The Hue/Saturation (HSL) tool is similar to the HSL tool in Lightroom but is more powerful as it has greater latitude and additional functions. It is an excellent tool for adjusting colours in your image.

Three aspects of colour can be adjusted:

  • Hue: This is the actual colour itself. You can change colours very dramatically (or subtly). The range goes from -180 to +180. This reflects all the colours in a colour wheel.
  • Saturation: This is the amount or intensity of the selected colour. The range goes from -100 (which is grey) to +100 which is absurdly psychedelic!
  • Lightness: This is the brightness of the selected colour. You can add black or white to any colour within a range of -100 (pure black) to +100 (pure white).

HSL Properties

As you will see, there are several ways to select the colour or range of colours you can work with. Each operates in a different way. With a little practice, you’ll find your preferred method.

Preset: Several are offered. Try them out to see how they achieve the different results.

Colour Dropdown: This defaults to Master which is all colours. Individual colours can be selected here. As only 6 colours are offered, each one offers a range around the true colour; each of the 6 ranges represents 600 on a colour wheel. For example, reds will be pure red in the middle of the range but will become more orange and more magenta on either side.

On-Image Tool: Click once on the image to select an individual colour. Click and drag left or right to decrease or increase colour saturation. Hold CTRL then click and drag left or right to change the Hue.

HSL Sliders: These are used to adjust the selected colour. Double-click on the slider name to reset the slider to 0. Drag the slider or the slider name left or right to adjust the value. You can also enter a precise value in the boxes to the right.

  • Hue Slider: Move the slider left or right to change the hue.
  • Saturation Slider: Move the slider left to decrease saturation. To the right increases saturation.
  • Adjustment Slider: Move the slider left to add black to the selected colour. Move right to add white. I don’t find this slider very useful as it makes the colour look washed out.

Droppers: You must choose an individual colour before the droppers are available. Select the first dropper and click somewhere in the image to choose a colour to work with. Use the second dropper to expand the range of colours by clicking on a different colour within the image. Use the third dropper to subtract from the current range by clicking on a different colour within the image.

Colorize: Tick the box to create a monochrome version of your image in any colour. Select a colour with the Hue slider. Adjust saturation and lightness with the other two sliders

Adjustment Slider: This is a complex tool which allows you to specify very precisely the colour range you want to work with. Again, this tool will only work after you select a colour. When you do this, the slider will show the selected colour range. By itself, no adjustments will be made. It is a tool purely designed to set a specific colour range.

Adjustment Slider in Detail

Small Bars: These are the left and right boundaries of the colour range selected. Any adjustments you make will have 100% effect on everything between the bars. Move either of the small bars to define a wider or narrower range of colours. Moving these bars has no effect on the position of the triangles. Be aware though that the amount of feathering will be reduced or increased with this method.

Adjustment Slider

Triangles: These indicate the amount of feathering. This means that the effect of adjustments will gradually taper off from 100% at the small bar to 0% at the triangle. Move either of the triangles left or right to increase or reduce the amount of feathering. Moving the triangles has no effect on the position of the bars.

Drag anywhere between a triangle and a bar: This will extend or reduce the range of colours selected but the amount of feathering will remain the same.

Drag between the two small bars: This selects a different colour range altogether. The relationship between the triangles and bars remains exactly the same.

Hue Slider Values: These show the precise values in degrees of the triangles and bars. Not that 0o is in the middle of each bar.

Input Bar: This shows the currently selected colour range.

Output Bar: This shows what your changes will look like. It’s often pretty hard to see that unless your adjustments are fairly extreme.

If you move beyond the end of the slider bar, the settings will wrap around to the other end.

Once you are happy with the colour range you have selected, you can make adjustments with the HSL sliders. You can make further changes to the adjustment slider at any time.

Using the HSL Tool

Add an HSL Layer.

Select the colour(s) you wish to adjust. You can adjust all colours by using the Master channel, or select any of the 6 colour ranges. Individual colours can also be selected by using the On Image Tool.

Add to or subtract from the range of colours by using the dropper tools. You can also adjust the range of colours very precisely by using the adjustment slider.

Adjust any of the 3 HSL sliders.

Tip: Adjusting Colour Range

Reduce the Saturation slider to -100 or increase it to +100.  Such an extreme change makes it much easier to see the range of colours you are selecting. (Remember to reset to a more sensible value!


In the following example, each adjustment was done on a separate HSL Adjustment Layer. This was done for the purpose of this example. In ‘real life’, all these adjustments (except Colorize) could have been carried out with a single Adjustment Layer. The range of selected colours was also reduced in each case by using the Adjustment Slider.

Original Image

This image was taken in Burano in the Venetian lagoon on a very bright day. It has had minimal editing in Lightroom and the overall saturation was reduced slightly. As a result, the colours are slightly washed out.


Here the reds saturation has been increased.


Here the yellows saturation has been increased.


Cyans saturation and lightness have both been increased.


Blues have been desaturated slightly and lightness has been increased

Combined Result – slide right to see the Original.

This is the result of combining all of the above adjustments. It’s not the right answer but one of many possible ‘answers’. It highlights that editing with Photoshop is the outcome of a series of decisions which inform the adjustments you make.


And finally, here is a colorized version. A sepia tone has been selected with the Hue slider. Saturation has also been decreased.

Have a Go - Apply a Hue/Saturation Adjustment
  • Download this sample file. This is more or less the same file as in the example above.
  • Open it in Photoshop.
  • Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer.
  • Increase the saturation of the reds until you are happy with the coour.
  • Lighten the Cyans and increase the saturation slightly. Change the hue of the cyans by moving the Hue slider slightly to the right. You should notice that a very small movement will result in a more natural blue.
  • Change the colour of the yellow house to green. To make sure that oranges and existing greens aren’t affected, use the adjustment slider to narrow the range of colours. Adjust Saturation and Lightness so it looks more natural.
  • Save the image as a psd file. Don’t throw it away – you’ll need it later!