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Using Adjustment Layers in Photoshop Elements

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Using Adjustment Layers in Photoshop Elements

This tutorial will teach you how to make a dramatic photo for a digital scrapbooking layout by using adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. Many of these options will work in older versions of Photoshop Elements (PCE) as well as Photoshop CS, but the menus may look different.

In this tutorial, I will start with a black and white photograph, but these options will work with color photos as well. If you don’t know how to convert your photo to black and white, see the tutorial Converting Your Photo to B&W in PSE. The following options may be used in any order. There is not a right or wrong way to apply them. You just need to play with them to get the look you prefer.

Option 1 – Add a Photo Filter

With this option, you can add a color filter, such as sepia, to your photo. In the example, I show you what the sepia filter would look like. To add a photo filter, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter. In this menu, you can choose your color tone. I added a warm brown filter to the photo. You can try different opacity levels until you find the look you like.

Photo Filter command in PSE11

Option 2 – Change the Hue

I added a purple tint to my photo by using a Hue/Saturation layer. To change the hue, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Select “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask” and then “Colorize”. Slide the  bars to choose your color, saturation and lightness.

Screen shot of Hue/Saturation menu in PSE11

Option 3 – Add a Gradient Map

Another fun way to change your photo is to add a gradient map. Select Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. I chose a simple black and white gradient, but there are many options to play with here. This gradient map intensifies the contrast between black and white in the photo.

Screen shot of Gradient Map menu in PSE11

Option 4 – Add a Gradient Fill

I wanted one side of my photo to be darker, so I used a gradient fill. This makes a portion of the photo darker depending on which gradient I choose. I chose a simple black and white gradient.

Screen shot showing Gradient Fill menu in PSE11

Next Step – Play!

The effect on your photo will change based on the order, opacity and blending mode of your layers. I found that I loved the top Gradient Map changed from “Normal” to “Darker Color”.

Screenshot showing effect of reordering layers in PSE

 Last Step – Add Papers, Masks and Elements

I changed the opacity of some of the layers to get my final look. Then I added a Beautiful Memories photo mask by Indigo Designs and paper and elements from Just Because by Bekah E Designs. Here is my finished layout.

Final layout showing effect of using adjustment layers

If you have questions about this tutorial or would like to request a tutorial, please visit and post to the Tutorial Help & Request Forum!

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