Algonquin College Graphic Design Program Computer Graphics Course Curriculum Algonquin College Graphic Design Program Computer Graphics Course Curriculum

Adjustment Layers

Apps Used: Adobe Photoshop

Adjustment Layers give instructions to layers below to do something like change colour, increase contrast, invert colours and much, much more. They're central to a non-destructive colour adjustment workflow.

This is a formative assignment

That means that you'll be learning and practising new software skills. This assignment contributes to your final grade in the course. This work will be graded as either:

Complete Incomplete

If needed, I will provide written feedback on your performance.


Adjustment Layers are our go-to tools for adjusting colours in a photo in a way which allows us to easily edit our changes. They’re a special type of layer which affects everything below them in the stacking order, unless it’s masked.


You can add an Adjustment Layer on an image from the button at the bottom of the Layers panel, as shown above. The Adjustment Layer appears above the targeted layer in the stacking order. It affects all layers below it.



All Adjustment Layers come with a mask. In the image above, the adjustments affects the layer below only where the mask is white.

Adjustment Layers allow you to edit colours in photos without touching the photo’s original pixels. They’re overlays that sit above (or between) your layers to affect the layers below. It’s like looking through rose-coloured glasses. Adjustment Layers come with a Layer Mask built in. We’ll experiment colouring part of a photo.



When you add an Adjustment Layer, the Properties panel appears to allow you to edit its settings. The Properties panel changes depending on the type of Adjustment Layer you’re using.

Opacity & Blend Modes


You can also edit the opacity and the blend mode of an Adjustment Layer to affect how it interacts with the layers below.

You can explore Adjustment Layers freely because they’re non-destructive. You can simply edit settings or delete the Adjustment Layer if things don’t work out. Keep in mind, that the stacking order in your Layers Panel counts.



Let’s open the flower photo to colourize the flower itself.

In only a few steps we can edit the colour in selected areas of a photo in a non-destructive workflow.

We’ll use Select Subject to create a marquee around the leaf since it has a unique colour in the photo to start with. Now we’re ready to add our Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Adjust the colour of the leaf in the Properties panel. Remember to rename your adjustment layer by what it does, like Flower Colour.

Correcting Colour

Let’s use Levels Adjustment Layers to increase the range of colour in this photo.

See how much improved the photo is with a couple of quick non-destructive fixes.

We’ll also enhence the logo that’s painted on the building. Once you’re done, it’s best to proof the photo in its final intent ie: web, print…

Blending Adjustment Layers

We’ll colourize some of the berries in this photo as seamlessly as possible.

The Adjustment Layer is acting like a coloured acetate over our photo. The Hue Blend Mode helps the colour blend with the paint below.

[The Hue blend mode] creates a result colour with the luminance and saturation of the base colour and the hue of the blend colour. Adobe


These are the steps:

Hot Rod a Car!

Let’s have some fun turning an every-day Fiat 500 into a real hot rod.

Transform an everyday car into a hot rod.

First, we select the car, then add the adjustment layer to make it the colour you want. Now we can jazz it up with some cool flame decals – all on Adjustment Layers.

Formative Activity

Your job is to use Adjustment Layers to edit the photos as shown below.

Make sure you name all of your Adjustment Layers by how they affect the photo.

Colourizing Photos


Change the colour of the hat with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Your edits mustn’t be detectable.


Create Adjustment Layers to edit the colours of her eyes and of her lips. Make sure your edits are as seamless and realistic as possible. I know it’s tempting, but no silliness here.

Correcting Colour

Use Adjustment Layers to bump up the colour in this photo.


Adjust White Point and Black Point with a Levels Adjustment Layer.

Blending Adjustment Layers


Use a gradient on Colour Fill Adjustment Layer and a blend mode to colourize the front of the car.

Hot Rod Your Own Car!

Use the provided photo of the BMW and the vector flames to trick out your ride.

Transform an everyday car into a hot rod.

Supplemental Links

What you'll submit:


Once you've completed your work, save and close each document. Rename the provided assignment folder as LastName-FirstName-Group-Nº-Assignment-Name. So,

Appleseed-Johnny-1-Adjustment Layers

Right-click, then choose Compress... to create a zip file for submission. So...


The zip file is what you submit.

Failure to submit your files as directed will incur a proportional loss of points. If your file/folder is not named with your name, you will earn a zero. Why?