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Separate Luminosity & Color Layers

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You can make separate layers for the luminosity (grayscale) and color image information in your photograph.

Then, you can make changes to one or the other.

For example, color noise can be reduced on the color layer, without affecting the luminosity of your photograph.

But first, have a look at Elements+.

It may do what you want to do with less work.

There are a lot of steps below!

Be sure to check off as you go along.

Preparation

1) Preserve your original file.

If you haven't already done so, go to Preserve Your Original File.

2) Create a Background copy layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to Create a Background Copy Layer.

Many Layers

If you have more layers than just the Background and Background copy layers, merge them into a composite layer.

Go to Composite Layer.

Make a copy of the merged layer, just as you would with the Background layer.

Then, make the luminosity layer or color layer using the merged layer and its copy.

If you're going to make both a luminosity layer and a color layer, make two of the merged layers.

And, make copies of them.

Use one set (Merged Luminosity and Merged Luminosity copy) to make the luminosity layer.

Use the other set (Merged Color and Merged Color copy) to make the color layer

Below, where Background and Background copy are written, use your set of merged layers instead.

The following methods were adapted from a tutorial by Richard Lynch, author of the Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements.

Separate Luminosity Layer

1) Change the blending mode of the Background copy layer from Normal to Luminosity.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.

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If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

2) Click the Background layer.

3) Create a blank layer above the Background layer.

The layer will be called Layer 1 by default.

4) Fill Layer 1 with 50% gray.

Go to Edit > Fill Layer.

In the Fill Layer window, do the following.

a) In the Contents box, select 50% Gray.

b) In the Mode box, select Normal.

c) In the Opacity box, select 100%.

d) Deselect Preserve Transparency.

5) Click the Background copy layer.

6) Press Ctrl + e to merge the Background copy layer and Layer 1.

10) Change the blending mode of the merged layer from Normal to Luminosity.

11) Rename the layer as Luminosity.

You have separated the luminosity information from your photograph.

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Doesn't Look Like the Above Example?

The Luminosity layer may not appear to be grayscale.

That's because the color of the Background layer is visible through the layer.

Deselect the eye icon of the Background layer and any other layers below the Luminosity layer.

Or, you can block the layers below the Luminosity layer.

Make a blank layer below the Luminosity layer, and fill the blank layer with 50% gray.

Rename the layer as Block the Background.

Now, let's make a separate color layer.

Separate Color Layer

1) Duplicate the Background layer.

2) Rename the new layer, Background copy, as Color.

3) Move the Color layer to the top of the stack.

4) Change the blending mode of the Color layer from Normal to Color.

You now have separated the color information of your photograph.

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Doesn't Look Like the Above Example?

The Color layer may not appear any different than the photograph.

1) Deselect the eye icon of the Luminosity layer if you made a Luminosity layer.

2) As described above, block the layers below the Luminosity layer.

Make a blank layer below the Luminosity layer, and fill the blank layer with 50% gray.

Rename the layer as Block the Background.

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Compare Histograms

Create a separate Levels adjustment layer above the Background, Luminosity, and Color layers.

Once you've created all three Levels adjustment layers, double click on the Levels thumbnail in each layer to look at the layer's histogram.

Be sure to deselect the eye icon of the layers that you're not examining.

You want to look at the histogram for each layer, not a histogram that's a mixture of several layers.

Also, change the Channel box in the Levels window from RGB to Red, Green, and Blue.

Separate RGB Layers

Go to Separate RGB Layers (Channel Mixer): Introduction.

Saving the Photograph

If you haven't already done so, go to Saving Files.