Adjustment layers let you change the lighting, color, and many other important qualities of an image. Let’s watch adjustment layers in action to understand how they work. This image right here is looking a little bit dark, so let’s brighten it up a bit. We’ll do that by creating a brightness and contrast adjustment layer. You’ll now see our newly added adjustment layer in the layers panel.
To actually edit the image, you still need to tell the adjustment layer what changes you’d like to make. You do this in the properties panel, where you’ll find two sliders for controlling brightness and contrast. Watch the image as we drag the brightness slider to the right. Everything in the photo on the bottom layer is now getting brighter, but the clouds, which are on their own layer, aren’t changing at all.
Now watch what happens when we drag the adjustment layer on top of the cloud layer—suddenly the clouds are getting brighter now too. The best part about working with adjustment layers is that all of your changes can easily be undone because none of this is permanent, so you can always go back and change your image’s brightness at any time. Another great benefit of adjustment layers is that they let you edit a certain part of an image. For example, let’s say we want to change the colour of this wall.
If you’re not already familiar with how to make a selection, you can check out some of the earlier tutorials on this. With the wall selected, we’ll now create a new adjustment layer. This time we’ll use a hue and saturation adjustment, which controls color.
This time let’s move the hue slider until the colour of the wall is the same shade of blue as the colour of the truck, which I think looks super compelling. You might have expected the entire photo to change colors, but because we made a selection before creating a layer mask on the wall, only the wall changed colours and nothing else.
This is because our selection was automatically converted into a layer mask, so only the unmasked area was affected by the adjustment. If you’d like to learn more about layer masks and how they work, you can check out some of the previous tutorials. Making these edits on separate adjustment layers gives us so much flexibility. If we decide we like the original colour of the wall, we can always go to the layers panel and hide that adjustment layer. This is the power of non-destructive editing.