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Unusual uses for Levels

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  • Unusual uses for Levels

    Ok, this is T's new section for exploring one feature or technique, so I thought maybe we could post examples of unusual uses for Levels adjustments.

    I frequently use the midtone slider in Levels to fine-tune my layer masks (called "choking"). Just click on the layer mask and activate levels (Ctrl-L or Cmd-L) or Image>Adjustments>Levels. This works equally well in Elements or Photoshop.

    Here is an example of a feather I masked (badly) and how it can be fixed with Levels (and taken to the extreme, ruined or used for a special effect).

    In case you can't tell, the middle one is what I'm aiming at On the left is a loose-fitting layer mask, on the right we've started to lose fine detail.

    Post your unusual use for Levels here.
    Attached Files
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  • #2
    I'm impressed with how levels cleaned up that feather selection. I will definitely have to remember this technique. Looks like a real timesaver. Thanks Doug!



    • #3
      If you have applied Find Edges and Desaturate to an image and want the final result to be black lines on a white background, you can use Levels to suppress midtone noise.

      Attached Files


      • #4
        I use levels to change day into night - by forcing the left slider way way past its usual range.
        Attached Files


        • #5
          Who was that masked level?


          Back on line after quite some absence. Nice to be back. I missed you all.

          Have a play with this. Open an image and press Control/Shift/Alt/Tilde (That's key on the rhs with the horizontal squiggle on it.)

          You will have a set of marching ants. Open a Levels Adjustment Layer and the layer mask on that adjustment layer will now have a mask relating to the Luminesence of your original image. Pull the gamma over to the right and watch what happens.

          The strongest application of Levels occurs where the mask is whitest. Neat!? You can smudge the edges of the effect by bluring the mask.

          You can Alt/Left Click the mask then Control/Shift/I to invert it and open another Levels Adjustment Layer which will have the obverse effect.

          If you are trying for a night shot you can move the bottom rh slider in to suppress the output of the highlights.

          Apoligise for not posting examples but short of time.

          Thanks for an interesting thread. Just noticed how old this thread is. I came here on a link from the Retouching Forum on



          • #6
            Originally posted by Indigo
            ...Back on line after quite some absence. Nice to be back. I missed you all.
            Welcome back, Indigo. It's always a pleasure to have folks stop by who have been gone awhile.

            Very interesting technique you cited.

            Originally posted by Indigo
            Just noticed how old this thread is. I came here on a link from the Retouching Forum on
            Just goes to show that good info never goes out of date!


            • #7
              Re: Unusual uses for Levels


              Not sure if this is me just missing what I'm supposed to do, but I have tried this on my mac and can't get it to work. I've also tried a few different variations of keys using the mac command key in place of Ctrl, and I checked the Adobe Help file and couldn't find anything helpful in there.

              Anybody know how to do this on a mac??

              Doug thanks for the "choking" a selection. I've never run into that one before.


              • #8
                Re: Unusual uses for Levels

                Scoopex, Cmd/Shift/Opt/~ or Cmd/Opt/~ are the Mac equivalents I think.


                • #9
                  Re: Unusual uses for Levels

                  Hello Little Coo

                  Thankyou for the help, but I have found the problem.

                  After an hour of searching the Adobe Photoshop Forum it turns out OSX 10.4 adds in a keyboard shortcut that conflicts with the CMD/Option/Tildi function in Photoshop. Below is a copy of what it tells you to do to correct it.

                  So glad it wasn't just me being a fool and getting it wrong.

                  Thanks again for the help



                  Command+Option+~ (tilde) no longer selects Luminosity in Mac OSX10.4 (Photoshop CS2/3)

                  Scott Weichert - 04:32pm May 27, 2005 Pacific

                  Apple added a new shortcut to it's keyboard settings which conflicts with this Photoshop shortcut.

                  In order to correct the issue you must change or disable the Operating System shortcut.

                  1) Launch Mac OSX System Preferences.

                  2) Click the Keyboard & Mouse icon

                  3) Scroll down to Keyboard Navigation

                  4) Expand the Keyboard navigation menu and find the item titled "Move Focus to window drawer"

                  5) To change the shortcut, highlight this item then click on the shortcut itself on the right, then press the keys you wish to use. You can then exit out of System Preferences.

                  6) To turn off this shortcut Uncheck the box to the left of the title then exit out of Mac OSX System preferences.

                  Return to Photoshop and the Cmd+Option+~ (tilde) shortcut should then work.


                  • #10
                    Re: Unusual uses for Levels

                    One powerful use of levels is extracting a channel. If you want the blue channel, simply set the green and red one to 0-0 instead of 0-255. You can create a channel mask (desat + auto levels) and even create layer setup to recombine the three channels or simulate a channel mixer with much more flexibility.


                    • #11
                      Re: Unusual uses for Levels

                      Another way to use Levels is to save your selection as an alfa channel. Then remove the selection and blur it slightly. Pull the highlight and black slider almost to the middle until you get a nice clean edge. Then create a selection from the channel and go back to the layers palette and invert the selection and hit delete. You end up cutting out the jagged edge around your object.



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