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Create Photo Effects Using Adjustment & Fill Layers

In this tutorial, we’ll learn three photo effects that can be achieved using Adjustment and Fill layers only. Our focus will be on how to mix and match adjustment layers, and learn about its lesser known uses.

Software : Photoshop

Difficulty Level : Beginner

Completion Time: 30-45 minutes

Adjustment layers are an extremely powerful feature in photoshop, often regarded as a better alternative to doing the effect directly onto the original image itself. You can find your adjustment layers by going to Window > Adjustments.

Foggy Effect

Step 1

Let’s create a dark foggy effect. This effect works best on images with high contrast. We’ll be doing this effect in 6 different adjustment layers. Below is the original image:

The first adjustment layer will be a Curves adjustment layer where we’ll do some color and light work. These are my settings:


Step 2

We’ll create a Color Lookup layer above the first layer. The color Lookup layer provides a bunch of built-in effects that can be mixed and matched to create countless more effects. We’ll be using the “Foggy Night” effect this time.

Step 3

Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a gradient going from black to white above the previous layer. Here’s what my Gradient Editor looks like:

This will turn your image to black and white. Next, lower the layer opacity to around 53%.

Step 4

Create a Color Fill layer by going to the bottom of your layers panel and clicking on the half-filled circle. Choose “Solid Color”. Double click on the layer and set the color to a dark navy blue color (#19293a). Set the layer mode to “Soft Light” and the Opacity to 36%.


Create another color fill layer and fill it with a light cream color (#fff0ec). Set the layer mode to “Soft Light” and the opacity to around 70%. Now, double click on the right of the layer’s name to open up the Layer Style panel. We’re going to use the Blend If function now.

These are my settings:

Just hold the “Alt” key and click on the right half of the black toggle. Then, drag it all the way to the right. Now, go back and drag the left half of the toggle to about a third to the right. Choose “Blend If” to areas that are either dark or light. We’re telling the layer to “Blend If” in a dark area and only show if it’s in a light area.

If you’re still uncertain, explore with the “Blend If” function to see how it affects the image.

Step 5

To bring back some of the details into the eyes, create a Curves Adjustment layer below all other adjustment layers. Set it to what you see below:

Add a layer mask to the Curves layer and fill it with black. Then, using a soft round brush, paint white around the iris.

And now you’re done!

Quick Black and White Vintage

Step 1

We’ll be creating a simple black and white effect, followed by a vintage effect. This will be done in two to three adjustment layers. Here’s the original image:

First, create a black and white Gradient Map layer like what we did earlier. These are my settings:


Step 2

The flat black and white in Black and White images can often come off as brownish. We’ll be using a Color Balance adjustment layer to get rid of this brownish tint, and to obtain a more “silver” look, we’ll be using a Color Balance adjustment layer. The settings are Red -7, Green +2, and Blue +18.


The effect is very subtle, but it’s definitely a more appealing black and white!

Step 3

To add some color and a slight vintage effect, you’ll have to add a Curves layer set to what you see below:


Enchanted Forest

Step 1

Lastly, we’ll be creating an Enchanted Forest effect using just 4 adjustment layers and nothing else. Here’s the original image:

First, create a Hue/Saturation layer and click on “Master”, then set it to “Greens”. These are my settings:

The best way to do this it to pull the saturation all the way up so that you can actually see the area that is being affected.

Next, I’ll proceed to the 2 rainbow bars at the bottom. There’s a gray slider between them that shows what colors are being affected. The more you drag out the outer dark gray bar, the more colors are going to be affected. The trick is to get as many shades of green as you possibly can. You may not get everything and that’s fine.

Finally, I start messing around with my hue, lightness and saturation to get the color I want. I went with a dark pinkish purple.

Step 2

We’re going to do the same thing again, only this time we want to affect the tree trunks. To do that, I went into the “Yellow” channel, instead of the green. These are my settings:

My results:

Step 3

Now that we’re done with painting or creating layer masks with the main color, we want to do some color correcting. Create a Color Lookup adjustment layer and select “Device Link.” Then, from the drop down menu on the right, select “RedBlueYellow”. Set the layer opacity to 40%.

Step 4

Create a Curves layer, and set it to the settings similar to those below:

And you’re done! This is the final result:

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