Part 3: Filters, Opacity, Curves, and Colour Balance

In this third part of our guide, we discuss applying filters, adjusting opacity, and making lighting and colour corrections with curves and colour balance.

Previously, we discussed how top open up a new project. We discussed dimensions, the zoom tool, and even discussed tabs. Of course, this can be a bit dry even if necessary, so lets move on to something a bit more fun. That fun thing is filters and opacity. We also discuss curves and colour balance as well.

Applying a Filter

Applying filters is actually pretty straight forward. First, let’s open up an interesting image in Photoshop…

OK, now, let’s open up a filter.

To add a filter, we can just click on the “Filter” dropdown menu. After that, we can choose from a huge variety of available filters. Just for fun, let’s pick “Artistic”. Then, in the sub menu, lets try “Plastic Wrap…”

For a large portion of the filters, you’ll get a pop-up window. This is essentially your filtering suite built into Photoshop. In this case, since our image is small, we zoomed in with the zoom feature on the bottom left corner. As we can see, the filter made our logo appear as though it has been vacuum-sealed in plastic. You’ll notice that, on the right hand side of the window, there are different sliders. We can mess around with those to adjust how strong the effect is among other things.

Also note that on the middle of the screen, we can select different filters and mess around with those. When you are starting out, this is largely a trial and error thing. Experiment around and see what you can get out of it. The more you play around with the filters, the more knowledge you’ll likely glean from the experience. When you are done, just hit the OK button and your new filter will apply to your existing image.


Another useful feature in Photoshop is the ability to adjust the transparency of something. This operates on a similar idea to filtering, but is even easier to accomplish.

First, make sure that the layer you want to adjust is highlighted (bottom highlight in screen shot). Next, click on the arrow next to “transparency”. After that, adjust the slider that pops up.

You’ll notice that a white and grey checker board pattern appears as the image fades out. This is the default look for when no image data is on the canvas at all. So, if you save the image as a PNG file (or any other format that supports transparency for that matter), then overlay that image on something else, that second thing (be it a picture or a background colour) will show through. Alternatively, you can add other layers to your project to cover up that checker board and you’ll see that image show through if it’s on a lower layer.

We’ll, of course, discuss layers in more detail later, but that’s a brief rundown on how transparency can work in Photoshop.


Ideally, you’ll want to give your pictures the perfect lighting. Unfortunately, that may not always happen. So, if you want to make some minor adjustments to the lighting of your image, curves may be just the solution you need to tweak that image.

To access curves, simply click Layer, New Adjustment Layer, then Curves…

You’ll then get a pop-up window that looks something like this. You can tweak which colour you wish to adjust, but for demonstrative purposes, we’ll just leave it with the default white setting. So, let’s hit “OK”.

You should then see a graph appear on the right hand side of your screen. This is what you’ll use to adjust the colours. You can create a new point on the graph simply by clicking and dragging a part of the line. A second point can be made in the same way. From there, you can just mess around with it and see what kind of effect it has on your picture. Note that major adjustments may make the image look cheap, so this alone may not really solve all of your image lighting problems. Still, it can nudge the quality of the image into the right direction if need be.

This is one result I had with the curves playing around with my own logo.

If you want to remove the curves layer, simply click on the trash icon (highlighted). A pop-up window will appear and you can just click “Yes” to get rid of it after.

Colour Balance

Another adjustment we can use is the Colour Balance. For those familiar with Blender or any video editing software, this will seem pretty familiar, though the interface isn’t exactly the same.

To access the colour balance, simply access it in a similar manner to curves. Just click on Layer, New Adjustment Layer, then “Color Balance…”

You can tweak an option or two if you like, but for me, I’ll just hit “OK” in the pop-up window.

In the new right hand panel, you’ll first see your tones. You have your Shadows, midtones, and highlights. After you click a radial for the tone you want to adjust, you can adjust the colour sliders to make colour corrections as well.

Here’s a fun variation I came up with. More seriously, this is meant to help make your photo’s more clear. Play around with the colour correction and you might be surprised with the kind of quality you can bring out of your pictures.

Again, experimentation can really help your knowledge more than an endless wall of text. Play around and see what works for you. The more you are used to features like these, the better.

Next up, we continue doing some fun stuff with Photoshop!

< New Projects, Zooming, and Tabs | Index | Layers and The Erase Tool >

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