Facebook Pixel Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

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Part 1 of How to Use Photoshop Adjustment Layers introduced you to the first eight of the adjustment layer type editing tools, which allow you to work non-destructively. Here, we continue to look at some of the other tools available as Adjustment Layers.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

1. Photo Filter

Did you know that there are colored filters that you place in front of your camera lens that alter the color temperature and balance of your final image? Well, the Photo Filter adjustment layer adds a color filter to your image similar to this.

There are many preset photo filters in Photoshop, but the most common are those that make your image warm or cool. You can further tweak each preset to your liking. For instance, you can change the density of the effect easily using the Density slider. There is also the Preserve Luminosity box to check so that the applied filter does not darken your image.

You can also choose an exact color that you would like to overlay as a filter by clicking on “color” and chosing from the color menu or by using the eyedropper tool to chose a color from your image.

Image: Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

Warm (oranges) and Cool (Blues) Photo filters applied to the image above

2. Channel Mixer

The Channel Mixer Photoshop Adjustment Layer is another great tool to create stunning black and white and tinted images.

The principle is similar to that used by the Black and White Adjustment Layer. In each of these, you can adjust the displayed grayscale image by changing the tonal values of the color elements of the image.

There are three channels in the RGB view: red, green and blue. Note: The source channel is the one that defaults to 100%. The Channel Mixer, therefore, allows you to combine and mix the best of each channel. It does this by adding (or subtracting) grayscale data from your source channel to another channel.

Also, of note, adding more color to a channel gives you a negative value and vice versa. Hence, at the end of your edit, it is advisable that all your numbers total 100%.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

The Channel Mixer also allows you to exaggerate color and make creative color adjustments to your image.

3. Color Lookup

The Color Lookup adjustment layer uses presets to instantly color grade or change the “look” of your image. The presets are called LUTs or lookup tables. Each lookup table contains specific instructions for Photoshop to remap the colors in your image to a different set of colors to create the selected look.

Image: Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

Applying the Late Sunset LUT creates a dramatic finish

When you choose the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, three options are available to you: 3DLUT File, Abstract and Device Link.

Most of the presets reside under the 3DLUT File option. Of note, 3D (in 3DLUT) refers to Photoshop’s RGB color channels (and not three-dimension).

Image: Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Late Sunset LUT applied at 60% opacity for a more realistic finish

Furthermore, LUTS are available for download from various websites or you can create your own LUT.

4. Invert

The Invert Photoshop Adjustment Layer is self-explanatory. It inverts the colors and is an easy way to make a negative of your image for an interesting effect.

Image: The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

The first image with colors inverted gives a surreal otherworldly effect

5. Posterize

Looking for a flat, poster-like finish? The Posterize Adjustment Layer gives you that by reducing the number of brightness values available in your image.

You can make an image have as much or as little detail as you like by selecting the number in the levels slider. The higher the number, the more detail your image has. The lower the number, the less detail your image has.

This can come in handy when you want to screenprint your image. You can limit the tones of black and white. This is also true of the Threshold Adjustment Layer.

Image: Posterize Adjustment Layer

Posterize Adjustment Layer

6. Threshold

When you select Threshold from your Photoshop Adjustment Layers list, your image changes to black and white. By changing the Threshold Level value, you control the number of pixels that are black or white.

Image: Threshold Adjustment Layer

Threshold Adjustment Layer

7. Gradient Map

The Gradient Map lets you map different colors to different tones in your image. The gradient fill, therefore, sets the colors representing both the shadow tones on one end and highlight tones on the other end of the gradient.

Likewise, checking the “Reverse” box swaps around the colors of your gradient. This means that the shadow colors are moved to the highlights end and vice versa.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your shadows dark and your highlights brighter for ease of reference.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

Your gradient map also makes available many presets that are adjustable via the gradient editor window. Additionally, you can also define/create your own gradients by changing the slider colors.

8. Selective Color

Use the Selective Color Adjustment Layer to modify specific amounts of a primary color without modifying other primary colors in your image. Check the Absolute box if you want to adjust the color in absolute values.

Example: If you have a pixel that is 50% yellow and you add 10%, you are now at a 60% total. The Relative box is a little more complicated as it would adjust the yellow pixel only by the percentage it contributes to the total. Using the same example, if you add 10% to the yellow slider (with relative checked), it actually adds 50% of the 10%, which brings your total to 55%. Relative, therefore, gives you a more subtle effect.

Photoshop Adjustment Layers Explained and How to Use Them (Part 2)

However, when it comes to this editing tool, the potential is far beyond this simplistic edit technique. You can use it to correct skin tones and for general toning.

While selective color adjustments are similar to hue/saturation adjustments, there are subtle differences. Selective Color allows you to subtract/add color values, whereas Hue/Saturation does not.

The Hue/Saturation adjustment allows you to work with a range of hues that are included with the six color ranges in Selective Color, so there is more control there if you need it.

Conclusion

These basic examples of how to use the Photoshop Adjustment Layers tools merely scratch the surface of their capabilities. Certainly, you will appreciate editing non-destructively, whether you are just starting out or advanced with adjustment layers.

Some of the adjustment layers seem similar, but each has its differences and its pros and cons. Either way, there are many possibilities of playing around with your image, while preserving the original.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part 1 in this series.

Do you use Photoshop Adjustment Layers? If so, which ones do you use and why? Share with us in the comments.

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Nisha Ramroop
Nisha Ramroop

is an I.T. chick and Project Manager with a passion for photography, currently living in the beautiful Trinidad & Tobago. She’s a published writer and photographer who spends most of her free time traveling and exploring. See more of her work at Nikophotography.