adjustment layers in Photoshop Tutorial

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By Andrew Buckle, Updated : 2022

How to use Photoshop adjustment layers. Use to change colors of underlying layers. Add adjustment layers via the layer menu and new adjustment layer command in Photoshop.


1. Where

They can be found via the layer menu and the new adjustment layer command and there a number of them such as photo filter and color LUT and hue and saturation, gradient map etc.


2. What do they do ?

They re-color any layers below. If there are layers above them in the layers panel then they are not affected by that setting. Anything below is modified in some way. The colors can be changed in countless ways such as turning an image black and white or applying a change to the hue or levels of an image. The key thing about the layers is that they are non destructive, nothing has been modified below until you flatten the design. If you wish to apply all the effect as a destructive effect then just use the same color effects in the image menu.

3. How many can you add

As many as you wish, you can add multiple entries and you can re-position them everywhere and anywhere in the layers panel

4. Layers is the key panel

The key panel to manipulate them is the layers panel and that is found in the window menu and layers.

5. Is it a layer and can be manipulated as such

Yes, it is a standard layer but just instead of holding pixel information / images etc it is an effect that modifies the color of the underlying layers. You can re-size them as well and much more though this can only be done if you add the color effect in a selection or add a design to the mask of the effect (that is the little box on the right in the entry in the layers panel

6. Add them using a selection

You don't have to add them to the entire image or layer, you can use the selection tools and select part of the image and then go to the layer menu and new effect (such as black and white or gradient map or curves etc) and you will see the color change only applied to part of the image selected by the selection

7. Properties

At any point you can double click the entry in the panel and display the properties panel for this color effect (such as curves and color LUT and levels and black and white etc) and then tweak the color settings for the red and green etc channels or change the input and output settings etc and as they are non destructive effects, you can always go back to the entry and double click at any time and change the settings.

8. Feather using properties panel

You can also apply a feathering to the current mask for the effects using the properties panel and masks tab. You will then get a blurry edge to the color effect (levels, hue and saturation, photo filter, LUT, gradient map etc)

9. Blending Modes

It is a layer and it has blending modes as well as opacity etc. You can set the blending via a right click of the color effect in the layers panel or just got to the top of the layers panel and set the blending there to lighten or difference etc

10. Warp them

You can apply transformations to the color effects so instead of having a rectangular or circular adjustment layer, you can have a warped or scaled or sheared one


Which also makes it easier to add multiple effects (multiple color LUTs as well as multiple black and white and curves etc) and re-position them with different warps or sizes etc - great for creating all kinds of interesting lighting effects added to faces etc

11. Invert them

If you want the image to be the inversion of the current image, say you have a 'bright' color effect over an image but you would prefer that part to be darker and the rest of the image to be brighter, go to the layers panel and select the thumbnail (second box on the layer entry) and go to the image menu and use adjustments and invert command

12. Add a mask

A mask is super great for stopping or showing the color effect. It is the second box on the layer entry, it is created when you add the layer. You can add brush strokes to it and gradients etc, in fact, anything is you wish and you will allow more or less of the color effect to change the image. If you go to the channels panel then you will see the mask channel and it can be manipulate there also


Masking effect added

Selections can limit the range of the color effect

You can see the mask for the design via the properties panel

You can change the blending mode for the effect

You can apply a warp transform the the color effect

You can add multiple color effects, it doesn't need to be just one

You can invert

You can select the entries via the panel