A while back, I wrote a Lightroom tutorial about the fantastic Hue/Saturation/Luminance sliders and a reader asked whether the same thing was possible in Photoshop Elements.

I realized that while I’ve written articles on adjustment layers in general, and the Levels Adjustment Layer in particular (here and here), I’ve never talked about PSE’s Hue & Saturation adjustment layer.

And this is a fantastic adjustment layer that all Elements users should be comfortable with.

Using this adjustment layer, you can:

  • Change the hue of a color (from blue to red, for example)
  • Saturate (or desaturate) all of an image, or just one particular color from an image
  • Lighten or darken individual colors (great for skin tones!)

To add the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, click on the half black/half white circle in your layers panel and select Hue/Sat.  (That’s the half white/half blue circle, if you’re using Elements 11 as in the screen shots below).  

The available adjustments look like this:

The best part of this adjustment layer is the Channel picker.  When Master is selected, as in the screen shot above, you are changing all colors when you adjust the sliders.  However, you can target individual colors by changing the channel from Master:

 

For example, by selecting the reds and changing the Hue, I changed the dress color in the photo below.

 

The settings are below.  Note that I masked off the skin and flowers and stones in the background, because I didn’t want their hue to change along with the dress.

Out of all three sliders, Hue is the one I use least.  It works best when you have large chunks of contiguous color to change – doesn’t work as well on patterns.

Saturation is great for both color pops and vintage looks.  Increase Saturation and mask as necessary (usually away from the skin) to make colors more vivid.  I increased the master saturation to 24 for this before and after:


To create a faded vintage look, reduce the Saturation slider.

Next, I added another Hue/Sat layer to darken and desaturate the reds, so that I could offset the changes to the face and pull back on a dress that was hogging too much attention in the photo.


 
 
When you’re perfecting skin tones, it’s often a good idea to use a Levels layer to increase midtone brightness.  However, that can sometimes make the photo too bright.  A good alternative is to increase the Brightness of the Red Channel using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.


 
I masked the above adjustment from her dress to avoid desaturating the orange.  This adjustment gives me a good starting place for using the clone tool or brush to remove the rest of the color cast hitting her face.
 
A couple of other notes about these sliders in Photoshop Elements:
  • Just like in Lightroom, you can target Blues and/or Cyans, increase the Saturation and decrease the Lightness to deepen blue skies.
  • Plants are grass are often more yellow than green.  If adjusting green doesn’t give you the landscape pop you’re going for, try yellow instead.
  • Once you’ve chosen a color channel, use the + Eyedropper to click on the area you want to edit.  You can include a more specific color range in your changes with this tool.  For instance, in the photo above, clicking on the orange area of her face changed these numbers in my settings: That tells me that the color I want to change is more orange than the Red I selected with the drop down menu.
  • The upper color rainbow bar indicates which color you are adjusting.  When you change the Hue, the lower rainbow bar will show the color you are changing to.
  • It’s best to avoid adjusting the Lightness slider on the Master channel.  It can dull your photo.

So that’s it.  Everything I can think of to tell you about the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer in Photoshop Elements.  Use the comments below to share what I left out!