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Photoshop’s Pass Through Mode

When you open a  New Group dialogue box, you might notice that there’s something a little different in there, ‘Pass Through’. What, you may ask is all that about? Well, let’s take a look.

Here’s the layers that I’ll be working on;


You can see I have a bottom layer of a photo of balloons then another layer on top of that of the ‘birthday boy’.

Now I’m going to add a Black and White adjustment layer to the top, with a sepia tint.


Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

All’s as we’d expect, but I’d like to just have the Birthday Boy in sepia. I’m going to put the Adjustment Layer and the Birthday Boy layer into a group folder by clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the layer palette , I’ll call it Photo, then drag the layers in.


Nothing on my file seems to change here and that’s ok. Most of the time I’d have popped them into a group just to tidy up a bit.

I’m going to head over to the layer pallet and change the blend mode of the group from Pass Through to Normal.


That’s better, that’s what I was after,

Click To Enlarge

Click To Enlarge

The Explanation

Using Pass Through keeps the adjustment layer active on all the layers below it.

Using anything else will mean it only effects the layers below it that are within the same group.

About Eric Renno (434 Articles)
Eric’s background in video editing with Adobe Premier led to his interest, and then obsession, with Photoshop. Starting TipSquirrel.com as a hobby he is proud to have gathered together and be a part of The Photoshop Nuts. Known as only “TipSquirrel” for two years, Eric ‘went public’ when he was a finalist in The Next Adobe Photoshop Evangelist competition. He’s also been a finalist in Deke’s Techniques Photoshop Challenge. While still taking on some freelance work, Eric has recently become a Lecturer at Peterborough’s Media and Journalism Centre where he enjoys sharing his knowledge as well as learning new skills. This realisation that he loves to teach has made Eric look at altering his career path.

2 Comments on Photoshop’s Pass Through Mode

  1. Use this quite often with adjustment layers – it’s not the most obvious thing though!

  2. Digital Lady Syd // 05/05/2011 at 3:38 pm //

    It had never occurred to me to do this – might be useful instead of clipping all those adjustment layers. Thanks for the tip!

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