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5 More Incredibly Useful Non-Destructive Photoshop Techniques

5 More Incredibly Useful Non-Destructive Photoshop Techniques

Using a non-destructive workflow is essential if you want to Photoshop like a pro. By working non-destructively you will have much more flexibility over your work. Rather than any changes being permanent, you will have the ability to edit your compositions at any time. This is particularly useful for client work. If your clients request changes at any time you can quickly and easily edit your work without needing to redo anything.

You may remember that we previously published: 5 Incredibly Useful Non-Destructive Photoshop Techniques

If you haven’t read this article I recommend it, as it covers all kinds of useful non-destructive techniques such as dodge/burn, adjustment layers, masking, lens flare and more!

Today I’m going to share another 5 non-destructive Photoshop techniques with you. Each of these techniques has really helped my workflow so I hope that you’ll give them a try!

1. Apply a Layer Style to Multiple Layers

It used to be a real hassle to apply the same layer style to multiple layers. I would be forced to right click on my layers, click ‘copy layer style’ and then individually paste the layer style to all relevant layers.

A much faster way to do this is to convert your layers into a smart object.

Let’s take a look at a practical example of this:

Let’s say that you want to apply a drop shadow to multiple text layers with ease. You create a background layer, and then have various text layers. Your layer organization should look something like the image below:

Select all layers that you want to apply your layer styles to.

Then right click on any one of the selected layers and click ‘convert to smart object’.

Below you can see how your layers will look once converted to a smart object:

Now right click on this smart object in your layers palette and click on ‘blending options’. Apply whatever layer styles you want, and watch how they effect all of your text layers! For the sake of this example I’ve applied a drop shadow to the text layers:

2. Non-Destructive Cloning

It always used to bug me how I couldn’t clone my images non-destructively. When I was working with photo retouching projects I would generally just duplicate my original photo layer in order to retain it in case I made mistakes. However, there is a much more effective, non-destructive way to use your clone stamp brush!

Looking at the image below, we can see portrait where there’s an opportunity to use the clone stamp tool to get rid of a facial mole:

Create a new layer called ‘clone stamp tool’. Select your clone stamp tool and then in the top options menu look for a checkbox saying ‘aligned sample’. Next to this you should see a drop down menu. The default option will be ‘current layer’. Change this to ‘all layers’.

By doing this, your clone stamp tool will clone the data on lower layers, but the cloned data will appear on your new ‘clone stamp tool’ layer.

Below you can see the data of your clone stamp tool isolated, with your original portrait layer hidden. This shows how your cloned data is on a single layer. This allows you to edit, delete or manipulate it as you wish, and gives you much more freedom when retouching your portraits.

You can also use this ‘sample all layers’ option for other tools such as the healing brush.

3. Refine Edge Tool

The refine edge tool was a new introduction with Photoshop CS5. It’s a great way to improve the edges of your extracted images. It’s also very non-destructive, as you can copy your refined edge to a new layer with mask.

Start by opening your photo in a new document. Create a selection around the area you wish to extract.

With your selection tool selected, click on ‘refine edge’ in the top options menu.

This will bring up the refine edges settings box. You’ll notice that the selected area you’re extracting will be displayed against a white background. Input the settings you want for a nice looking selection.

Very importantly, under the ‘output to’ setting, choose ‘new layer with layer mask’:

When you hit ‘ok’ you’ll see that your extracted image has been copied to a new layer, with the background masked off.

This is great for integrating into your non-destructive workflow as you can now repair parts of your edge whenever you need using your layer mask.

4. Masking Smart Filters

Most Photoshop users have played around with smart filters. If you haven’t, they’re a great non-destructive technique for applying filters to your images.

What you may not realize is that you can mask off specific areas of your smart filter.

As an example, if you wanted to blur the edges of a portrait a typical destructive workflow may look something like this:

1. Open your portrait image
2. Duplicate your portrait layer
3. Apply a gaussian blur filter to your duplicate portrait layer
4. Erase the center of your duplicate portrait, revealing the original non-blurred portrait beneath.
5. You will have a blurred edge to your portrait, but with a sharp center.

However, all this can be done non-destructively using smart filters and some masking know how! Best of all, you only need one layer – your portrait layer.

Start by opening your portrait image:

Go to filter>convert for smart filters. Hit ok. This will convert your image into a smart object, allowing you to apply filters non-destructively.

Now go to filter>blur>gaussian blur. Apply a gaussian blur (10px strength):

Now select the mask thumbnail associated with your smart filter. Use a soft black paintbrush to mask off the center of your image, just as you would with a regular layer mask.

This will mask off the center of your blur filter, exposing the regular, focused image in this area.

This technique can be used for any filter, giving you a huge amount of freedom. You can play with textures, colors, lighting, effects and more using filters in this fashion, and only need to work within one layer.

5. Non-Destructive Image Cropping

Cropping is another Photoshop tool that we don’t associate with being non-destructive, but it can be!

Select your crop tool in the toolbar. Then in your top options bar for the cropped area option tick the ‘hide’ box instead of the default ‘delete’ box.

This will literally just hide the area that you are cropping, rather than deleting it. Thus it is non-destructive!

Below you can see the correct options selected and an early crop:

This will result in a nicely cropped image like below:

Now, if you want to recover the data that has been cropped out at any point there are two ways to do this. You can either go to image>reveal all:

You can also select your crop tool again, and then simply drag the bounding box corners outwards. When you apply your new, larger crop it will reveal the previously hidden cropped area.

About the Author:

Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.

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  1. stephannie lahboy says:

    ammm,. your presentation is very much helpful because it has an educational information for us students. thank you

  2. Fluffy says:

    Wow! Amazing! Thanks! Keep up with the great work!

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