How to Add Adjustment Layers in Premiere Pro CC

February 5, 2020

What are adjustment layers and why should I use them?

Adjustment layers are a very helpful feature in Premiere Pro CC that will keep your projects more organized, simplify your editing process, speed up your workflow, and overall make you a more efficient video editor. Win, win, win.

In the end, they will save you countless headaches and time down the road and they are so simple to learn and use.

So what are they?

Adjustment layers are simply layers that you place directly above your other footage layers. When left alone, they don’t change a thing. Imagine them like a sheet of glass. Without any additions to them, you’ll see straight through them into your footage without noticing a thing.

Why are they useful?

They become useful as a tool to make multiple edits to an endless amount of clips while only altering ONE layer.

Imagine you have hundreds of clips on your timeline from a sit down interview, for example. In this very realistic possibility, you can either

  1. go through each individual clip and copy/paste your effects and color correction settings
  2. apply one adjustment layer over all the clips

Here is the huge disadvantage to option number one: if you ever need to make a slight tweak to all those clips (say you change your mind and decide the colors are too warm or the image is too dark), instead of making a slight tweak to one clip, you will have to go in manually and delete the effect already on the clip and then copy and paste the new tweak.

This is a tedious, time consuming task that is easily avoided by using an adjustment layer.

With an adjustment layer, you simply make your tweak, make sure the layer is covering all the relevant clips and you are done.

When would you NOT want to use an adjustment layer?

There are some scenarios where using an adjustment layer will not be the most efficient idea. For example, if your video consists of a variety of shots in different locations with many different lighting set ups.

Because each clip is likely going to require slightly different settings, an adjustment layer is simply not as helpful in this scenario.

However, what I would recommend is setting an adjustment layer to cover all your clips that will be in charge of making the basic edits you know you’ll want on top of each clip regardless. Some of these edits may include things like bumping up your sharpness and contrast a tad, adding a specific LUT or preset, etc. Then you can go in to each and every clip and give them a little tweak to your liking.

Additional Uses for Adjustment Layers

Although color correction is one of the most common uses for adjustment layers in Premiere Pro, it’s definitely not the only use. You can use adjustment layers for literally any effect that you want.

This is really helpful for any effect that you’d like to use universally across your entire film - a watermark or black cinematic bars, for example.

How to Add and Use Adjustment Layers

In your project panel, simply right click to add a new item, then click on adjustment layer and there you go.

Rename your adjustment layer to describe the function it will play and simply drag it above the existing footage that you’d like to adjust. Now, with the adjustment layer selected you can add effects or change whatever settings you’d like.

Concluding Thoughts

Let me know in the comments below if you find adjustment layers to be helpful in your editing workflow. Remember our goal is always to be as efficient as possible with the technical stuff so that we can focus on what truly matters the most - the story.

Let me know other topics that you want to learn about in Premiere Pro in the comments below.



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Hi, I'm Beth.

I started Handcraft Films to give other filmmakers and photographers the gift of documenting their own stories for years to come. I hope you'll learn something new and share your creativity here.
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