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Mimicking the Color Darkroom with Color Balance

If you've ever done any photographic color printing, using Photoshop's Color Balance Adjustment Layers will seem familiar to you. Like Variations, it also works on the principle of increasing or decreasing opposite colors to color balance an image.

Figure 4.12 shows a class photo that was taken in the middle of the summer on a very bright day. To soften the light, the group was positioned under a tree. The combination of shooting at high noon (when the light has a high color temperature with a high blue component) and the light coming through the leaves added a blue-green color cast to the image. This made the people's skin tones too cool. Figure 4.13 shows the same image after I applied a Color Balance Adjustment Layer. People's skin tones are now less green and more red, and white shirts are actually white. Also notice that the grass in the picture isn't as green anymore. Because the subject of the image is the people and not the grass, it's okay to let the unimportant image areas (the grass) be less attractive. Concentrate on the essential, which, in this case, is the people's skin tone.

Figure 4.12Figure 4.12 Before

Figure 4.13Figure 4.13 After


  1. Check the image with the Eyedropper tool and the Info palette. Notice that the white shirts have a high blue value and the skin tones are also too green and blue (see figure 4.14). The white shirts show more blue because white with detail (white that is not overexposed) has a higher reflectance and will show the color cast much more readily.

  2. Figure 4.14Figure 4.14 Checking the image with the Eyedropper and Info palette reveals the green and blue color cast.

  3. Add a Color Balance Adjustment layer.

  4. Always start the color-correction process with the most important image areas. In this case, the group's skin tones are more important than the shirts. Select Midtones for the Tone Balance and increase magenta (to decrease green in the image) by moving the Magenta-Green slider to the left (see figure 4.15). A green color cast can be similar to a cyan color cast, so I added 5 points of red to warm up the skin tones a touch.

  5. Figure 4.15Figure 4.15 Work on the image midtones to remove the green color cast.


    Red and magenta color casts can look very similar, as can blue and cyan, and green and yellow, and working on the similar color of the color cast can help clear up color problems. In this example, adding magenta reduced the green and the addition of red removed any traces of cyan.

  6. Select the Highlights Tone Balance radio button, increase the red by 10 points, and decrease the blue with a 30-point move toward the yellow, as seen in figure 4.16.

  7. Figure 4.16Figure 4.16 Work on the image highlights to remove the blue color cast.

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