Photoshop Top 40, Feature #16: Adjustment Layers

It’s difficult (verging on impossible) to exaggerate the importance of color adjustments in Photoshop. In the 19+ years I’ve been using the program, I don’t think I’ve come across a single image that I haven’t adjusted to some degree or other. And while there’s no single best command for adjusting colors (Feature #28: Hue/Saturation for one image, Feature #24: Curves for another), there is a best method: adjustment layers.

An adjustment layer is an independent layer of color adjustment that you can edit any time you like. Plus it affects all layers below it, consumes very little space in memory, and affords you the opportunity to make selective edits. In other words, it’s small and nondestructive. (Compare this to Feature #18: Smart Objects, which is huge and nondestructive.) The modest adjustment layer is also relatively easy to use—by Photoshop standards, anyway.

This video tells the story. In it, I take a great-looking flat photograph and turn it into something bordering on extraordinary using just two varieties of color adjustment, Vibrance and Brightness/Contrast (neither of which made the Top 4 list, demonstrating that adjustment layers are so awesome that they super-exist their commands). The secret-sauce to the adjustment layers’ success is layer masks, which is rather a sub-feature in this video.

For those interested (by which I mean you!), the great-looking flat photograph comes from image vendor Fotolia. This happens to be file #2439545 from Arrow Studio. For an exclusive dekeOnline deal, click this link.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click here.)

Photoshop Top 40 is available as a downloadable podcast from iTunes. Click here to subscribe. dekePod subscribers will get the videos automatically.

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  • #16 Adjustment layers

    Solid gold presentation Deke. This Top 40 series has made Tuesdays a special day of the week.

  • What makes you figure this out…!?

    I always wonder what makes you figure things like that. It always seems so easy…. somehow, when I look at a picture, I know it’s far from perfect and could use a little bit of this and that, but I never know what modifications to apply and which tool to use.

    I bet it comes from those years of practice, but still… I’d be curious to know what makes you chose this technique over another one!

  • You are a God amongst men,

    You are a God amongst men, Deke!

    Cheers from Sweden!

  • You put your finger on it, draken3d

    That is the mystery of Deke.

  • Really Nice

    Its a good information and great trip.thanks for sharing.

  • Im just tryin to catch up,

    Im just tryin to catch up, hahah. AWESUM!!!!!!!!!!!!acknowledgement is power

  • Thank you !!!

    Finding these videos are a great find for me !  I love the way that these lessons incorporate and build from previous lessons.  For me this makes Photoshop a much more 3-D and alive.  Thanks again,  KGM

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