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Photo by hotblack on
Photo by hotblack on

Today we will look at:

  • Crop Tool
  • Image Adjustments:
    • Brightness/Contrast
    • Levels (Ctrl+L)
    • Curves (Ctrl+M)
    • Auto Tone (Shift+Ctrl+L)
    • Auto Contrast (Alt+Shift+Ctrl+L)
    • Auto Color (Shift+Ctrl+B
    • Vibrance
    • Hue/Saturation (Ctrl+U)
    • Photo Filter
    • Shadows/Highlights
  • Adjustment Layers
  • Tasks

Crop Tool

Follow the in-class instructions on how to use the Crop Tool or follow the tutorial below the image.

The crop tool works on two basic levels:

  • free-hand – simply select the crop tool (Shortcut C) [Visit Shortcutworld for more Photoshop Shortcutsand drag a window over your image. You can adjust the size of the crop selection by dragging the edges and corners. You can even rotate your crop selection (with CS4 or higher).
    Hit Enter to complete the crop action and accept the new size.
  • key in dimensions – after activating the crop tool enter the width: 500 (in px for web), the height: 600 (in px) and the resolution: 150 (72 is suitable for web)- the values need to be entered in the options bar (also called properties bar). See image below as an example. Next drag the crop window and press enter to except the change.
    Note that the window is restricted in its scale.
See the dimensions of the Crop Tool: 450px x 400px with 72ppi resolution.
See the dimensions of the Crop Tool: 450px x 400px with 72ppi resolution.

Cropping and Straightening Images in Photoshop Essentials

Cropping Tool in Photoshop Essentials


Follow the in-class demonstration. A nice and basic function, it allows you to change the brightness and correct the contrast. Move the slider to change the values.


Tick and untick the Preview box to observe the changes before accepting it.

Use the sliders. It is self explanatory.
Use the sliders. It is self explanatory.


With the Levels function you can adjust problems with tone (eg a photo that is very grey and does not show enough dark and light aspects) or colour related problems (eg too much blue).

The Short Cut: Ctrl+L (Cmd+L) or use: Image>Adjustments>Levels

Overview: follow my in-class introduction to how to use the Levels in simple steps. Use the attached photo by Matthew Bridges of the old house at a lake.

Photo by matthewbridges on
Photo by matthewbridges on

The easiest and most basic way to apply the Levels function is by moving the sliders for the highlight (white) and shadows (black) below the graph of the input levels inwards. Moving the highlight will brighten the image up and moving the shadow will darken the shadows.

This is a good basic function to start of with and it is useful for the majority of your photos, may they be basic shots or more sophisticated and at higher resolution.

Follow this tutorial to learn how to use the Level Adjustment more detailed and how to create an Adjustment Layer:

Fix Tone and Color with Levels in Photoshop – Photoshop Essentials

Improving Image Tone With Levels In Photoshop – Photoshop Essentials


Follow the in-class demonstration (shortcut: Ctrl+M or: Image>Adjustments>Curves). The Curves function is similar to the Level function, but the graph is a lot more visual and intuitive. You can manipulate it with your mouse.  See image:

Try the presets and see how it affects your image, and then manipulate the curve yourself.
Try the presets and see how it affects your image, and then manipulate the curve yourself.

Curves Tutorial on Photoshop Essentials

Auto Tone

The short cut is Shift+Ctrl+L (or: Image>Auto Tone). Follow the in-class demonstration. The Auto Tone function readjusts tonal settings in your image and in most cases this results in a crisper image with the click of a button. The Auto Tone option looks for the darkest and lightest points in an image and resets them to pure white and black, resulting in clearer tones.

Because  Auto Tone adjusts each color channel individually, it may remove color or introduce color casts.

Auto Contrast

Follow the in-class demonstration.

The short cut is Alt+Shift+Ctrl+L  (or: Image>Auto Contrast). Auto Contrast adjusts image contrast automatically, at the click of a button. Unlike Auto Tone it will not affect colours. It clips the shadow and highlight values in an image and then maps the remaining lightest and darkest pixels in the image to pure white and pure black . As a result the image will have lighter highlights anf darker shadows and a crisper contrast.

Auto Color

Follow the in-class demonstration.

The short cut is Shift+Ctrl+B  (or: Image>Auto Color)

Auto Color adjusts the contrast and color of an image. It is able to search images for shadows, midtones, and highlights. It then neutralizes the midtones using a target color of RGB 128 grey and clips the shadow and highlight pixels by 0.5%. Personally, and from experience it effects images less and Auto Contrast and Auto Tone bring more convincing changes in image quality.


Follow the in-class demonstration. Click: Image>Adjustments>Vibrance

As the name suggests this function will help you making a photo look more vibrant. Colours can be shown more intensely with higher saturation. It is easy to grasp this function, simply move the sliders to the right to increase vibrance or move them to the left to decrease vibrance.

Based on a photo by delboysafa from
Based on a photo by delboysafa from


Follow the in-class demonstration.  (Ctrl+U or Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation)

Using Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with a mask showing the original (yellow) below.
Using Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with a mask showing the original (yellow) below.

Photo Filter

Photo Filter
Photo Filter

Follow the in-class demonstration. Press: Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter.

One of the best image adjustment options, you can select from a set of preset filters: use a warming filter to create a lighting sense that you would encounter indoors, in autumn (fall) or during a sunset when there are more yellow, orange and red colours around. Use a cool filter to create a typical outdoor setting or a winter atmosphere. You can tick the Color box and select your own colour or select a colour from the image itself (simply click on the part of the image).

You can also change the amount of density, more density results in a stronger impact of your filter. Find a level that you like – try to be more conservative and chose a little less density than you like for a print).


Follow the in-class demonstration. Click: Image>Adjustments>Shadows/Highlights.

With the shadows and highlights you can easily lighten up an underexposed, dark image. Use the functions sparsely to not overdo the changes, which can easily create an unrealistic look. The image shows the changes on a dark photo.

Based on photo by o0o0xmods0o0o from
Based on photo by o0o0xmods0o0o from

Use an Adjustment Layer

All the image adjustments that we have looked at above can be done directly to an image or in from of an adjustment layer. It is far better to create an adjustment layer, this allows you to create changes in form of a layer. You can always delete or hide the layer and your original image remains unaffected.

How do you create an adjustment layer?

With your original layer selected click on the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button and select what type of adjustment layer you want to create. Next do all the adjustments to it.

Alternatively you just click on the Adjustments tab and select the Adjustment Layer that you want to create.

(See image)

Create an Adjustment Layer
Create an Adjustment Layer

Task in Class

Perform these two tasks to show that you understood today’s class ( If you have missed this class you need to do this!!!)

  1. Use the image by Matthew Bridges (or select an alternative image). Use the crop tool and resize to 500px x 600px at 150ppi (resolution). Apply 6 different image adjustment layers and mask them off in strips (see examples of student work). Add titles to your strips.  E-mail the file to me as a PNG (not PSD) and keep a copy for yourself.
  2. In your second task I would like you to use Matthew Bridges’ image only. The photo is very grey and it looks foggy. I would like you to improve the image using any of the image adjustment functions that you have learnt about. When you are happy with the improved image e-mail me a PNG version of it (no need to crop the image).
    Create a before and after version of the image.

Student Submissions:

Work by Benan Ü
Work by Benan Ü
Work by Michael T
Work by Michael T
Work by Tristan S
Work by Tristan S
Work by Vlad K
Work by Vlad K
Work by Jo W
Work by Jo W
Work by Justin A
Work by Justin A

Link to all Classes     Class 1     Class 2     Class 3    Class 4     Class 5     Class 6

Today we will look at:

  • Creative Commons
  • Layer Blending Modes
  • Layer Masks
  • Gradient Tool and Layer Mask
  • Today’s Task

We will focus the majority of today’s time on you practicing Photoshop. After the completion of your tasks I will expect you to stay and practice more. Class time is the time when I will be able to assist and the time for you to experiment with the software.

So, today we will have fun and afterwards will have some more fun until the imaginary bell rings to announce the end of class.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons or the Creative Commons License relates to a way to distribute content, such as photos and other images for free. Last week’s sample photo of the Ameland geese by F Schouwenburg is under the Creative Commons License.

Source: Flickr - photographer: Frans Schouwenburg
Source: Flickr – photographer: Frans Schouwenburg

Creative Commons are generally used for non-commercial and educational purpose. If someone makes a profit with a product they should pay for the image they use.

Generally, the author, creator or owner of the content needs to be mentioned. So, in short, when using images from Creative Commons sources ensure that you mention the source of your image.

This can be done in various ways. One would be to place a tag underneath the image with the source as you see it done in this blog.

Creative Commons on FlickR

There are different forms of Creative Commons and it pays to read the details beforehand. To the right is another example from FlickR:

Examples of Creative Commons Resources

Try out the Links to Creative Commons to the right of this post:

Your task: find a photo to suit the themes Urban environment and blue skies with each search and download the image. Include the meta data of the photographer and source of website with the photo.

Try this link for more Creative Commons information.

Layer Blending Modes

First start a new Photoshop document. Place one of your new photos into it. Place your second photo as well.

The Layer Blending Mode can be accessed through the Layers panel. A text box (Win) with the word Normal or a small button (Mac) indicate the Layer Blending Mode box.

Look at your layer blending mode with the top layer active. Try the layer blending modes below and see how amazingly easy Photoshop lets you change the appearance by creating a blend between two images.

Now click on this link and access the tutorial on Layers TV Episode 105 about how to use the Layer Blending Mode.

Layer Mask

If you completely watched the tutorial in the link above, you will already know how to create a layer mask and can proceed to the task for today.

Last week we looked at clipping masks and today we look at a layer mask. The process is very similar. Make a selection on your active layer and click on the Layer Mask button (add a layer mask) beneath the Layers panel. Your selection is still visible and the rest has disappeared.

You can also create a layer mask from a selection by going to the main menu: Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal Selection. (see image)


Alternatively (press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z) you can hide what you have selected: if you use the Layer Mask button press Alt at the same time to hide your selection with the Mask. You can do the same from the main menu: Layer>Layer Mask>Hide Selection.

While the layer mask is selected you will be in the mask mode. You can use the brush to add or take away from your layer mask. If you use the brush (while in mask mode) you can  make parts disappear by drawing with black as foreground colour. You can equally make things reappear by drawing with white as foreground colour.

Using Gradient Tool with Layer Mask

A good tool to use is the gradient tool with the layer mask. You can create a gradient mask that way, which means the image will gradually become invisible. See image below.

French Ancient City Banner
French Ancient City Banner – Source: Image Base – Free Stock Photography Click the image as a link.

You can see the gradient used on the right part of the image. This is how you do it:

  1. Create a new document (use dimensions below)
  2. Place an image and change size as you see fit (press Enter)
  3. Create a layer mask (click the layer mask button)
  4. Activate the gradient and drag from one part to another within the imageIf white is your foreground colour the image will become invisible in the direction of your dragging. If black was your foreground colour the image will be invisible on your first point and become visible in your dragging direction.

For a more detailed tutorial on how to use the Layer Mask in Photoshop go to:

Today’s Task

Create a banner for a website using two images that blend into each other (use Layer Blending Modes and Layer masks) with a title, either use your name or an imaginary title.

Image by Alvimann found on
Image by Alvimann found on
Image by Noboru found on
Image by Noboru found on
Urban Stories Banner by F.Viola
Urban Stories Banner by F.Viola

The images must suit the themes:

  • Urban environment
  • Blue Skies

Dimensions of banner: 980px(width) x 174px (height) 72ppi (resolution)

Task_New Document

Add a title to the banner, that preferably also blends with the background images. Save the file as a PNG file. Keep a copy of this file and the 2 images that you have used. Upload your work onto MyKangan.

Examples of Student Submissions:

Layer Blending  Masks Banner
Banner by Vlad K
Banner by Yong Wu
Banner by Yong W
Banner by Mike T
Banner by Mike T