Thursday, December 29

CoffeeShop Editing 101: Easy Editing with Levels

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If you are new to Photoshop or PSE, you might not be aware of the editing power of the simple Levels adjustment layer.   You can use this one editing layer to brighten, darken, or add contrast to your image; simply by adjusting the blending mode.

CoffeeShop Editing 101:  Easy Editing with Levels

1.  Open your image.  Add a levels adjustment layer and don't touch the sliders or make any adjustments.

2.  Need to brighten/lighten your image?  Just put the levels layer in Screen blending mode.

3.  Too bright?  Just adjust the opacity.

4.  Need to darken your image?  Put the level layer in Multiply mode and adjust the opacity.

5.  Want some contrast?  Put the levels layer in Soft Light and adjust the opacity.

6.  Need more contrast?  Try Overlay blending mode.

Advanced Level Editing with Layer Masks

Add more than one levels adjustment layer to brighten skin, add contrast and even burn in a vignette. You have to be comfortable with using layer masks to follow this tutorial. I have a Editing 101 Layer Mask tutorial for new Photoshop/PSE users.

1.  Brighten Skin:  Add a levels adjustment layer, put it in screen blending mode, and click on the layer mask and edit, fill with black. Use a soft white brush at 100% and paint over skin.   I put this layer at 46% opacity.

Note:  Alt-shift (Option-shift in Mac) and click on the layer mask to see a red tint where you are painting for accuracy.

2.  Add  Contrast:  Copy the Screen (Brighten) layer (layer, duplicate layer or drag that layer to the "create a new layer" icon on the bottom left of the action pane).  Then put this layer in Soft Light or Overlay blending mode.

Then click on the layer mask and Ctrl-I (Command-I in Mac) to invert it.  This adds contrast to everything but the skin. I put this layer in Overlay, 38% opacity.

3.  Add a Vignette:  Add a new levels adjustment layer in Multiple blending mode.  Then select a soft black brush at 100% opacity, click on the layer mask, and paint over the center of the image.  This will add a darkened vignette around the edges.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Want all of my favorite CoffeeShop Actions or Design Elements in one simple download AND help support this blog? Just click here for my action pack or here for a download of some of my most popular design elements, storyboards, and textures. 


  1. Thank you so much for these wonderful, helpful tutorials. Happy New Year!

  2. this is awesome! Thanks so much!

  3. that was wonderful. Thanks so much!

  4. This was so helpful! I just discovered your blog a week ago and I have learned SO MUCH already!

  5. Love this Rita! Thank you for making it easy to understand!!!

  6. Thank you so much. This is so much easier for me to follow than the video tutorials.

  7. Wow, made such a huge difference to my trial photo, so will definatelly use it all the time;) Thank you again for sharing with us!

  8. I agree with Beckie: this is easier for me to follow than a video. I sincerely appreciate your generosity.

  9. I also learn better from photos than videos. I have to keep on going back if I am watching a video, so I prefer to write my tutorials rather than record them. I am so happy that you don't mind!

  10. Amazing! I play with levels, but never really know what I'm doing. This is fantastic, thanks.

  11. What a great tutorial! Thank you! I hope you don't mind that I pinned this.


  12. I loved that you pinned it Kathy! And thank you everyone, I am going to try to post more tutorials like this one.

  13. I love this. Thank you so much. Often times I never know what to do besides a levels adjustment so these adjustments are a great way to practice without being overly complicated.

  14. thankyou so much for another brilliant blog, i am still wading through your amazing information as i havent been following your page all that long, but now i am addicted!!!
    Thanks again :)


  15. I am glad you explained this for me! Its like you have telepathy or something! :)

  16. Got a question... how else can you invert the mask instead of doing control-l because it just brings up a layers box for me? What am I doing wrong?

  17. AWESOME post! I need to learn how to do these in Lightroom.

  18. You are always teaching me something new. I have used levels alot, but never that way.Thank you, Rita!

  19. great tip . . . thank you so much!


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