Whether you have a nice camera or you’re using your plain old smartphone camera, not all photos will turn out perfectly. In fact, to be a great designer, you’ll need to know how to do color correction in Photoshop. Knowing how to do this can help you turn poorly colored photos into much stronger photos. Here, you’ll learn 3 different ways to use color correction in Photoshop!  

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Using Curves for Color Correction

Curves will be your ally in most color correction jobs. Curves allow you to precisely modify tones and colors within your photo by adjusting points on the standard diagonal line on a histogram to create adjustments by curves.

For color correction, the ways in which you can achieve it with curves are almost endless due to the precise control you have in Photoshop Curves. You can either adjust standard Curves  (black, white and gray tones within an image) or you can go even further and adjust RGB (red, green and blue digital color outputs) for a stronger color correction. There are also different types of curves you can make on the histogram for a safe color correction, such as the “S-Curve” or “Lockdown Curve.”

Now, this may seem like I’m opening a can of worms, but in just under 13 minutes, you can watch this amazing video from Photoshop Café to understand everything you’ll need to know about working with Curves and using them for color correction.

A Simple Curve Technique for Quick Color Correction on the Fly

Now that you understand Curves, I’m going to show you a quick trick that you can apply when you’re in a pinch for time. For this technique, we’re going to find the black, white and gray points by using the Threshold, Color Selection Tool and Curves together.

First, get your photo into Photoshop and click on the Adjustments tab above your Layers panel. Now click on the Threshold adjustment. Here, we’re going to find the black, white and gray points of your photo. Drag the slider all the way to the right, until your photo appears completely black and move it back just a hair to the left so some white appears.

Now, using the Color Selection Tool (click and hold down the Eye Dropper icon from the left toolbar to find it), click on a white area. Next, move your Threshold slide all the way to the left until your photo is completely white and then move it back just a hair to the right so some black appears. Again, use the Color Selection Tool to click on a black area.

  1. To select our gray point, we will have to do a few steps: 
  2. Get rid of your Threshold layer and create a new blank layer on top of your photo.
  3. Go to Edit from the top menu bar and select Fill.
  4. In the Contents, change the Use to 50% Gray and select OK.
  5. Change the blend mode to Difference.
  6. Go back and open up the Threshold again, and move the slider all the way to the left, and then move it a hair to the right to find the first dots of gray that appear.
  7. Use the Color Selection Tool to select a gray point.

Here is where we will work with curves. Delete the Threshold and gray layers and open the Curves from the Adjustments panel. This is where the Color Selection Tool points come in handy. Click the first eye dropper from the top in the Curves panel and select point #2 you made earlier to establish a black point for your Curves. Next, select the last eye dropper from the top in the Curves panel and select point #1 to establish a white point for your Curves. Finally, select the second from the top eye dropper in the Curves panel and select point #3 to establish your gray point for your Curves. You’re done! You should now have a great color corrected photo!

Pro Tip: you can use this method to find your black and white points, but you can omit the gray point technique and instead select your gray point yourself manually by looking at the colors in your photograph for a different result. You can also select different black and white points after to alter your results as well. Below you’ll see my result with this technique by selecting a gray point manually.

Changing a Black and White Photo to Color

Changing a black and white photo to color may seem like a daunting task, but actually it’s pretty quick and easy! Here’s a method you can use to quickly colorize any black and white photo. First, get your black and white photo into Photoshop and click on the Quick Selection Tool (or any other method of selection you prefer). Select the area you’d like to colorize, holding Alt to touch up your selection and removing unwanted areas. Next, select “Refine Edge…” above your photo. Here, you can enter in these great settings provided by Photoshop Video Academy from their tutorial video that shows you this technique (see photo to the left). Now that your selection has been modified, simply click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer at the bottom of your Layers panel and select Solid Color. Select a color that you feel most fits the area you are colorizing and hit OK. Next, select the blend mode and change it to Color.

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 9.56.27 AM

Finally, you’ll more than likely have to tweak your color to make it more accurate. Double click your color in the adjustment layer to modify it to your specifications. That’s it! Just repeat the process and you’ll have a colorized photo in no time!

Pro tip: you can touch up each adjustment layer with the brush tool since these adjustment layers are masks. Use black to add more area to your fill layer and white to cut out or remove areas for your fill layer.

Knowing how to do color correction is a must for any designer. It may seem like it’s a whole new area of study, but using these 3 methods will get you in the right direction and off to a much better understanding of color correction. Try all 3 methods and see which ones work best for you. Experiment with Curves as well, because there’s no better way to get to know how they work other than jumping in the deep end.

This post originally featured on the Marenated blog.

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