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Photoshop is the world’s most powerful image editor, and it’s arguably the most complex, as well. Fortunately, nobody knows the program like award-winning book and video author Deke McClelland. Join Deke as he explores such indispensable Photoshop features as resolution, cropping, color correction, retouching, and layers. Gain expertise with real-world projects that make sense. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download Deke's free dekeKeys and color settings from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to neutralize a colorcast using the Color Balance Command, which offers the advantage of being available as an Adjustment layer. In the next exercise, I'll show you what I consider to be a more satisfactory command variation. However, you have to apply it as a static adjustment. I've gone ahead and opened this image called Tough boys.jpg. It is of course my two boys as captured in the cabin of a cruise ship. And the image photographed under incandescent light is too warm. What I need to do is cool it down.
So take it away from the reds and the yellows and so on. And I'm going to do that using Color Balance. So I could either go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and choose the Color Balance Command right there. Or my preferred way of working is to go over to the Adjustments panel here, and click on this little guy. I don't think that icon could possibly make any more sense. It's obviously a balance. Go ahead and Alt+Click on it or Option+ Click in order to bring up a New layer dialog box, which I tend to advise is the best practice, because that way you can name and create your layer in one operation.
And I'll go ahead and call his cast correction, because we are trying to get rid of the colorcast. And I'll click OK in order to make that new layer. And there are our Color Balance options. Now, you primarily want to pay attention to these three sliders, which allow you to weigh the colors either toward Red, for example, or toward its color complement, that is effectively its color opposite Cyan. Or you can weigh things toward Green or its complement Magenta, or toward Blue or its complement Yellow. So you have three axis of color manipulation to work with here.
Now, in our case, I am going to move things over a little bit so that we can see more of Max. In our case, the image is obviously too red. So we would need to subtract red from it by essentially adding cyan. And you can see that that results in a negative value over here on the right-hand side of the panel. Now, at this point, I say well gosh! I guess it's too Green too. So I'll compensate more toward Magenta. But that seems like I'm going too far. And at this point it's too Yellow. So I should go toward Blue perhaps. But that just doesn't look right.
And that's one of the problems with using Color Balance. All these sliders are dependent upon each other. So you spend a lot of time back-and-forthing, adjusting one option after another and going back to the first option and so on. And who knows if you want to touch the Shadows or the Highlights or the Midtones. Well, here is what I recommend you do. First of all, let's go ahead and reset the options in this panel by clicking on this Reset button down right. And then, I am going to bring up my History panel already open. Make sure that you're looking at the Expanded View right there. And I am going to switch from Luminosity to Colors this time around so that I can see the various color channels.
And this helps me evaluate where the reds, greens and blues are as well as where the cyans, magentas and yellows are, because I can see them right here inside the panel. So we are most concerned about our reds or greens and our blues, because this is after all a digital photograph, which is going to be an RGB image. So we are seeing that the reds have a propensity to drift into the highlights. The greens are occupying the Midtones. And you can see where the greens and reds overlap. We have yellows. Where the greens and the blues overlap, we have cyan.
Where everybody overlaps we have gray. So that tells us that the greens are occupying this whole region right here. So solid Midtone territory. And the blues are occupying the Shadows. So what that tells me is I need to ease off the reds considerably. And I'm going to do that by taking this value down to -40. And I need to emphasize the blues quite a bit because I need to brighten them. And I am going to do that by taking them up just as far to positive 40, because the blues and the reds were formerly fairly symmetrical.
I'll show you what I mean. I will turn off this layer for a moment. And notice that our blues could be a flipped version of our reds here inside the Histogram panel. Now, I'll go ahead and that Adjustment layer back on. It's selected so I can see its settings inside the Adjustment panel. And I am going to click here inside Magenta and Green. This becomes a subjective decision. Do I go ahead and reduce the Green's value in order to add Magenta to the image? Or do I take up that Green's value? And to my eye things look too Green when I raise that Green value.
I am making the neutral areas, that is what should be gray inside of Max's shirt too green. This neutral wall was not that green either. So I am going to take that value down actually to -10 by pressing Shift+Down Arrow. And then, I am going to go back to Cyan Red and I am going to take it down to -50 by pressing Shift+Down Arrow as well. So these are the values I come up with. It's a little bit of science that is a little bit of reaction to the information I'm seeing here inside the Histogram panel. And it's a little bit of subjective playing around. And notice something you should be aware of when you're manipulating an image inside a Photoshop, your Histogram is going to start to exhibit gaps.
That's always going to happen. I'll go ahead and click of this Update icon so that you can see any place where we are seeing a gap line, in that Histogram means that there are no pixels associated with that specific Luminance level. So that is to say, even though we are working with an Adjustment layer, which is "nondestructive", we are applying a big modification to the colors of this image. And we will as a result wreak a little bit of havoc inside of that Histogram. It's just par for the course. Now let's say, I go to Highlights.
And you typically do not want to make big modifications to your Highlights and Shadows, because after all that would bring out color inside the Highlights and Shadows. And right now, they're pretty neutral. That is to say we have these nice white eyes and we have these deep dark Shadows. But I probably do want to drag the Highlights down a little bit inside of the Red. So I am going to click in this Cyan Red value and I am going to press Shift+Down Arrow to reduce it to -10. And that's not bringing out any color inside the Highlights. But it's hopefully adding to the neutrality.
But notice if you go too far with an edit, you are going to see it and it is going to negatively impact the image, especially when you're changing Highlights and Shadows. All right, I am going to restore that Yellow Blue value back to 0. So where Highlights are concerned, we have a Cyan Red value of -10 and we have 0 for both Magenta Green and Yellow Blue. Now, let's switch to Shadows. What I need to do is brighten the Shadows inside this image. And ironically, what that means is we want to reduce this Yellow Blue value so that we are sending the Shadows more into Yellow territory, which is going to expand that shadow information like so.
So in this case, where Shadows are concerned, Cyan Red and Magenta Green are 0 and 0, Yellow Blue -10. There's my Midtones value, -50 for Cyan Red, -10 for Magenta Green, and +40 for Yellow Blue. Then at this point, if you like, you can check out things, look with Preserve Luminosity turned off. Sometimes that ends up producing better results, sometimes not. In our case, the Luminance that is the core brightness information inside the image was fine as is. So I am going to leave Preserve Luminosity turned on.
And that is my modification. Just so you have a sense of what we've been able to achieve here, this is the original version of the image. Obviously too orange. And this is the corrected version of the image. Thanks to the application of the Color Balance Adjustment layer.
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