ADJUSTMENT LAYER in Premiere Pro – The Ultimate Guide

Adjustment layers in Premiere Pro from Adobe are a very popular and handy tool to use for video editing. Most of the time you will use an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro to apply the same effect to multiple clips on your timeline. All the effects applied to an adjustment layer affect all layers below it in the layer stacking order. I use an adjustment layer in Premiere most of the time for a letterbox (cinematic black bars) or color grading. Premiere Pro’s adjustment layers will help you to optimize your workflow in a more efficient and organized way. 

In this blog, you will read everything about using an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro. You will learn where to find  it, how to add an adjustment layer, and what kind of effects you can use them for. The great thing about an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro is you can use it for to combine effects on a single layer. It is also possible to use multiple adjustment layers to control more effects. When you start using adjustment layers in premiere pro frequently you will understand how to achieve more control and flexibility in your edits.

Premiere Pro adjustment layers are similar to the adjustments layers in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects. However, in this article, I will only explain the process to use them in Premiere Pro. 

What is an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro?

An adjustment layer is a tool in Adobe Premiere pro to add effects and color grading to the files on your project timeline. They are accessible through your Project browser. Treat the adjustment layer the same way as a video clip. The same kind of steps applies to it. Like, it can be dragged to and on your timeline. You can cut an adjustment later, turn off, or remove it in just a few mouse clicks. 

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All the effects applied to an adjustment layer affect all video files below it. This makes the adjustment layer a powerful and flexible tool in Premiere pro. The great thing to use them for is creating a clear overview of the effects you applied. For me, this is the most important way  to use adjustment layers in Premiere Pro for. Without the use of adjustment layers you can only apply an effect on an individual or nested clip. When using many clips for your project it’s only a matter of time when you completely lose the overview of what effects you used per clip. 

How to create adjustment layers in Premiere Pro?

Before adding effects to it, you need to create the adjustment layer. There is no limit to the number of adjustment layers you can use for your project.

  1. Select File > New > Adjustment Layer or click “New Item” in your project panel > adjustment layer.
  2. Confirm the settings which will automatically be set to the same as your sequence, so click OK.
  3. Rename the new adjustment layer in your project panel by double click on it or right-click > rename. I always choose the name of the effect I want to apply, like “cinematic black bars” or “color grade”.

How to add an adjustment layer to your sequence?

  1. Select the adjustment layer in your project panel.
  2. Drag and drop it into a video track of your timeline, making sure it’s placed above any video clip you wish to add effects to. Add extra video tracks when needed.
  3. Bring your cursor to the end of the Adjustment Layer and drag it to the end of the video clip(s) to cover the whole area you want to apply the effects.

How to add a Lumetri color effect to an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro?

For this step, I will cover how to add a Lumetri color effect to the adjustment layer and how to add different video effects to it.

  1. Highlight the adjustment layer in your sequence by selecting it.
  2. Open your Lumetri color panel in Adobe Premiere Pro
  3. Make the desired color adjustments. Or apply a LUT if you have them.

How to add a video effect to an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro?

I mentioned before that I often use an adjustment layer for creating a letterbox (cinematic black bars). With these cinematic black bars, you can adjust your aspect ratio to get a widescreen known from cinemas. The following steps s apply to each video effect you want to add to an adjustment later in Premiere Pro.

  1. Select the adjustment layer in your sequence to highlight it.
  2.  Navigate to the “Effects” in your Project panel and search for your chosen effect. In my case, I chose “crop”.
  3. Select and drag the effect to the adjustment layer in your sequence.
  4. Navigate to the “effects controls” in your effect control panel to change the settings of the effect you applied. In my case, I adjust the values of the crop top and bottom percentages to create the desired aspect ratio of my clip.

How to save an adjustment layer in Premiere Pro?

There can be several reasons why you want to save an adjustment layer. For example, in my case, I can use the created letterbox for other projects. Adobe Premiere Pro offers the possibility to save your adjustment layer effects as a preset. This present will appear in your effect panel where you can find them for a new project.

  1. Select the adjustment layer in the sequence where you want to save the effects from.
  2. Navigate to the effects control panel and select all the effects you want to include in your preset. Hold command (Apple) or control (windows) to select more than one effect.
  3. Right-click and select “save preset”.
  4. Name your preset and click save.
  5. You will find the saved preset in your effects panel (project panel). From there you can drag and drop the preset to any other clip or adjustment layer.

Use adjustment layers for the right scenarios

There are some scenarios where the use of an adjustment layer will not be the most efficient way. For example, in the case you want to use adjustment layers in Premiere Pro for color grading to apply the same color effect for all video clips. This is only efficient when your footage consists of shots taken at the same location with the same lighting. If not, each clip requires slightly different settings and an adjustment layer is not as helpful when the footage is quite the same in terms of lighting.

How to use adjustment layers in Premiere Pro to optimize your workflow? 

As mentioned before, using adjustment layers in premiere pro frequently will make you understand how to achieve more control and flexibility when editing. This results in an optimized workflow to edit in a more organized way.  Below, I will sum up important tips you have to apply to optimize your edit workflow, with the help of Premiere Pro adjustment layers. 

1. Use different adjustment layers for different effects. 

In Adobe Premiere Pro you can stack as many adjustment layers as you need. Just add another video track and drag the new adjustment layer on it. You can apply several effects on one adjustment layer but this way you keep it organized. Also, it is more flexible to modify the applied effects per adjustment layer. 

2. Label the different adjustment layers with different colors. 

You can label an adjustment layer to select it in the timeline with a right mouse click. Then select “label” and the desired color. This will make it more visible and easy to separate the adjustment layer’s different effects. Through time you will probably always use the same color for the same effect so you will recognize the different adjustment layers even quicker. 

3. Color correct per clip and use the adjustment layer for color grading. 

In case you add a Lumetri color effect to an adjustment layer I advise using this only for the color grade or LUT. In practice, every clip needs a different color correction because the white balance and exposure settings are mostly not the same for different shots. But in case you want to achieve a similar “look” with all your clips you can apply a color grade or LUT on an adjustment layer. This is an efficient way to achieve the same style and look with all your video clips. 

4. Use keyframes for the applied effects per adjustment layer. 

The great thing about using different adjustment layers for different effects is you keyframe this effect creatively. For example, in case you want to fade in and out the opacity of the applied effect, you can do this by adding keyframes in the effect controls window.

5. Organise the different adjustment layers in your project window. 

Just like you organize your video clips per subject or location in different bins, you can do this for the different adjustment layers. In your project panel add a new bin and name it “Adjustment layers”. Create a new adjustment layer in this bin or drag already existing adjustment layers in this bin. This way you keep it way more organized and you prevent the adjustment layers to be created in the footage bins. 

Do you want to learn more?

I hope you learned a lot about how to create an adjustment layer in Adobe Premiere Pro. If you still have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section!

Do you need more information about Adobe Premiere Pro? Read my other blogs with Adobe Premiere Pro tutorials!



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  1. Great run down, but the question is…… it better to have 2-3 adj layers if you are adding LUTS & Plugin ins & lumetri tweaks or stack it all on one? Not sure if Im imaging things but usually when n I don’t use two the render & operation in PP is slower & lags more ????

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your comment and great question! I’m using different layers per effect to keep it organised. This way you can divide the layers more easy if you don’t want them to put over every shot. Not sure about the difference in render time but if this is your experience it makes sense for sure.

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