Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Q&A - Why Use Individual Hue/Saturation Layers?

Oh boy, have I been getting questions about why I use individual (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer in Adobe Photoshop CS5.  The gist of the questions is why I'd bother using multiple H/S Adjustment Layers when it would be easier to scroll down through the colors on one Layer.  The answer is actually pretty simple.  I really don't care about the colors of the Adjustment Layers, I want the Layer Masks.  Do a double click on today's image to get to a larger view of the image.  Don't worry about the shot too much.  Look over to the right and checkout the Layers Panel I have attached.  In the Panel, look at the Layer Masks that go along with the individual colors of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers.  You can see that each color (other than the Red) has a unique Mask.  There's even two Cyan H/S Adjustment Layers, each with a unique Mask.  The Masks are the key to the question of why I use the multiple Layers rather than adjusting each color on one Layer.  A secondary explanation is needed for the two Cyan Layers.  I often see tutorials where the instructor uses either different shade of gray with the brush Opacity at 100% or they'll bring the Brush Opacity down to 15%- 20% and build up the masking.  The problem I see with that technique is that if you go too far with the buildup it's almost impossible to paint over the area accurately.  By using multiple copies of the same colored H/S Adjustment Layer the area can be fine tuned and the amount of masking can be held.  So, the simple explanation of why I use multiple Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers is to have more (better) control over what I'm getting more colors.  To find out how that effected today's image, hit the "Read More".

The first thing I should explain is "Layer 1".  It's the totally brown Layer above the Background Layer.  The major fallen tree in the lower right was pretty gray.  Almost to the point where it looked like I removed the color saturation from it.  In order to blend into the rest of the scene it "needed" a touch of color.  I used the Quick Selection Tool (W) to select the tree.  Right clicking and picking Save Selection gave me an Alpha Channel Mask of the tree.  If you're using Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 or 10 and can't fine the Alpha Channels don't worry about it.  You have Alpha Channels, you just can't see them.  Just go to Selection/Save Selection and you've got an Alpha Channel.  To get it back, rather than doing a CTRL Click on the Alpha Channel Thumbnail you'd just use Selection/Load Selection.  Same thing, exactly. 
Once the Layer Mask is applied the tree will look like something out of a child's cartoon book.  The Blend Mode of the Layer needs to be changed to Color.  It'll still look pretty funky, but bring the Layer's Opacity down (use Shift/Down Arrow) until it looks good to you.  If finer adjustment is needed, apply a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment to bring the Brightness up or down to taste.  To limit the change to the tree a Clipping Mask was made by holding down the ALT Key while it hovers on the line between the Layer and the Adjustment Layer.
Once the Layer Panel looked like the one shown today all Layers were selected (top Layer is already selected.  Shift Click on the bottom Layer to select all).  With the entire stack selected, Right Click on any Layer and pick Convert to Smart Object.  This collapses all the Layers into one Smart Object.  The image was then "finished" in a "normal" manner.