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Adobe Photoshop - Introduction to Adjustment Layers

This guide will show you how to create and use Adjustments layers to make non-destructive edits to your images.

Adjustment Layers are the easiest, non-destructive way to make photo corrections to your images. Because the adjustments are stored in individual layers and are not made to your image directly, they provide an easy way for you to experiment with your images.

Making an Adjustment using the Adjustments Panel

  1. Refer to the Adjustments panel.

    • If the Adjustments panel isn't showing, go under the Window menu and then choose Adjustments note the different icons here, each one of these is a different Adjustment.
  2. Select the Black and White Adjustment from the Adjustments panel.
    • As the cursor passes over each adjustment icon, the name of that adjustment is shown at the top of the adjustments panel.
  3. Click on it in order to add it.
    • That automatically expands the Properties panel.
  4. Use the sliders to make changes by dragging them left or right.
    • For example, use the sliders to change how the reds will be translated into a shade of gray.
  5. Refer back to the Layers panel, note that this has not made a permanent change to the layer. It has just added a secondary layer on top.
    • You can toggle this on and off to hide it or reveal it by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.
  6. Decrease the opacity of this layer by clicking on the Opacity slider and decreasing the opacity.
    • As the opacity of the Black and White Adjustment layer is decreased, note how some of the color from the background layer can be seen.

Fine Tuning with Masks

  1. A mask was automatically created when the Adjustment Layer was added.

  2. Press the G key to grab the gradient tool, or select the gradient tool from the tools panel on the left.
  3. With the black and white adjustment layer selected, click on the left side of the image and drag over to the right side.
    • The mask is selectively hiding and showing that Adjustment Layer. White is going to show the Adjustment Layer and black is going to hide it.
  4. To make this more obvious increase the opacity back up to 100%.
    • Note where the mask is white the Black and White Adjustment can be seen and where the mask is black it's hiding the Adjustment Layer.

Adjustment Layers are a way to make nondestructive Adjustments in Photoshop. Understand the difference between adding an Adjustment Layer and making an Adjustment under the Image menu.

Making an Adjustment under the Image Menu

  1. Choose Image and then Adjustments.
  2. Select the Black and White Adjustment and then click OK.
  3. Refer to the Layers panel, this has made a permanent change.
    • If this file was saved and closed, and then later you decided that you wanted a color version of it, the color is no longer in this image.
    • Any options that you select under the Image Adjustment menu, those are all permanent changes.

Adjustment Layers, because they're non destructive and because you can go back in and re-edit them at any time, are much more powerful than using the destructive edits under the image menu.

If you need further assistance please contact the Information Technology Help Desk at 920-424-3020 or

Keywords:"Adjustment Panel", Masks, "Black and White Adjustments", ps, "Photo Corrections"   Doc ID:64214
Owner:Richard L.Group:UW Oshkosh
Created:2016-06-17 13:56 CDTUpdated:2020-01-02 10:21 CDT
Sites:UW Oshkosh
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