Join Taz Tally for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding color tools, part of Photoshop CS4: Color Correction.
In this section, I would like to discuss all the various tools that you are going to use for performing color correction chores on your images, and getting familiar with the tools is the first step towards really mastering those tools. Then as we go through on later sections, we'll talk about quickly accessing and organizing them, and then using them in the proper order to develop a whole color correction workflow. So step one is the tools. Some of these tools are interface tools and notice we have, like we did before, just the image up and if we have got the Bridge in the background as we do here, sometimes it looks a little bit too complicated.
So one of the things that we can do to kind of clean up our window that we have is bring up the Application Frame. If you are a Windows user, you already probably have one of these. If you are a Mac user, you may be new to the Application Frame, but one of the nice things about it is it provides you with a nice clear background surrounding your image, and if you remember in the discussion of our interface, we set the percentage of gray or the colors for our background, all those colors should be neutral. So having that frame up there is nice.
The other thing we would like to have is the Options panel and the Options panel is up here, and that should be checked on, as we'll see. We'll talk about accessing all these with keyboard shortcuts in a later segment. But when you select a tool over here, such as one of the Magic Wand tools, the options for those tools come up here. So I suggest as a general rule having your Options panel up and having your Application Frame available as well. Notice you can move your Application Frame around if you like. You can also resize that Application Frame. Very handy, very nice, and boy, it's great for having that nice clear background.
The next tool we'll bring up is called the Layers panel. What Layers allows us to do of course is make copies of images. Like here I have a duplicate copy of the background we have, creating a Sharpening layer. You can make selections and put them on individual layers. We also have adjustment layers, and that's what these are here. These are nondestructive editing layers. The two most common one we use are Curves and Levels. There is another tool that works hand in hand with the Layers panel, and that's the Adjustments panel.
This is new in CS4. The Adjustments panel provides you with access to all sorts of different kinds of adjustments, as you see here. Levels, Curves, Exposure, Hue/ Saturation, Black & White Presets. You are probably thinking, hey, those look pretty familiar names. If you go up underneath the Image and go to Adjustments, lo and behold, you see a lot of the same things, the Levels, the Curves, the Exposure, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, Black & White, and so forth. So many of the image adjustments that you have been used to getting from that menu, you can now get from the Adjustments panel.
So first of all, it's nice and fast to be able to get to, and notice that you have familiar icons for the Curves and for Levels. Notice as I'm clicking over here on my Layers panel, they activate over here in the Adjustments panel. Not only does this give you quick and easy access to these critical tools such as Curves, and Curves as you will see is going to be one of our real core foundation tools for doing our corrections in color, but also provides you with the ability to keep working on your image even though you have an active Curves dialog box.
So for instance, if I want to go to a Magic Wand tool, I can do so. I can come right over here and click and Shift-click and just go about my merry way, using my Magic Wand tool, no problem at all, even though my Curves dialog box is still open. So quick and easy access, as well as the ability to continue working and editing your image while that Curves is up. So that's a nice addition to CS4. So there is the Layers and then the Adjustments panel that work hand in hand. Another really nice tool we are going to use for evaluating our images is called the Histogram.
You have probably seen graphics that look like this before. In fact, if we move right over here to Levels, we see, oh, there is a histogram. Or if we go to the Image menu and go to Adjustments > Levels, we bring up the Levels dialog box that shows us Histograms as well. But what the Histogram panel does for us, it shows us all the data here up in the master histogram, and then if we choose, as we have done here, To View All Channels, we can see the red, green, and blue histogram data all at the same time. We don't use this for correcting, but we use this for viewing and evaluating.
Just a quick glance at looking at this Histogram panel, you can tell a lot about the distribution of data, and we'll indeed do that. We'll talk about what all this data distribution means as we go along. Now, the two tools underneath are Image and Adjustments, or in our Adjustments panel that we are going to use are Levels and Curves, and indeed the foundation for just about all the adjustments we are going to make when we finally get down to it is going to be the Curves dialog box. Notice Image > Adjustment > Curves.
You can still bring up that separate Curves dialog box and work in that if you want to, and there will be some cases when we do. But typically, we are going to be wanting to work on the same Curves tool, but as an adjustment layer and access it and control it through the Adjustments panel. Now, notice that the new Curves tool, which I call the super Curves tool, because you can pretty much do everything with it, you can see all the histogram data just like you can in the Histogram panel and in Levels, and you can see the individual histograms for the individual channels, plus you can do all the editing that you want on both the highlight and shadow ends, and anywhere in between, on any portion of the tonal range.
So it's a very, very powerful tool indeed. So the Layers, the Histogram, the Levels, the Curves, and remember, these two tools we are going to use together, the Layers and the Adjustments. There is another set of tools we are going to use together. These are just as important as the last two, and this is the Info panel, and then the tool that we are going to use hand in hand with that is called the Color Sampler tool, and that we have right here. See, it's one of the variations of the Eyedropper tool. What the Color Sampler tool does, and how it operates is just like the Eyedropper tool, but it's a multiple Eyedropper tool, and this allows us to set and then record up to four points.
Notice in this image, we have 1, 2, 3, 4 Color Sampler value sets corresponding to 1, 2, 3, 4 points that we have set here. So the way we use this is we pick or assign critical portions of our image, and we set this Color Sampler points on them, and then we can adjust them using say a Curves dialog box. Watch these values here. Notice they are the same on both sides, 231/231, 147/147, 100/100, because no adjustments have been made. Now, if we just click on the middle of the master histogram curve and pull it down, see how all the values change in all four of those points.
So you can measure and monitor any adjustments you make on the fly. It's a huge time saver and allows you to be very accurate very quickly. So these two tools work hand in hand. The Info panel and then the Color Sampler points work hand in hand, and the Layers and the Adjustment panel work hand in hand. Then finally, the last primary or major tool that we are going to use is the Channels panel. What the Channels panel gives us is first of all, access to the fundamental building blocks of our image, such as the red, the green, and the blue building block channels, which we'll talk in good deal about a little bit later.
But it also provides us with alpha channels, which are storage places for selections. What this allows us to do is store and then recall selections such as we have done here. As you can see, we have the sky selection, or we can store and recall the mountain selection, and then we can edit those portions of the image separately. So making and storing and then recalling selections allows us to do Color Corrections on separate portions of our image. So there is all the main tools. Some of which you are probably already familiar with, others may be less familiar, and some may be brand new to you.
But as we go forward you are going to learn to become expert in the use of all these tools, and learn how to use them, and what order in which to use them to give you the best, and most accurate, and quickest adjustment of your color.
- Fundamentals of digital color: Understanding bit depth, channels, resolution, grey scale and color
- Exploring the difference between color correction and image adjustment
- Choosing and using the best tools for color correction
- Exploring RGB vs. CMYK corrections
- Evaluating the histogram’s display of color
- Using Adjustment layers to affect editable corrections
- Saving time using keyboard shortcuts
- Preparing color images for output on various devices