the stuff not included in my Photoshop Top 40 countdown so far could fill a book. For example, only two videos--Feature #39: Layer Comps and Feature #18: Smart Objects--specifically rely on layers. Which is a little strange, given that layers go to the core of working in Photoshop.

This week, layer lovers can take heart: First, this is a reverse-order countdown, so one might imagine that layers will begin to take a larger role. Second, this week's entry documents a feature that relies on layers, specifically layer effects. And third, you layer fans who are waiting until the last minute can include Feature #17: Layer Effects in your entry. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #18: Smart Objects

Feature #18: Smart Objects

Do me a brief favor and ignore this feature's name. Smart objects aren't all that smart. And they aren't objects. In other words, smart objects aren't "smart objects."

What "smart objects" are is envelopes. The kind that hold things. And keep them safe. Place an image or vector file into one of these envelopes, and nothing you do can cause that file harm. Which means you can apply nondestructive transformations, nondestructive filters, nondestructive everything. The world is your pixel-based oyster. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #19: Luminance Blending

Feature #19: Luminance Blending

Well, well. I'm back from my week in the Golden Age City of Canals, Amsterdam. And although it was great to be there, I must say, it's good to be back. Even if it's a mere 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) here in the malevolently icy embrace of Boulder, Colorado. By which I mean, actually, I'd rather be in Amsterdam. With kindly old Sinterklaas waving from his steam boat and blackfaced, red-lipped, clownishly festooned Zwarte Pieten tucking me in at night. Ah, those zany Dutch! Don't they know Santa's slaves are miniature, felt-dressed Vulcans?

Then again, if I were still in Holland, I might be too distracted by all things poetic and profane to post today's Photoshop Top 40 video. And what a shame that would be because this week, I've got a doozy. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #20: Free Transform

Feature #20: Free Transform

As powerful as Photoshop is, there is little about the program that is obvious. Case in point: How do you rotate a layer? Right-click on it and select Rotate? Choose Rotate from the Layer menu? Click on the rotate tool? The answer is no, no, and no. Fortunately, there’s the Free Transform command, which lets you not just rotate but also scale, slant, and distort a layer in one continuous operation. Edt > Free Transform is one of Photoshop's most fundamental commands, with a keyboard shortcut to prove it: Ctrl+T (Cmd-T on the Mac). Read more » 

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