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Learn how to use the level commands in this Adobe Photoshop CS2 Advanced training video.
Tags:adobe,adobe photoshop,adobe photoshop cs2,command,commands,level,level commands,macromedia,total training
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So check this out, this is going to be a wild exaggeration for your viewing pleasure here. But I am going to go up to the Image Menu, I am going to choose Adjustments, and I am going to choose the Levels Command, or I could press Ctrl+L on the PC or Command+L here on the Mac to bring up the Levels dialog box.
Now, just by a way of a basic refresher let's run through how the Levels dialog box works, ever so briefly.
We have the Input Levels values, which define the colors as they exist inside the image; from the shadows, where black is 0 by default, meaning that the darkest color inside the image is indeed black. The lightest color inside the image is white; 255 means white inside of Photoshop.
Now, this is throughout Photoshop, no matter what. This is really extensively on a channel by channel basis, because we have 0+255, that's 256 Brightness variations, on a single channel in the 8 bit per channel mode. But here we are in a 16 bit per channel mode so this should at least go from 0 to 32,000.
Well, Photoshop is always thinking, even though you are editing a 16 bit per channel image, it's always thinking in terms of 8 bits per channel, where the numerical values inside the Levels dialog box and elsewhere inside Photoshop, as it turns out, are concerned. So we go from 0 for black to 255 for white. The Histogram here in the center also follows these Input Levels values and shows us and actually maps out the colors inside the image.
So we don't really have much in the way of blacks over here, not much in the way of shadows. The shadows don't start till about this point here, which I can click on, if I want to, in order to sort of see a blue line there on screen. They get more and more numerous in this column chart here, this bar graph if you prefer. As we go toward middle gray, medium gray right at this point, and then we have many more highlights, many more colors that are lighter than medium gray, and then they drop off down to white. So we just have a few whites at the end here, as told to us by this Histogram. So the Histogram is just another way to measure the performance of the Levels dialog box, to get feedback inside the dialog box.
Meanwhile, as we make our blacks darker by raising this black value or lighter by lowering the white value here; notice that these values change in kind, I can also modify the Gamma value. Now, this Gamma value, the central value here, this medium gray slider, maps to the Gamma value at the top of the dialog box here. Note that it's not telling me 128 or something along those lines, which would be 127, 128, something like that would be medium gray inside of an 8 bit per channel image, but instead it's telling me 1.0. This is because the Gamma value is measured as an exponent.
Currently, the colors in the image are to the first power. If we take them down to, let's say, 0.5 power here, then the colors are going to get much darker. If we take the colors to the second power by changing the Gamma value to 2, or in my case I got it about 2.01, that's fine, then I am squaring the colors inside the image. Just to give you a sense, it's not really necessary that you understand exactly how this value works, but that does happen to be why Gamma appears this way.
Meanwhile, I can affect the Output values, so I can say these Input Level values are going to get mapped to these new Output Level values. So in this case I am saying that anything that has a Brightness value currently of 39 or darker is going to change not to black but to a Brightness value of 70. So the darkest color inside the image is going to be a Brightness value of 70, and if I were to change this white slider, I would now say the Lightest color in the image is 175.
Now that you know, just vaguely at least, how the Levels dialog box works, and we will spend more time affecting real good changes to the image in just a moment, but first I want to demonstrate why this 16 bit per channel space is so great inside of Photoshop, why it does such a great job of preserving the colors inside the image.
In order to demonstrate that to you, I am going to make sure I don't clip any colors, that is to say, I don't want a bunch of dark colors inside the image just getting clipped to black, just getting all changed whole to black. If you want to see which colors are getting clipped, press the Option key or the Alt key on the PC and drag this black slider, and see those colors that are not white inside the image; any colors that are not white inside this Preview when you have Option or Alt down are going to change to black, they are going to flatten out inside one or more channels inside the image.
Now, 16 bit per channel, the 16 bit per channel space doesn't do you any good where clipping is concerned. In the future we may see 32 bits per channel helping us out in that department, because we will have Floating Point computations where we can go outside the visible range and still retain our colors; right now we don't have that. So you don't want to clip colors, you want to avoid as much as clipping as possible when working inside 16 bits per channel.
Also, by the way, you can use the same technique to see which colors are clipping in the highlights. So if I Option drag or Alt drag the white triangle, notice all colors that are not black this time are going to change to the lightest color possible inside one or more channels inside the image and we are going to have clipping there as well.
Alright. So for now though, because 16 bit per channel doesn't do us any good with clipping, I am going to make sure we have no clipping. So I am going to go and reset all the values inside the Levels dialog box by pressing the Option key or the Alt key and clicking the button that was formerly the Cancel button, that's now Reset. That resets the image the way it looked when we first entered the dialog box.
Now, this is what I am going to do, just to demonstrate how great 16 bit per channel is, I am going to raise the Output Levels value, the first Output Levels value to 130, let's say. So I am saying the darkest color inside the image is a Brightness value of 130, which is actually a little bit lighter than medium gray, so very light. So in other words, we are reducing the dynamic range of this image.
Now, this could be good if I want to put type over this image or something along the lines of that, so that we have this dimmed image in the background behind some type; for a wedding invitation or a post-wedding announcement, a thank you letter, whatever.
Now I am going to make the Lightest Output Levels value something like 136 in this case let's say, so that I am saying the lightest color in the image has a Brightness value of 136. So we are just left with a handful of Brightness value; it turns out to be 7 Brightness values inside this range. That means numerically speaking here we are left with just a scant 6 Brightness values inside this entire image. That is to say there would only be 7 Brightness values left if we were working in the 8 bit per channel space, because we are working in this 16 bit per channel space, we actually have far more Output Levels left to us. In fact, we have still got several million potential Output Levels left. So there are millions of potential colors going on here. We are not squishing one color on top of another color, so we are not losing any definition in the image, even though it looks like we are. So even though we can't really see the difference between the lightest gray and the darkest gray, it's there, it's just hidden in the background.
Alright. So I am going to go ahead and accept this ridiculous modification. Would you ever actually apply such a modification to an image? Of course not. I am just doing this by way of demonstration. So I am going to go ahead and click OK.