Most users don’t take advantage of the hue saturation and adjustment because it seems a bit limited. That’s because, by default it applies changes everywhere. Now, of course, you might want to lighten an image, or adjust its saturation levels, but usually it’s much more interesting when you do this precisely. Now, instead of having to make selections and masks, we can actually do this by using a targeted tool. The on image tool, or targeted adjustment tool makes it easy to select a range of color and then further modify it.

Refining a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with the On Image tool from Photoshop: Advanced Adjustment Layer and Blend Modes by Richard Harrington

This means that one hue saturation adjustment layer can in fact, adjust multiple colors. And not just the colors but the intensity of color and the brightness or darkness of that color. Let’s take a look at how the hue saturation adjustment layer can be quite useful. In this original image, the background is lush and vibrant, but a little dominating, and it’s overpowering the foreground subject. So what I want to do, is pull that back a little bit, but I don’t want to have to make any complex masks.

You’ll notice that there’s been no painting or selection here. What this really comes down to here is, adding a hue saturation adjustment layer, and taking advantage of this great tool here. The on image tool. Now what I can do is click on a color that I want to affect. You see in this case, it made a selection based on the bluish greenish tones, and I can start to drag. Now, that selection is limited to that area, if I expand this a little bit to get more of the greens, I start to tone down the saturation.

You’ll see that that area in the background was greatly knocked down, and in fact, I can darken that ever so slightly. Now with that same adjustment layer, I can click on the on image tool here, make sure it’s active, and click and drag, and a new selection is made. Now I can increase the saturation of the flower and lighten it a little bit so it stands out. And you see that this is really quite powerful. Just click, make another selection, and you can adjust the HSL properties.

So if I want to, I can make that a little bit of a different shade, I can’t go too far, since it blends into the background. You see we can refine the exact yellow and the intensity of the yellow, and lighten or darken it as such to really get a good separation. What I see now, is better distinction between the red, gold, and green and I really like that. Now if it goes a little too far, you can always just back this off slightly, with the opacity slider so that it’s believable.

That simple hue saturation adjustment layer, which also lets you tackle the lightness of a particular color, is quite effective. Remember these little tabs here, are the spread. So the color is between the first two notches and then what you can do is spread this out to be more gradual. So if you realize it’s not affecting the area you want, just refine the target here, and that may give you better results and a little more roll off so that the adjustments blend together.

In this case, I’ve created three separate adjustments with one adjustment layer, which is really an amazing piece of technology, if you think about it.