In this Photoshop tutorial, we’re going to take a deep, hard look at color correction and adjusting white balance in your photos to get amazing color and richness of tones as they should look out of your camera. Whether you’re working with RAW files or JPEGs, it really doesn’t matter, we’re going to cover FIVE different techniques that will get you started on the path to knowing what you’re doing when adjusting the color balance and getting beautiful color in your photographs. We’ll cover how to get accurate color and how to experiment and take some creative freedoms with the colors in your photo to get professional and stunning results!
Method 1.) Difference and Threshold Step 1
Create a new layer and go Edit>Fill and choose to fill your layer with 50% gray. Set the layer blend mode to Difference.
Add the Threshold Adjustment
Add a Threshold Adjustment Layer and set the Threshold level to around 10. Grab the Eyedropper tool and hold down the Shift key and click to drop a color sample point over one of the black spots that has appeared. (These are the spots that are closest to a perfect 50% gray and will help us get the best color correction.)
Curves for Color Correction
Delete the Threshold and 50% gray layer and add a Curves Adjustment Layer and select the middle/gray eyedropper tool and zoom in on the eyedropper sample target and click once to balance the color via this gray spot.
Method 2.) White Balance Tool in Camera RAW Editor
Open your image in the Camera RAW editor (convert your image to a smart object in Photoshop if it’s not a RAW image and go Filter>Camera Raw Filter) and select the White Balance Tool from the top bar of tools in this dialog box. Click wherever a neutral point is in your photo-you kind of have to guess unless you use the method I detailed above-and you will automatically have the image white balance corrected.
Method 3.) Perfect Skin Color with Percentages
There is a method to the madness of getting great colored skin on your subjects in Photoshop. I have a PDF that you can download by clicking this link which will give you a breakdown of White, Black, Asian/Hispanic, and even a typical white baby as far as the amount of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in each person’s skin.
Setting the Color Sample Spot
The key to this technique is selecting a good spot from which to measure and adjust the colors. Diffused highlights work the best (not the brightest part of the highlight, but stay away from shadows too.) Use the Eyedropper tool and hold down the Shift key and click to drop a color sample point. If you open the Info panel (Window>Info) you will see this point register at “#1”. Click the little eyedropper icon in this panel and choose “CMYK Colors” so you can view the percentage of CMYK that makes up that area of the subject’s skin.
Using Curves to Adjust those Colors
Being with the Green channel in your Curves adjustment and Cmd/Ctrl + Click with the eyedropper tool (while the Curves dialog box is opened) on the eyedropper sample point that you placed near a diffused highlight and then push or pull the green until you get a Magenta reading in the Info panel that is in accordance with the skin that you’re retouching (i.e. white skin should be between 20-27% generally.) Do the same for Red and Blue channels using the PDF I have available above. This will give you well-corrected skin for a wide variety of subjects!
Method 4.) Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer
The 4th method simply requires a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Use the channel drop down to target any color that is overpowering your photo and shift the hue or reduce the saturation. NOTE: This technique works best when there is a fairly obvious color cast that is uniformly affecting the entire image.
Method 5.) Free Hand Color Adjustment
The last method is simply taking a Curves adjustment layer or two and using the little “finger” icon while in any of the Red, Green, or Blue channels and drag up or down on parts of the image to infuse Red/Cyan, Green/Magenta, or Blue/Yellow wherever it’s needed. This is particularly effective with landscape photography. TIP: Watch the video to see exactly how I do this. I added some notes to the screenshot below to give you an idea of what I did as well.