Photo editing basics: working with layers

Learn how to use layers in your favourite image editor to improve your photos and add sophisticated effects.

Tricks for Manual Adjustment Layers

What if your photo editing program has some basic support for layers, but no "adjustment" layers? Or what if there's no option for the kind of adjustment you'd like to make? No problem; doing it manually is easy. Suppose that you want to sharpen a photo, for example. There's no Adjustment Layer menu option for sharpening in Photoshop Elements.

Here's one way to perform this task: Open a photo, and choose Layer, Duplicate Layer. Now, with the top layer selected in the Layer Palette, select Enhance, Unsharp Mask and set the sharpness as desired. You might even want to oversharpen the photo a little, because afterward you can use the opacity slider to back it down until it's just right. Once you've made an adjustment like this in a layer, you can use selectively remove the effect from the image by using the Eraser Tool. You might want to erase sharpening from people's faces, for example, while leaving their clothes and the background sharpened.

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