February 4, 2011 / Photoshop/Illustrator / Winter 2011

Photoshop Fun: Edit photos with Adjustment Layers

Written by Idea File Staff

An Adjustment Layer in Photoshop allows you to make edits to your work without actually changing your original layer. For example, rather than using Levels or Color Balance directly on your original photo, you can create a Levels or Color Balance Adjustment Layer that will not alter the original image information. The color and tonal adjustments are stored with the Adjustment Layer and are applied to all the layers below it.

So,  Adjustment Layers allows you to correct multiple layers at once using a single adjustment, and, discard your changes and restore the original image at any time.

Photoshop CS4 offers 15 Adjustments, or presets: Brightness/Contrast, Levels, Curves, Exposure, Vibrance, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, Black & White, Photo Filter, Channel Mixer, Invert, Posterize, Threshold, Gradient Map and Selective Color. Earlier versions of Photoshop have Adjustment Layers, just not as many.

To use  Adjustment Layers, open an image you would like to edit and follow these steps:

1. Go to the layer of the image you want to adjust (in this case, the original layer called Ocean).

2. Select the half black and half white circle at the bottom of the Layers palette. A list of the 15 adjustments will appear. Select the preset you would like to try. In this exercise we used the Vibrance Adjustment.

2-Choosing-Vibrance-step2

3. Once you have selected the adjustment, the Adjustments palette will give you various options to alter the layer. The Vibrance options lets you modify the vibrance and saturation of the image. We set the Vibrance to +80 and the Saturation to +40. This increases the amount of color of the entire photo.

3-Using-Vibrance-adjustment-step3

4. Numerous Adjustment Layers can be used in conjunction with each other to affect your image.

4-Layers-palette-with-3-adjustments-step4

5. Here is the finished image. To return to your original image, simply turn off the layer or even delete the entire Adjustment Layer. You are back to your unaltered photo.

5-Vibrance-final-image-step5

With all of the adjustment presets available to use in combination, the creative possibilities are endless.

  • Fran Shirey

    I was submitting names for the yearbook name stamping, and took a few minutes to look at your website. I like some of the little idea files you have here. I teach the students Desktop Publishing using Photoshop and InDesign. Would it be possible for you to send me the pictures you used in these idea files? Also, do you have any good lessons you would share with me to introduce students to Illustrator? Years ago, I bought a book from Walsworth on Photoshop which I used a lot with my students. Do you have any books you have put together recently on Photoshop?

    • Evan Blackwell

      Hi Fran –

      Thanks so much for the comment. Glad you enjoy the Idea File!

      If you’re looking for the screen capture illustrations in the above article, you should be able to right-click and save those on your computer. If you’re looking for the actual original photo that the designer used when this activity was done, that would probably be a little tricky. Not sure they save those once this gets posted.

      As far as books on Photoshop, an updated version of Walsworth’s Photoshop Manual will be available as a PDF download very soon, before the start of the next school year. Your yearbook sales rep will be able to give you the details when it is available.

      Evan Blackwell
      Walsworth Yearbooks Blog and Idea File

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.