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  • Photoshop Adjustment Layers

    Posted on 29th June 2021 by Greta Powell

    Photoshop Adjustment Layers

    So what are Photoshop Adjustment Layers and why are they different to any other layer? Is it better to use Adjustment Layers or apply an adjustment directly from the Image menu. If so, why so?


    Adjustment layers are a part of the Adobe Photoshop none destructive workflow and so the answer is yes in most instances. They give you far more flexibility and control over image editing than working directly on a normal layer. You can apply a number of edits to them such as colour and tone changes without affecting pixel values. An adjustment layer sits ‘on top’ of the image layer as shown in the example below and the panel is turned on and off from the Window menu. Once an adjustment layer has been selected it will appear directly above the working layer.


    Benefits of Photoshop Adjustment Layers?

    Well the main one is you can turn them on and off at will and you can view multiple instances of different adjustment layers in Photoshop such as Curves, Vibrance and so forth. These can be viewed individually or all together by clicking on the eye ‘reveal’ icon.


    You don’t like them? Then you simply throw them in the layers bin leaving the original image intact and add a new adjustment. Hence the wonderful term ‘none destructive workflow’.


    Future use of these?!


    Save them out as a PSD (Photoshop file) and then return and edit them at your leisure at any point in the future.


    Apply Adjustment Layers to Individual Layers

    Photoshop applies any adjustment layers changes to every layer beneath it in the Layers Panel which is fine if that’s the effect you need. There will be times when you need to apply it to one layer and one only. To apply that to one solo layer in the stack you will need to make sure you have the Properties panel live (turn on Properties Panel via Window >Properties).


    You can make an adjustment layer affect one single layer directly below itself in the layer stack.


    Make sure you’re viewing the Properties panel, or choose Window > Properties.


    With the adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, click the Create Clipping Mask icon at the bottom of the Properties panel (or select Clipping Mask from the Layer burger menu drop-down) to apply the adjustment to just the layer below it. 


    Clipping Mask in Photoshop

    Understanding Masking in Photoshop


    You create a Clipping Mask in Photoshop to isolate individual layers


    You create a Layer Mask to isolate individual areas in an image





    In short – what are Adjustment Layers?

    Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

    “Adjustment Layers apply colour & tone changes with no pixel permanent changes”


    “Adjustment Layers give flexible design ideas”


    “Adjustment Layers can be easily discarded”


    “Adjustment Layers are fully editable”





    We cover adjustment layers quite extensively in both the Introduction to Photoshop Course and the Intermediate Training. On the intro course we look at the basics of these and then take things a step further in the Photoshop Intermediate Course with the use of both Clipping and Layer Masks. 


    Online Photoshop Training

    We do bite sized Photoshop Training sessions online so if you already work with Photoshop but would like to look at these specifically then please get in touch to discussed our bite-sized chunks.


    Thank you for visiting.

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    Greta Powell Training Ltd



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