Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Vibrance vs. saturation, part of Photoshop: Mastering Color Correction (2012).
There's a tendency to want the colors in our photographs to be relatively well saturated. In other words, to stand out, to pop in the image. We don't want to take things too far, but we do want the colors to look their best. When we talk about saturation, what we're really talking about is the purity of colors. When we increase saturation for colors, we're moving those colors toward the more pure versions of the primary colors. So for example, in an RGB image the primary colors are red, green an blue. The subtractive primaries, the opposites of those are cyan, magenta and yellow. So, as we increase saturation, we're shifting the colors more toward those values, making all the colors appear a bit more intense. But there are a couple of different ways we could approach an increase, or even a decrease in saturation.
Those include the Hue saturation adjustment and the Vibrance adjustment. Let's take a look at both of these adjustments so we can get a better sense of which you might want to use and how they differ from each other. I'll start off with Hue saturation. I'll go ahead and add a hue saturation adjustment by clicking on the Add New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layer's panel. And choosing Hue saturation from the pop up menu and then I'll increase saturation. And in fact I'll increase it a lot. And this gives us a clear sense of that purity concept. The colors have been shifted toward the primary values. And so we see reds, greens, blues, cyans, magentas, yellows. And they're rather intense.
Those colors are very very strong. Obviously in this case far too strong, but it certainly gives us a sense of what a saturation increase is doing to the image. And of course reducing saturation takes us in the opposite direction. And taken all the way, will give us a black and white image with no color at all. The bottom line is that in hue saturation, the Saturation slider has a relatively strong effect on the image. And it has a relatively even effect across all colors throughout the photo. By contrast, we can use a vibrance adjustment to exercise a little bit more self control, and to have a little more sophisticated effect on the colors. I'm going to turn off the visibility of the hue saturation adjustment layer, by clicking on the eye icon to the left of that adjustment layer. And then I'll add a new adjustment layer, this time for vibrance. Vibrance has two sliders, vibrance and saturation.
But the saturation slider here is not the same as the saturation slider in hue saturation. They're the same and general concept, but what's going on behind the scenes is a little different. And I think you can see that immediately as I increase saturation to its maximum value here in vibrance. We certainly have a big boost in colors, but it's not as severe as we saw with hue saturation. So right off the bat we can see that the vibrance adjustment is exercising some more self control. It's taking a more moderated approach to improving the appearance of colors in our photo.
What's really impressive about the vibrant adjustment, though, is the actual vibrant slider. I'll go ahead and increase the value here and you'll see the effect is actually quite subtle. And that's not to say that it's just not as strong an effect, it's actually operating in a completely different way. When we increase vibrance, what we're doing is increasing the saturation for colors that are not very saturated. More than we are adjusting the saturation for colors that are already saturated. In other words, you can think of this as evening out the saturation.
Boosting the low saturated colors but for the most part leaving the highly saturated colors alone. For example, you can see that the blues and the oranges in the bark of the tree have been boosted in their saturation. But the grass doesn't have a significant increase in saturation relative to the original. If I go in the opposite direction, we'll start off by reducing the saturation more significantly for the colors that are highly saturated. So it's sort of the opposite. We're equalizing saturation by reducing saturation Having a stronger affect on the colors that have strong saturation already.
In most cases, I would say that the vibrance adjustment in the better place to start for adjusting overall intensity of colors in your photo. If you want to increase saturation, I would start off by increasing vibrance, taking it up to the level that seems appropriate. And then, as needed, you can adjust the overall saturation for the photo as well. What that really translates into is that if I'm trying to increase the intensity, the purity of colors. The overall impact of those colors in a photo, I'll use the vibrance adjustment. I might use the bibrant slider or the saturation slider. In many cases, I'll use both of those sliders, but I usually don't use a hue saturation adjustment for increasing saturation for all colors within a photo. There're still plenty of views for the hue saturation adjustment. Just not as much use when it comes to Increasing the Intensity of colors now that we have the Vibrance Adjustment available.
- Configuration considerations
- Evaluating color
- Basic color for raw images
- Essentials of color balance
- Vibrance vs. saturation
- Adjusting temperature in Lab mode
- Strong color cast removal
- Focused color corrections
- Color matching