The new Targeted Adjustment icon (which looks like a tiny hand next to a two-headed arrow) has been added to the Curves, Hue/Saturation and Black & White adjustments. It allows you to click and drag within your image to quickly isolate and adjust areas. Being able to isolate areas is not new to these adjustments; this icon simply allows for faster interaction with the image compared to previous versions of Photoshop. Clicking the icon will toggle it on or off (it’s off by default). Let’s look at how it works with each of the adjustments in which it’s available:
In Curves, you used to have to hold the Command key (Mac), or Ctrl key (Win) and click within your image (which is still possible) to measure the brightness of an area and add a point to the appropriate area of the curve that would concentrate an adjustment on that area. You’d then have to move your mouse into the Curves dialog box and drag the newly added point up or down to brighten or darken the area. At the same time you’d have to be very careful not to accidently move the point horizontally, otherwise it would no longer correspond to the brightness of the area you clicked on within your image. Many people preferred to use the Up/Down Arrow keys instead of their mouse just to avoid moving a point horizontally.
When the new Targeted Adjustment icon is active, all you have to do to add a point to the curve is to click within your image. To adjust the newly added point, simply drag up or down within your image. There is no need to release the mouse button—this can be one fluid motion, and you don’t have to worry about dragging horizontally since that doesn’t affect the movement of the curve point.
This simple change might not sound all that ground-breaking, but when combined with the new Adjustments panel, it can almost infinitely speed up how quickly you can adjust an image. The old method feels like trying to unlock your car using a coat hanger through a closed window instead of simply grabbing for the key and unlocking the door directly.
In previous versions of Photoshop, you had to choose a color from the pop-up menu at the top of the Hue/Saturation dialog box to isolate a color and then click within your image to focus an adjustment on a specific color within your image. After doing that, you could adjust the Hue, Saturation or Lightness sliders to change the look of the area. If you had to change more than one color within your image, you’d have to choose a different color from the pop-up menu, click on another area within your image and then adjust the sliders once again.
When the new Drag to Adjust icon is active, all you have to do is click on the color you’d like to change and then drag horizontally to adjust the Saturation slider. If you want to adjust a second area, just move your mouse over the second color and drag away. If you need to change the Hue slider, hold down the Command key (Mac), or Ctrl key (Win) as you drag. With any of these adjustments, you can add the Shift key to make more dramatic changes to your image, or hold Option (Mac), or Alt (Win) to make finer adjustments. The only bummer about this method is that you have to manually adjust the Lightness slider because there is no modifier key that allows you to drag on your image and affect the Lightness slider.
Black & White
The Drag to Adjust icon doesn’t add any new functionality to the Black & White adjustment —since you were able to click and drag on the image in Photoshop CS3—but having the icon available simply makes that feature a little more accessible. Oh, well.