Change Adjustment Layer Intent While Retaining Layer Mask

Change Layer Content menu itemIf you have come to appreciate Photoshops adjustment layers and layer masks, then you are probably also aware of their remarkable power when used together as a team. The great benefit of an adjustment layer lies in its non-destructive nature. So too with the layer mask. Both tools can be used and adjusted over and over without any destructive effects on the original image they manipulate.

So imagine now that you have created an adjustment layer in your image and also added a complicated layer mask to it. You’ve spent a considerable amount of time fine-tuning this layer mask to limit the adjustment layer effects to specific areas of your image. Now you realize that you need the adjustment layer to apply a different intent. What you thought should be a Curves adjustment would be better suited as Hue/Saturation instead. Do you really want to recreate that complex layer mask again? I certainly wouldn’t.

One approach to solving this problem might be to create your new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer then copy and paste the layer mask from the old to the new. But there is an easier solution. Here’s what you do.

First be sure that the adjustment layer which contains your carefully crafted layer mask is active, by clicking on it in the layers pallet. From there, simply choose the Change Layer Content submenu found in the Layer menu. In the submenu just select the intent you wish to change the adjustment layer to apply. In this example we would be choosing Hue/Saturation. You are done. The adjustment layer is now applying a Hue/Saturation adjustment instead of the original Curves, and the complex layer mask remains in tact! Now you can make changes to the Hue/Saturation applied by this adjustment layer until you are satisfied with its effects.

More information about Photoshop adjustment layers.
Here is a basic tip on using Photoshop layer masks.