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Get used to CS4's new Adjustments panel

Added on Friday 17th of April 2009 12:47 am EST
Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3
Operating Systems:
Microsoft Windows, Macintosh

Adjustment layers are the crown’s jewels in Photoshop, allowing you to make a magnitude of edits nondestructively—and then go back and edit them later. But CS4 throws a curveball, messing with the familiar way we’ve always added adjustment layers. Not to worry; we’ll help you re-adjust to CS4’s new Adjustments panel.

To get up to speed with CS4’s Adjustments panel, we’ll:

  • Introduce you to CS4’s new Adjustments panel and explain what all those buttons mean.
  • Explain how to add, edit, and clip adjustment layers so you can get down to business.
  • Show you how to create and save your own adjustment presets to speed up your workflow.

Navigating through new software versions is both fun and frustrating. Fun when you have the time to re-acclimate yourself, and frustrating when you don’t—especially when you’re trying to locate features that you use often, like adjustment layers. Don’t get too discouraged; CS4 has a new, smarter way to manage adjustment layers and we’re sure that once you find your way, you’ll agree.

The all-new Adjustments panel
In previous Photoshop versions, you did all of your adjustment layer work via the Layers palette (now called a panel in CS4) and the accompanying dialog boxes for each adjustment layer. For example, add a Curves adjustment layer and the Curves dialog box automatically opens. Not anymore. Photoshop CS4 has a new Adjustments panel, (Window > Adjustments) shown in Figure A.


The easiest way to learn how to use new features is to jump right in and get your feet wet, so open an image in Photoshop CS4, and follow along with us.

Adjustments Panel buttons
Don’t let the plethora of buttons at the base of the Adjustments panel confuse you. Here’s a rundown of what they do:
  • EXPANDED_VIEW Switch Panel To Expanded View. Click this button to make the Adjustments panel larger and click it again to switch the panel back to standard view.
  • NEW_ADJUSTMENT_ALL_LAYER New Adjustments Affect All Layers Below. Click this button, add an adjustment layer, and Photoshop clips it to just one layer.
  • CLIP_TO_LAYER This Adjustment Affects All Layers Below. Click this button on an already existing adjustment layer to clip it to just one layer.
  • DELETE_ADJUSTMENT Delete This Adjustment Layer. Click this button to delete the active adjustment layer.
  • RESET_ADJUSTMENT_DEFAULT Reset To Adjustment Defaults. Click this button to reset the active adjustment layer to its default setting.
  • RETURN_ADJUSTMENT_LIST Return To Adjustment List. Click this button to return to the main Adjustments panel list.
  • RETURN_TO_CONTROLS Return To Controls For Current Adjustment Layer. Click this button to preview the controls for the current adjustment layer.
  • VIEW_PREVIOUS_STATE Press To View Previous State. Press and release this button to toggle between the current and previous settings.
  • TOGGLE_LAYER_VISBILITY Toggle Layer Visibility. Click to toggle the current adjustment layer’s visibility.

Add an adjustment layer
The Adjustments panel sports three rows of intuitive, well-illustrated icons for each adjustment layer option. If the icons aren’t enough, hover your cursor over one of the icons and the adjustment layer name displays in the top-left corner of the dialog box.

Tip: The Layers panel still hosts the Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer button at the base of the panel. You can still click this butt...

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