How to use Adjustments Presets in Photoshop tutorial

Using Adjustment Layer Presets in Photoshop

Photoshop's Adjustments Presets use adjustment layers to quickly improve or add effects to your image non-destructively, and are a great way to learn how adjustment layers work!

Written by Steve Patterson.

Want to take advantage of adjustment layers in Photoshop but not sure how they work? A great way to start is with the Adjustments Presets.

Adjustments Presets are a quick and easy way to enhance or add effects to your image using one or more adjustment layers. To use a preset, you just select it from the Adjustments panel and the effect is instantly applied.

Since adjustment layers are non-destructive, you can edit or delete an Adjustments Preset without making any permanent changes to your image. Let’s see how they work.

Which Photoshop version do I need?

Adjustments Presets were introduced in Photoshop 2023. I’m using Photoshop 2024.

And I’ll use this image from Adobe Stock but you can follow along with any photo.

The original photo.
The original photo.

Let's get started!

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Where do I find the Adjustments Presets?

The Adjustments Presets are found in Photoshop’s Adjustments panel, directly above the single adjustment layers.

The Adjustments presets in the Adjustments panel.
The Adjustments presets in the Adjustments panel.

If you’re not seeing the Adjustments panel, go up to the Window menu in the Menu Bar and choose Adjustments.

Opening the Adjustments panel from the Window menu.
Going to Window > Adjustments.

Related: Learn all about the Photoshop interface

How to preview a preset without selecting it

The Adjustments Presets are displayed as thumbnails, but only a few of them are shown at first.

Hover your mouse cursor over a thumbnail to preview the effect on your image. Here I’m hovering my cursor over the Classic Black and White preset.

Hover your cursor over a thumbnail to preview the effect.
Hover your cursor over a thumbnail to preview the effect.

Photoshop shows you a preview of how your image would look with the preset applied. At this point we haven’t selected the preset. We're just previewing the effect.

Previewing the effect to see if I would like it.
Previewing the effect to see if I would like it.

Viewing all of the Adjustments Presets

Click the More button below the thumbnails to view the entire list of presets.

Clicking the More button.
Clicking the More button.

There are 32 Adjustments Presets in total, and they’re divided into groups (Portraits, Landscape, Photo Repair, Creative, Black & White, and Cinematic).

You may need to twirl a group open to view the presets inside it.

Clicking the More button.
Expanding the list of Adjustments Presets.

Again you can hover your cursor over any thumbnail to preview the result.

Here I’m hovering over the Soft Sepia preset from the Cinematic group.

Hovering my cursor over the Soft Sepia preset.
Hovering my cursor over the Soft Sepia preset.

And here’s what the sepia effect will look like if I select it.

Previewing one of the sepia effects included with the Adjustments Presets.
Previewing one of the sepia effects included with the Adjustments Presets.

Selecting an Adjustments Preset

To select a preset, click on its thumbnail.

I’ll select the Moody Blues preset from the Portraits group.

Clicking on a thumbnail to select the preset.
Clicking on a thumbnail to select the preset.

This preset adds a bluish tint to the image and makes it brighter.

The Moody Blues preset result.
The Moody Blues preset result.

The preset’s layer group and adjustment layers

In the Layers panel, the preset appears above your image as a layer group, with the name of the preset as the name of the group.

So here my layer group is named Portraits - Moody Blues.

Adjustments presets are added as layer groups.
Adjustments presets are added as layer groups.

Inside the group are the adjustment layers included with the preset.

Some presets include a single adjustment layer. Others, like this one, include two or three.

The Moody Blues preset adds a Photo Filter and a Curves adjustment layer.

The preset’s adjustment layers.
The preset’s adjustment layers.

You can toggle the group open or closed to show or hide the adjustment layers inside it.

Hiding the adjustment layers by closing the group.
Hiding the adjustment layers by closing the group.

Or toggle the group on and off to view your image with and without the preset.

Click the eyeball to turn the preset on and off.
Click the eyeball to turn the preset on and off.

And you can toggle the individual adjustment layers on and off to see how each one contributes to the overall effect.

For example, if I turn off the Curves adjustment layer:

Turning off the Curves adjustment layer.
Turning off Curves.

It’s easier to see that the Photo Filter adjustment layer is adding the bluish tint.

The effect from just the Photo Filter adjustment layer.
The effect from just the Photo Filter adjustment layer.

And if I turn Curves back on:

Turning on the Curves adjustment layer.
Turning on Curves.

We see that the Curves adjustment is what’s making the image brighter.

So if I like the blue tint but not the brightening, I could simply turn the Curves adjustment layer off.

The result from both adjustment layers combined.
The result from both adjustment layers combined.

How to delete an Adjustments Preset

To delete the preset, click and drag its layer group down onto the trash bin at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Dragging the preset onto the trash bin.
Dragging the preset onto the trash bin.

Since adjustment layers are non-destructive, deleting the preset restores the original image.

The original image returns after deleting the preset.
The original image returns after deleting the preset.

Download this tutorial as a print-ready PDF!

How to edit an Adjustment Preset

Along with turning the adjustment layers on and off, you can edit the settings for an adjustment layer to customize the effect.

I’ll select a different preset, like Faded from the Landscape group.

Selecting the Faded preset.
Selecting the Faded preset.

This preset fades the image by reducing the color saturation.

The Faded Adjustments Preset result.
The Faded preset result.

In the Layers panel, the preset is added above my image as a layer group named Landscape - Faded.

And inside the group is a single Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

The adjustment layer inside the group.
The adjustment layer inside the group.

To edit an adjustment layer’s settings, double-click on its icon.

Double-clicking the adjustment layer icon.
Double-clicking the adjustment layer icon.

The settings open in Photoshop’s Properties panel.

And here we see that the preset set the Saturation value to -40 which is why the color is faded.

The Properties panel showing the adjustment settings.
The Properties panel showing the adjustment settings.

I could drag the Saturation slider to the left to fade the color even more, or drag it to the right to bring back some of the original saturation.

Adjusting the color saturation with the slider.
Adjusting the color saturation with the slider.

And at any time after making changes, you can reset the adjustment layer’s settings back to the preset defaults by clicking the Reset to Defaults button at the bottom of the Properties panel.

The Reset to Defaults button in the Properties panel.
The Reset to Defaults button in the Properties panel.

I’ll delete the Faded preset so we can look at one more way that an Adjustments Preset could be affecting your image.

Dragging the Faded preset onto the trash bin.
Dragging the Faded preset onto the trash bin.

Not all Adjustments Presets work the same way

Some Adjustments Presets can be a bit sneaky and leave you wondering how they work.

For example, I’ll add the Strong Contrast preset from the Photo Repair group.

Selecting the Strong Contrast preset.
Selecting the Strong Contrast preset.

This preset is making the contrast (and the color saturation) too strong, so I’ll need to dial it back.

The initial Strong Contrast result.
The initial Strong Contrast result.

In the Layers panel, we see my Photo Repair - Strong Contrast group with a single Curves adjustment layer inside it.

I’ll double-click on the adjustment’s icon to view the curve in the Properties panel.

Opening the Curves settings.
Opening the Curves settings.

But here in the Properties panel, notice that the curve is still set to its default settings, with a straight diagonal line running from black in the lower left to white in the upper right.

If you’re not familiar with how curves work, what this means is that the curve is not actually doing anything. None of the original brightness values have been changed, which means it should have no effect on the image.

So how is the adjustment layer adding so much contrast?

The curve is still set to the original values.
The curve is still set to the original values.

The adjustment layer’s blend mode

Well, if we go back to the Layers panel, we find the answer.

This preset is not using the settings for the adjustment layer. Instead it’s using the blend mode.

Notice that the blend mode has been changed from Normal to Overlay, which is one of Photoshop’s blend modes that increases contrast. So simply by adding an adjustment layer and changing its blend mode, you can change the look of your image.

The preset changes the blend mode of the adjustment layer.
The preset changes the blend mode of the adjustment layer.

To reduce the contrast, I could change the blend mode from Overlay to Soft Light.

Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.
Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.

Soft Light gives us a more subtle contrast boost.

But with this image, it’s still too strong.

Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.
Changing the blend mode to Soft Light.

Related: Get our Layer Blend Modes Complete Guide PDF!

To reduce the contrast even more, we can lower the opacity of the adjustment layer. I’ll lower it to 30 percent.

Lowering the opacity of the adjustment layer.
Lowering the opacity of the adjustment layer.

And that looks better.

So keep in mind that while most of the Adjustments Presets use specific settings in the Properties panel, a few of them (in the Photo Repair group) use the blend mode instead.

The result after lowering the adjustment layer’s opacity.
The result after lowering the adjustment layer’s opacity.

How to hide the Adjustments Presets

Finally, if you’re a more advanced Photoshop user, you don’t want to use the Adjustments Presets and you don’t want them taking up space in the Adjustments panel, you can hide them.

Click the Adjustments panel menu icon:

Clicking the menu icon.
Clicking the menu icon.

Then switch from Modern view to Classic view.

Changing the Adjustments panel to Classic view.
Changing the Adjustments panel to Classic view.

You’ll be back to the old Adjustments panel showing just the single adjustment layers.

You can always switch to the Modern view to bring the presets back.

The Classic view for the Adjustments panel in Photoshop.
The Classic view.

And there we have it! That’s how to quickly enhance or add effects to your image using the Adjustments Presets in Photoshop.

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