Photoshop 101 questions

After doing a bunch of searching I’m still stuck on something that will probably make you guys laugh.

So much talk about luminosity masks made me go and play with some. Then I realized that the picture I was working on had some stuff that needed cloning or whatever to remove.

How the heck do I do it? If it do it first on the bg or a bg copy layer, the subsequent luminosity work shows the place where I did the cloning. What’s the solution here?

I guess this holds true for other types of layer functions like blending and dodging/burning. It seems doing object removal is something severely limited in a way I don’t understand yet.

Ok. Stop laughing.

Pretty sure the issue is layer order.

Here’s a series that hopefully shows the problem.

Untouched image:


Cloned out bud on image:

Layer Stack:
Screen Shot 2021-03-06 at 11.32.59 AM

Image with luminosity mask just to make it brighter for example: Note clone looks fine

Layer Stack:

Now I going to move the “clones” layer to the top above the luminosity layer and look at the clone area. It is darker because it is at the top and the luminosity layer that was used to brighten it is not affecting the content of the clone layer


Layer Stack:

One other very important thing that you should do. Always clone/heal/patch on a separate blank layer so the edit is non-destructive. Just make sure the options for the tool you are using (clone, heal, patch, etc.) have the option set to Current and Below or All layers. That option name changes based on tool, but it is always at the top of the photoshop window on the options bar for the tool.
Here’s what it looks like for the clone stamp tool.


That explains a lot. Thank you! I think I have a better concept now. My instincts for this will develop over time, but right now I have none.

So…I brought the image from Lr to Ps, added a blank layer and did some Content Aware Fill in places, then created my Luminosity masks in the channels area and those floated above the layers created by the Content Aware work.

Now I look at it, the initial blank layer wasn’t needed since Content Aware settings are set to create layers when I’m done. If CA didn’t work for something and I needed one of the healing brushes, that’s when I’d need the blank layer, correct?

Sounds like you were using the Edit / Content Aware Fill Option. If you use that option, one of the output options (the default) is to output to a New Layer so there is no need to create a blank layer to start the process.

If you are using one of the repair tools from the toolbar (clone stamp, healing brush, spot healing brush, patch tool with content aware as the option), then it is best to create a blank layer and work from there.

I see far too many people starting their workflow by duplicating the background layer. First that just doubles the size of the image on disk for no reason. Then they work on that layer. That works, but it is very inefficient . Simply don’t work on the background layer. That layer should be sacred and not touched. Use blank layers for repair work with the proper options so the only pixels added are those that are needed.

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That make sense. I think the blank layer a good habit to create in my workflow as a starting point.

Another common approach is to simply do all the cloning, spot removal, warping, transform, cropping etc stuff as the first steps in your process, flatten the resulting layers (if any) and save it. You now have a new master TIFF or PSD file with all those pixel adjustments baked in. Then open a new copy of the master TIFF and start adding adjustment layers, luminosity masks, etc, with your master as the bottom layer. One advantage of having a master TIFF is that can always start from scratch, but it will have the above mentioned pixel adjustments baked in, and you don’t have to repeat them if you want try a completely different set of exposure/contrast/color edits later on down the road.

Unrelated, once I get to a certain point, I rarely save my files with all layers intact. I do this to avoid having very large size files. Once I’m satisfied I’m done editing, I flatten the file and save it. If you save files with 20 layers, the file sizes can get quite large (gigabyte sized). I do save files with layers intact while they are still a work in progress, and I know I want to come back to it. But once I’m really sure I’m done, I’ll flatten layers and save. Being a Photoshop novice, you should err on the side of caution regarding flattening, until you are 100% sure you are finished. And once you are done and flattened, if you notice a dust spot or twig you failed to clone, just do it on the finished product.

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There are many different philosophies on processing workflows in Photoshop. For me, one of the most important things in my workflow is that it is non-destructive. My definition of that is that I can open an image I worked on today, yesterday or years ago and undo anything that I did by just adjusting parameters for a layer, changing a layer opacity, updating a layer that had clone/repair info, etc. That means that I never flatten an image or merge some of the layers. I always keep all of the layers in every image, no matter how old, or how much I think I’m done with it. I’ve learned so many new techniques and the tools have progressed over time that I have gone back to some older images and reworked some of the layers I had used at one point in time. I don’t usually have more than a few layers on any image, so the physical size on disk is not of concern. I’m not saying that for others, my workflow is correct, I’m just pointing out that there are different methods of working in Photoshop. LightRoom Develop work is 100% non-destructive since it is just creates instructions to change the look of the pixels, it doesn’t alter any pixels. I like to keep my entire workflow non-destructive.


Thanks both of you.

Since I’m editing a copy out of Lr, I think editing ‘destructively’ isn’t as drastic as it could be. Still, I’m ok with HD space that I can save a many-layered image file at this point. Besides, I don’t know how much work in Ps I’m going to do with each image. It’s a trap I got caught in before when I used Luminar for a year or two. I overedited like a fiend. Some was fine, some was awful and I really don’t want to get into that quagmire again.

I’m grateful for your answers, input and ideas. Thanks again.

Be Careful here.

From LightRoom, when you have a RAW file selected and choose, Photo / Edit in / Photoshop 2021 the RAW image is sent in memory to Photoshop for editing. You do not get any prompts from LR. The file opens in Photoshop. You do your work and then choose File / Save. The saved file will either be a TIF or a PSD depending on the LR preference setting for External Editing. The new file (PSD or TIF) is saved to disk and then accessible in LR since it is added to the LR catalog.

From LightRoom if you want to open a file that is NOT a RAW file you are presented with this dialog box. So for example, let’s say you want to continue editing a previously edited PSD file:

This dialog box can be confusing based on the terminology.

If you choose the First option for a layered TIF or a layered PSD, you’ll see when you get the image open in Photoshop that the layers have been flattened.

If you choose the Second option, the layers will be maintained, but you will have created a copy of the PSD file. Choosing that option just creates a mess with each round trip from LR to PS creating another physical copy of the PSD file.

You should be choosing Edit Original for a file that you have edited in Photoshop and created layers. The word “Original” is often confusing with people wondering what original? The original RAW file or this “original” PSD file. It means the selected PSD file. Then when it opens in Photoshop, you’ll see the image exactly as you left it, with all the layers intact and you continue working, then choose File / Save. That overwrites the previously saved PSD file, but of course that’s fine because all of the edits you made in Photoshop were done non-destructively, right :smiley:


That also makes sense. The term original refers to the file as it was sent from Ps - in my case a PSD extension. The non-edited RAW file from my camera still exists in the Lr database.

Hi Keith (@Keith_Bauer ), You’ve answered several questions in this discussion that have puzzled me. I have a better understanding of using layers now, but apparently still have a ways to go. In the screen shot I’ve provided below, what do I now do if I want to use a filter. In other words, what do I put above the Hue/saturation layer? If I “merge visible” then I don’t think I’m still working non-destructively with respect to the layers below (for instance I can’t change the brightness any longer). Thanks.

Hi @Allen_Brooks .

There are a couple of options. You are correct, that if you do a merge visible that you are working destructively, but you need a pixel layer to apply a filter.

Option 1:
Rather than a Merge Visible, do a Stamp Visible. There is no menu option for it, but here’s what it does. It takes all of the layers, merges them into one pixel layer and puts it at the top of the layer stack. All of the existing layers are left alone, but now you have a merged layer at the top. To do a Stamp Visible: Select all the Layers. on a Windows Machine: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E (yep, the longest keyboard shortcut you’ll ever want!!). On a Mac: Cmd+Opt+Shift+E.

Now you can apply your filter. The issue is this. Now let’s say you wanted to adjust one of the layers below the Stamp Visible Layer. You can adjust it, but you won’t see any effect because the Stamp visible layer is on top and obscures the layers below it. It works, it’s just not pretty.

Option 2:
Select all of the layers and convert them into a Smart Object. Several ways to create a smart object, but the easiest is probably just go up to the Filter Menu and Choose Convert for Smart Filters. Now you’ll see what looks like one layer, but it will be a Smart Object Layer. You can now apply a filter as a Smart Filter. If you wanted to re-adjust any of the original layers, double click on the Smart Object Layer and it will open the contents of the Smart Object. When it opens it actually opens as a separate document. Adjust what ever you want, then choose File / Save. Once Saved, you can close that document. The Document with the Smart Object will be updated and the Smart filter will be reapplied automatically.

Hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t, let me know and I could create a quick video and upload it to my YouTube Channel with a link from here.


Love this discussion and examples of workflow. Thanks!

@Keith_Bauer difference in approach to mine on flattening files, illustrates that it is both a blessing and a curse that there are multiple ways to do almost anything in Photoshop. In my own workflow, I tend to add a lot of adjustment layers, which creates very large files. And I only infrequently go back to re-edit files after I think I’m really finished. With that said however, I do think new to Photoshop folks like you Kris should save most files with layers intact, until you gain a lot more PS/TK experience, since you are more likely to be learning new techniques and wanting to re-do images.


Thanks, @Keith_Bauer , for taking the time to help me and also for all the help you give others.

Option 1 is what I usually do and I use the keyboard shortcut you mentioned (I think of it as merge visible upward). And, I can see that if you turn off this layer, you can go back and make an adjustment, but when the layer is turned back on, the adjustment doesn’t show up, so it it’s not clear to me how this adjustment would ever show up in the final edit.

Option 2: Are you turning all the layers (including the background) into a smart object? I tried this and it didn’t seem to work. Converting just the adjustment layers didn’t work well either. I am not, I admit, that familiar with smart objects/layers, so that might be the problem.

Hi @ Keith. Guilty as charged. I think this actually came about from a long ago Photoshop class. It was taught as a stand alone before the Lightroom/Photoshop combination became so ingrained. I don’t even really recall a discussion of RAW, so the images were probably going in as TIFF and JPEG and didn’t automatically get a separate file created. Old habits die hard!

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Hi @Allen_Brooks

I decided to just create a quick video as I think it is easier to watch, rather than trying to explain in words. I’ve shown Option 1 using Stamp Visible, and Option 2 using a Smart Object. Hopefully this video will clarify the process and show the difference in using one option versus the other.

Here is a link to the video that demonstrates the process


Keith, Thanks for going to all this work. Hopefully others will benefit as well.

I just watched the video and I think you inadvertently answered a question I’d barely formed in my limited use of Ps. Thanks so much for your help.

Thanks again, @Keith_Bauer . Watched the video which was easy to follow. I see how it will do what I want, but it is so new to me it will take a while to get use to doing these steps and making it part of my routine workflow. Thanks also to @Kris_Smith for starting this discussion. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been just as guilty as @Dennis_Plank -I always duplicate my background at the start. I finally understand how to use a new layer for actions such as clone/heal/etc.

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