Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Using Color Balance and Curves to create vivid color, part of Photoshop for Photographers: Creative Effects.
Working with color in Photoshop is so much fun, because there are so many different things that you can do. And here with this photograph we're going to take a look at how we can use a few adjustment layers, a selection and a mask in order to bring out some vivid and intriguing colors in this picture. You know, when I captured this photograph I was really taken by the pier and also by the blues of the sky and the lake. So let's start by taking a look at how we can draw some of those deep rich blues that we can see in this photograph.
To do that we're going to create a color balance adjustment layer, you can find the icon for Color Balance in the Adjustments panel, go ahead and click on that icon to create a new adjustment. Color balance allows us to make changes or adjustments to colors in an interesting way. We can target different Tones, we can work with our shadows, our Midtones or our highlights. In this way what we can do is we can bring color into the picture based on the Brightness value of a certain area of our photograph. Well, with this photograph I want to work on the deeper darker tones, I want to make those more blue, so here we'll select shadows.
Next, I'm going to use these sliders in order to change the characteristics of those darker tones. You can see that now a lot of the shadows at deeper colors have become more blue. Well, the pier, it hasn't change colors very much. You can click on the Eye icon here to see the before and then the after. Next, we can change the characteristic of this blue by using the other sliders. If we use the Cyan and Red slider, we can either make that blue a little bit more purple or a bit more cyan. In my case, I want to make this just a touch more cyan.
Well, now that we've worked on the blues, the next thing I want to do is I want to work on the pier. To do that, we'll click into the Background layer. Next press the W key to select the Quick Select tool or click on the Quick Select tool icon in the tools panel. Then with this tool you can change its brush Size by pressing the Bracket Keys. Right Bracket key makes your brush bigger, Left Bracket key makes your brush smaller, so go ahead and change your brush size so that you can start to paint over this pier.
Now if you didn't select everything as I didn't here, press the Left Bracket key to make it smaller and then get closer to the edge so that you can select all the way to the edge here. All right, well, the Quick Select tool is a phenomenal tool, because it allows us to make selections obviously really quickly. Yet one of the downsides with this tool is that many times the selection edge needs a little bit of work. But not to worry, we can use what's called Refine Edge in order to clean up the edge. So, if you go the Options bar you can click on Refine Edge.
Here we can change our View often it's helpful to see your selection say on a solid color like White. Next what we want to do is turn on the Smart Radius. This then tells Photoshop to pay a little bit more attention to the edge. By increasing this you can see that the edge has become much better, I'll also click and drag Contrast up a little bit to make that edge stronger. All right, well, now that we have refined the edge of our selection, we'll click OK. So far all that we've done is selected that area and then made that selection a little bit better.
Next what I want to do is, I want to make an adjustment which is limited to that area, I just want to work on the pier. To do that, we'll go ahead and click on one of our Adjustment layer icons, the one that I'm going to use is Curves. And because we had a selection before we selected Curves now when we make an adjustment we can just work on this area of our photograph. Let's go ahead and click and drag up to brighten that a little bit, I'm just going to brighten the highlights there, and then I'll click in the shadow or the darker area over area and click and drag down.
Just creating a nice look on that pier there, here is our before and then now after. Next, I want to change a little bit of the color of the pier, I want to make a subtle color adjustment, and to do that with Curves we're going to go down to a few different channels. If you click on the RGB pulldown menu, you can see you can access the Red, Green or Blue Channels. Let's start off in the Red. Here in the Red Channel if we click on this curve line and drag up that area becomes more red, drag down it becomes more cyan. Well, rather than an extreme color change, I'm just going to click and drag up just a little bit, adding just a slight shift in the color there making that a little bit more red. Next, I'm going to the Blue Channel.
In this channel we can control the color in a way that we can make it more blue or more yellow. In my case I want to make it a little bit more yellow, because many times if you can have cool and warm tones together in one photograph, it can create an interesting or fascinating color combination. It can draw us in, because these colors are complementary colors and so here I'm just making a little slight adjustment in order to change the color of the pier. All right, well, now that we've made these adjustments, I'll close the Properties Inspector so that we can view our photograph.
Let's take a look at what we've done here, here is the before and then now the after. With a few easy adjustments we now have enhanced the color and tone in this photograph in some simple yet significant ways.
- Combining HDR (high dynamic range) toning with color effects
- Improving color with Curves and Color Balance
- Creating drama with lighting effects
- Adding realistic lens flare
- Creating a luminance blur
- Blending and masking in motion
- Performing HDR toning and black and white conversions
- Combining infrared with contrast and sharpness
- Crafting vintage color
- Adding borders and edges to a photo
- Finding and installing custom brushes and plug-ins