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Photoshop: Brightness/Contrast Adjustment

Version: Adobe Photoshop CC 2021. Be aware that different versions of Photoshop will vary in appearance and functionality. Full Guides: Photoshop: Images, Photoshop: Graphic Design


Adjustments in Photoshop are a group of editing tools that can be used to manipulate color and tone without permanently changing the image. Adjustment layers can be edited and discarded in order to restore the original image at any time. Common Adjustments include Levels, Brightness & Contrast, Vibrance, and Color Balance.

If an image is too bright or dark overall, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment can also be used to change the tonal range. Increasing the brightness to make the image overall brighter, and decreasing will make it darker. Contrast works by adjusting the bright and dark parts of an image in relation to each other. When the Contrast is decreased, the image becomes grayer and the colors are less sharp. When Contrast is increased, dark areas become darker and bright areas become brighter.

Expand each section below to see its content.

To change the Brightness/Contrast:
  1. Select the Brightness/Contrast adjustment in the Adjustments panel. A Brightness/Contrast layer will be added in the Layers panel, and a Properties panel will open.
    • If the Adjustments panel isn’t open, navigate to Window > Adjustments. 
  2. Change the settings in the Properties panel. Drag the sliders right to increase the level and left to decrease. Changes made will automatically apply to the image.

After adding an Adjustment to an image, a new layer is created for the adjustment in the Layers panel.

showing where to edit adjustment layers
  • To re-open adjustments later, double-click on the adjustment’s icon in its layer. The adjustment’s Properties Panel, with any changes made, will appear.
  • To delete an adjustment layer, click-and-drag the layer to the trashcan within the Layers Panel.

To apply an Adjustment to a specific area or layer:
  1. Select the desired layer with the image from the Layers panel.
  2. Highlight the object/area with a Selection tool, such as the Quick Selection tool (see Photoshop: Selection Tools for more details).
  3. Select the desired Adjustment from the Adjustments panel. A new mask for the Adjustment will be created. 
  4. Change the settings in the Properties panel. Only the masked area will be affected.


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Keywords:software, editing, images, photos, graphics, adjustments, exposure, tone   Doc ID:91925
Owner:Misty B.Group:Pacific Lutheran University
Created:2019-05-22 15:47 PDTUpdated:2021-07-08 15:52 PDT
Sites:Pacific Lutheran University
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