You don't have to make the layer an adjustment layer. It never says anything of the sort in the tutorial even.
At 3:00 in the video, he does mention to create an adjustment layer. At 3:21, he says to drag the Particle Systems II Effect onto the adjustment layer.
Either way, is there some different way I can use this effect to go on top of a jpeg, and still have that jpeg show through?
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The dudes workflow doesn't make much sense. Even his explanation of why he added that solid didn't make sense. The reason he couldn't see the solid when he created the effect was BECAUSE he was using an adjustment layer. Adjustment layer apply their properties to the entire layer stack underneath them. There's absolutely NO reason to use an adjustment layer in that situation. He obviously does not understand how adjustment layers work.
So that's why he couldn't see his grey solid. The reason he was seeing a black matte (instead of transparency) is because he does not have transparency enabled in his project. If he would have just created another solid on top of the grey solid (instead of the adjustment layer) and applied the effect to that, then he would have been able to see the grey solid. Bottom line. He doesn't really know what he's doing. at least in this particular (no pun intended) situation.
All you need to do is create a solid above your jpeg (the color does not matter) and apply the particle system effect. That's it. Once you duplicate it, if you want you can pre compose the two particle layers just for organizational purposes but it's not even necessary. You just had the unfortunate luck of stumbling onto a poopy Youtube tutorial.
Oh, one last thing is that we should all go to that tutorial and give it big fat 'thumbs down'
Thank you Gutter-Fish, for clarifying! Your explanation worked perfectly, I appreciate your advice!