Destructive and Non-Destructive Photoshop Operations

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Say you’ve worked long hours in Photoshop, editing an image by using the clone stamp and spot healing tool. You’ve exported your image as a JPG only to realize you’ve made an editing error on your image. To your horror, there is no way to go back. The only layer you’ve edited on was the original itself. This scenario demonstrates the atrocity destructive editing can cause. To prevent this from ever happening again, next time add layers to preserve your original image. This is called non-destructive editing.

Destructive editing is when you make permanent changes to an image through digital editing. If you edit, for example, the lighting in your image and saved it, the edits will be there permanently and you can’t go back to its original state. The pixels in your original image have thus been destroyed, which is why it is called destructive editing. Destructive editing can damage and ruin your original image. This can waste your time and cause you so much distress.

Non-destructive editing is a safe way to work when making adjustments and edits to a photograph because you work around the pixels. In other words, it is the process of editing without destroying the pixels of your original image. On Photoshop, the way this works is by adding a duplicate layer on top of your original image (or background layer). This new duplicate layer is where all the edits and adjustments will go instead of your original layer, thus being non-destructive. At any point, you can go back and get rid of all the edits that you may want to get rid of or add-on to through this duplicate layer. You can also add more layers and edit on those as well. Once you’re done and content with the changes you’ve made, save your edits as a separate file and export a copy of your adjusted image. Now you have your original and your adjusted version of your image. At any point you can go back to your original image and edit it again non-destructively.

Now that you are aware of destructive and non-destructive operations, use this knowledge when working on Photoshop to avoid any further frustrations. Editing on duplicate layers instead of your original image straightens out your workflow and allows you to work productively without consequence.


Destructive and Non-destructive Editing

From Destructive to Constructive in Photoshop