Black & White Adjustment Layer Technique
for Altering Images

by Florence W. Deems

If you have a color image in which you want to adjust the relative brightness or darkness of certain colors, instead of using Photoshop's CS3, CS4, CS5 or CS6 Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer, try using a Black & White Adjustment Layer. When you select this type of Adjustment Layer, you are presented with a pop-up dialog box that allows you to select individual colors to adjust their brightness or darkness without affecting the other colors.

In the original below, I decided that to bring out the glowing reds of the main subject, the rest of the colors in the background needed to be made darker and the reds lighter.

Using the sliders for each color of the B&W Adjustment Layer, I darkened (to the left) the greens, cyans and blues, and lightened slightly (to the right) the reds. Then I changed the Blend Mode to Multiply. It will be different for each image, but you may want to also adjust the Opacity a bit. Merge the two layers. Flatten image. Sign and Save. The result for this image is below:

I also cropped a bit, then sharpened, using a Duplicate Layer plus the "Filter>Other>High Pass" at about 4. Created a white mask and with a black brush set for a 50% opacity, I painted out the areas that I didn't want sharpened. Flatten again. I also used a black brush to tone down some of the still bright white highlights so they wouldn't be so distracting.

Try this technique with other color images. Remember that since each image is different, the slider settings will not be the same for every image.

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