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Adjusting Color

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This chapter is from the book

What You'll Learn in This Hour:

  • Evaluating Your Color Adjustment Needs
  • Adjusting by Eye with Variations
  • Making Other Adjustments
  • Preserving the Original with Adjustment Layers
  • Understanding Channels

Are you one of those people who like to play with the color adjustments on the television set? If you are, you're going to be absolutely astounded by Photoshop's color adjustment capabilities. If you haven't a clue as to what I mean by adjusting color, that's okay, too. By the end of this hour, you'll be able to turn red roses blue, change a sky from midday to sunset and back again, bring out the detail in shadows, and control every imaginable aspect of color manipulation.

Photoshop includes a full set of tools for making color adjustments. You can find them all on the Image>Adjustments submenu (see Figure 5.1). Some of these terms, such as Brightness/Contrast, might be familiar to you; others might not. Don't worry. You'll learn about them all in this hour.

Figure 5.1

Figure 5.1 The Adjustments submenu gives you all the tools you'll need.

Evaluating Your Color Adjustment Needs

Before you start to adjust color, you need to evaluate what kind of color you have in the picture and how you'll eventually use the image. You learned about color models and color modes in the last hour, so you know that RGB color is the kind that is displayed on computer screens and CMYK color is the kind that is printed. If you're going to be adjusting the color in a picture, it makes sense to adjust it according to the way it will be displayed. If your picture is going on a web page, you should work in RGB mode. If it's going to be printed on a four-color process commercial press, work in RGB to start with, but make your final adjustments (if any are needed) after you convert to CMYK mode. If you're printing on a home/office inkjet printer, stick with RGB, even though your printer uses CMYK inks. These printers are designed to make the conversion internally. Other kinds of color printers, such as color lasers, work fine with CMYK. If the picture is going to end up in grayscale, forget about trying to make the sky a perfect blue. Change the mode to Grayscale and make the contrast perfect instead. Just keep these few rules in mind and you won't go wrong. Table 5.1 will help you keep these options sorted out.

Table 5.1. Color Adjustment Matrix

Adjust Color In

If Output Is


Computer screen, web, or inkjet printer

RGB first, and then CMYK

Process color print


Black-and-white print

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