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Boosting color with levels

From: Photoshop for Designers: Color

Video: Boosting color with levels

Using levels, to improve the contrast of an image, may have been one of the first things you learn to do in Photoshop and it's probably something you do frequently. But do you really know what's happening to the colors in your image when you move those sliders? Often the biggest improvement you can make to the colors in your image and thus the image overall is to boost the contrast. This process of darkening the shadows, lightening the highlights and adjusting the midtones, inevitably affects the colors in your image. Photoshop offers several tools that help you achieve good contrast in your images, some are arguably better than others.

Boosting color with levels

Using levels, to improve the contrast of an image, may have been one of the first things you learn to do in Photoshop and it's probably something you do frequently. But do you really know what's happening to the colors in your image when you move those sliders? Often the biggest improvement you can make to the colors in your image and thus the image overall is to boost the contrast. This process of darkening the shadows, lightening the highlights and adjusting the midtones, inevitably affects the colors in your image. Photoshop offers several tools that help you achieve good contrast in your images, some are arguably better than others.

To some extent, it's a matter of personal preference. If you haven't already, you'll probably find yourself picking favorites. I am going to begin with the tool that in my opinion offers the best combination of ease of use and functionality and that's the Levels adjustment. All of these color adjustments should be used in conjunction with the Histogram panel and the Info panel. So I am going to click on my Histogram panel and I am going to tear this off and position it over there as far out the way as I can, and then open my Info panel. Now, I have a problem here in that I'm looking with a low-resolution monitor, in order for the screen capture software to capture what I'm doing.

Hopefully, if you have a higher resolution, you'll be able to arrange your panels in a way that doesn't obscure the image itself. I am then going to come to my Levels adjustment layer. I could apply Levels as a static adjustment from up here, but I always prefer to do it as an adjustment layer, because adjustment layers are nondestructive and that's always a good way to work. So I see a histogram on my Levels adjustment layer and I see my Histogram panel. When I change this one, the appearance of this one is going to update.

What I am going to do is get my white point slider and move it to the left towards the center and I'm doing that because I have currently no highlight information in this image that's what the shape of the histogram is telling me and things are going to get a lot brighter when I move that white point slider towards the center. How much brighter, exactly what's going to happen? Well, for that I am going to put down three sample points, I am going to choose my Color Sampler tool which lives beneath the Eyedropper tool and I am going to put a sample point in the sky, one on the rock and one on the road.

So I now have three sample points. The numbers before and after are the same. When I move my white point slider towards the center, we can see that the numbers increase, reflecting the fact that the image is getting brighter. Of course, trust your eyes first and foremost and we see that the histogram on the Histogram panel has now changed its shape and the information is spread across our full tonal range. Exactly what's happening to the color? Well, I currently have my colors represented as RGB numbers, but we can also maybe switch to HSB numbers and we see that this particular change that I'm making is not really affecting the Hue of any of these colors.

It is only affecting the Brightness and in some cases the Saturation, but it's mainly affecting the Brightness. So the actual color for Hue is remaining the same and we are just affecting the Brightness values. In addition to working with the white point, I am also now going to get the black point and bring that towards the center. That does affect a slight shift in Hues especially on the road, but sample point number one, the blue of the sky that remains the same Hue at 260? on the color wheel.

If Levels has a disadvantage, it's that you don't have full independence of the tonal regions of an image. Where you need such control, you can use Curves and I'll be covering Curves in a later movie.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Designers: Color
Photoshop for Designers: Color

75 video lessons · 17749 viewers

Nigel French
Author

 
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  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. Using the exercise files
      41s
  2. 25m 26s
    1. Defining color terms
      2m 38s
    2. Understanding the color wheel
      4m 3s
    3. Understanding color relationships
      1m 7s
    4. Using Kuler to understand color harmony rules and create color palettes
      4m 2s
    5. Using the Kuler web site
      3m 10s
    6. Colors on screen and on paper
      1m 42s
    7. Color as a signifier
      3m 14s
    8. Color inspirations
      2m 39s
    9. Color and accessibility
      2m 51s
  3. 38m 22s
    1. Demystifying the Color Picker
      2m 57s
    2. Understanding the role of foreground and background colors
      5m 39s
    3. Choosing colors
      6m 41s
    4. Managing swatches
      7m 40s
    5. Transparency
      9m 42s
    6. Color channels
      5m 43s
  4. 41m 4s
    1. Understanding additive and subtractive color
      2m 57s
    2. RGB mode
      1m 56s
    3. CMYK mode
      2m 41s
    4. Lab mode
      3m 49s
    5. Indexed mode
      2m 16s
    6. Grayscale mode
      5m 0s
    7. Color management
      14m 15s
    8. Color depth (8-, 16-, 24-, and 32-bit)
      4m 19s
    9. Monitor calibration
      3m 51s
  5. 26m 43s
    1. Evaluating color with the Histogram panel
      3m 18s
    2. Evaluating color with the Info panel
      1m 48s
    3. Boosting color with levels
      3m 48s
    4. Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
      7m 38s
    5. Manually setting the black and white point
      3m 50s
    6. Curves
      6m 21s
  6. 18m 30s
    1. What is color correction?
      5m 45s
    2. White balancing in Camera Raw
      1m 46s
    3. Color correction with color balance
      1m 34s
    4. Color balancing using photo filters
      1m 26s
    5. Color correction with variations
      4m 27s
    6. Color correction by the numbers
      3m 32s
  7. 33m 14s
    1. Selecting color with the Magic Wand
      4m 43s
    2. Selecting color with the Quick Selection tool
      2m 26s
    3. Selecting color with Color Range
      4m 0s
    4. Neutralizing whites with the Multiply blend mode
      2m 55s
    5. Neutralizing blacks with the Screen blend mode
      57s
    6. Masking colors with the Blend If sliders
      2m 54s
    7. Masking hair with a channel mask and removing contaminant colors
      2m 58s
    8. Shifting targeted colors using Hue/Saturation
      5m 4s
    9. Matching colors using Hue/Saturation
      3m 16s
    10. Matching colors using the Match Color command
      1m 36s
    11. Matching colors using the Color blend modes
      2m 25s
  8. 21m 8s
    1. Saturating colors
      4m 9s
    2. Desaturating colors
      1m 57s
    3. Desaturating in Camera Raw
      3m 1s
    4. Creating a color accent with selective saturation
      2m 38s
    5. Enhancing a sunrise with a gradient map
      5m 49s
    6. Increasing vibrance
      1m 19s
    7. Using selective color
      2m 15s
  9. 32m 42s
    1. Designing with spot colors
      12m 15s
    2. Adding a fifth color to a CMYK image
      5m 0s
    3. Adding spot colors to a grayscale image
      5m 24s
    4. Create a metallic print effect
      3m 8s
    5. Creating duotones, tritones, and quadtones
      6m 55s
  10. 30m 45s
    1. Creating a silkscreen print look with a limited color palette
      7m 59s
    2. Combining color with black and white
      2m 22s
    3. Creating a nostalgic travel poster using the Cut Out filter
      6m 27s
    4. Mapping an image to a color look up table (CLUT)
      7m 56s
    5. Converting to black and white
      6m 1s
  11. 48m 34s
    1. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the easy way)
      3m 29s
    2. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the harder way)
      11m 23s
    3. Creating an Andy Warhol look
      4m 44s
    4. Applying a gradient map
      4m 4s
    5. Sepia toning an image
      8m 41s
    6. Color tinting an image
      5m 15s
    7. Split toning an image
      2m 9s
    8. Working with line art
      8m 49s
  12. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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