In the “Photoshop Fails At” tutorial series we take a look at some of the horrible things you see coming out of Photoshop and how you could/should be using that feature. Over the years, non-destructive editing has come to the forefront of Photoshop and image manipulation. It allows you to always go back and change, and it prevents you from damaging that precious original file. This tutorial will cover a few different bad practices and the solution to each of them.
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1. Erase vs. Masking pt. 1
When you want to make something disappear in Photoshop, you erase it, right? While it is effective, erasing also means that what you erased just goes away. Forever. Enter: Masking. Masking allows you to erase by simply covering up what is there. This means you can always uncover it hours, days, or months later. It IS non-destructive!
2. Erase vs. Masking pt. 2
Ditch the erase tool and instead look to the bottom of the layers panel and choose the “Add Layer Mask” icon. Next, grab the Brush tool (B), set your foreground color to black, and be sure to click on the layer mask in the layers panel and then paint in the mask with the color black. This will cover whatever you paint over. If you accidentally cover something, simply set your foreground color to white and paint with white to un-hide whatever you want. It’s that easy.
3. Adjustments vs. Adjustment Layers pt. 1
Making changes to color and tone to any layer in your Photoshop document is super easy with the adjustments available in the Image>Adjustments menu. In this case I’ve made a Hue & Saturation adjustment that will make our gladiator more like the Hulk. The problem is that once we commit this change it’s done and set in stone. Let’s look at the non-destructive solution.
4. Adjustments vs. Adjustment Layers pt. 2
The solution is Adjustment Layers. These can be found at the base of the Layers panel. Click on that icon and choose a Hue & Saturation adjustment layer. Make the same edits and now we have a separate layer that we can use a mask with, we can reduce the opacity of, we have blend modes we can play with, we can delete any time we wish, and we can double click the layer icon to edit it whenever we need to!
5. Raster vs. Smart Objects pt. 1
When we have any piece of artwork (photograph, graphic, icon, etc…) in Photoshop we can scale it larger or smaller. Let’s take this shape that I created and go Edit>Free Transform and drag this graphic until it is very small and hit the “check” icon in the top control bar. Then free transform it and make it large again. See how pixelated it becomes? We can fix that problem and allow you to scale large or small as you wish.
6. Raster vs. Smart Objects pt. 2
This time, when I create the original artwork, I’m going to convert it to a Smart Object by going Layer>Smart Objects>Convert to Smart Object. Now we can scale it smaller, but it never will lose its original quality so we can always scale it back up if we wish to do so. NOTE: When you convert something to a Smart Object, you will see a small icon appear in the bottom corner of that layer thumbnail.
7. Bad Healing vs. Good Healing pt.1
Men don’t seem to use their nipples, so let’s get rid of our gladiator’s nipples. Simply grab the Healing Brush tool (J) and select the photo layer. I’m going to use Alt/Opt to select a clean area of skin to heal from and use this tool to paint away his nipples. The problem is that once the nipples are gone, they won’t be coming back. There is a better way to get rid of them so we can bring them back if the client wants nipples again.
8. Bad Healing vs. Good Healing pt.2
The non-destructive solution is to healing on a blank layer. To do this, create a new layer and rename it “Blemishes”. Grab the Healing Brush tool (J) again and look to the control bar and choose “Current & Below” from the Source drop down menu. Now paint away the nipples and you always have the option to get rid of this healing layer or mask away bits that you decide aren’t quite right. This is a non-destructive solution!
9. BONUS: Cropping the Smart Way
Before you go, one last thing to try out is the Crop tool (C). Look to the control bar near the top of the screen and check off “Delete Cropped Pixels”. Now you can crop your image, but never totally and finally lose those pixels. This effectively allows you to un-crop and image if you need to later on.
That’s it! Non-destructive editing is a great feature of Photoshop in general and a must-have skill set for any Photoshop user. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial! Share it with your friends and leave a comment below to share your best non-destructive techniques and tips!
I make videos about being creative with photography, design, and filmmaking. I'm a commercial photographer, a logo designer, a camera nerd, an artist, a wannabe thinker, and I like to read books. I arrived on planet earth in the year 1989.