Sunday, June 21, 2009

Altering Bad Coloring in Photos

Don't you HATE that?? When you get a GREAT shot of your kids in a pool or a lake, but the water looks all gross? (Or maybe they're on some horrific-colored carpet or wearing a crazy colored shirt... this can work for that too!) In this particular case, it had just rained like crazy for 3 days (including a tornado that tore through my friend's neighborhood and dropped a tree right into this pool). Once the tree and debris were cleared... although the water was "safe" to swim in, it was this **lovely** shade of aqua-green. (eww.) But if any of you have seen the photos on Facebook that I was able to get of the kids in this pool, you can see why there was NO way I was letting those go to waste because of some green water. So I dove into Photoshop determined to make that water blue. I was so excited that I managed to save these photos, I just had to share with you how easy it was! So let's get started.

(*NOTE: This tutorial was created using Photoshop CS4. The steps should be virtually identical in CS2 and CS3. I'm pretty sure they are at least similar to earlier vesions of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, but I'm not positive.)

**Edited to say: One of my CT members who uses Photoshop Elements 5 sent me alternative instructions for PSE. You can find them at the bottom of this tutorial.**

So, let's start with getting a closer look at our original photo. (*shudder*... it just makes me cringe. hahaha.)

1.) The first thing you want to do is refer to your layers palette and click on the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom.

2.) Now choose Selective Color... from the list of options.

Below is what your screen should look like now (or at least similar to this). Your Selective Color dialogue box will pop up. The Colors field will be defaulted to Reds. If you refer to your Layers Palette, you will see that a new layer has been created. It will have the little Selective Color icon on the left, as well as a white square to the right of that. The Selective Color icon is there so that you may go back later and edit your colors further if needed by double-clicking on the icon. The white square is your Layer Mask, which allows you to personalize your color changes to a specific area of your photo. (We will talk more about your Layer Mask shortly.)

4.) Now, starting with your Selective Color dialogue box. Click on the Colors drop-down menu and choose the color that seems to be out of place in your photo. In this case, the water seemed more "aqua" than it did "primary green", so I started there. I chose Cyan.

It will give you an option of "Relative" or "Absolute". In this case, with a photograph, I chose Relative. This will take all surrounding colors that are similar to the one you chose and evenly alter them as well. This creates a beautiful blend so that it doesn't appear fake. The Absolute feature will only alter the hues of the exact color you chose. In photographs like this, that will simply appear blotchy, but it would be great for graphics.

5.) Within each color from the drop down box, you will have 4 different hue options to alter.

  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Black

Simply slide the levers back and forth on each hue to begin working toward a color that works better. Obviously, since blue + yellow make green, the first thing I did was rush to the yellow and drop it way down. I also boosted the Magenta way up to take the "warmness" out of the offending color, and I altered the Cyan and the Black sort of blindly until I liked it.

As you can see, just that one step made a DRASTIC difference in this photo. (I forgot to add this on the screen shot, but to get rid of your Selective Color dialogue box, simply press the bold double-arrow icon at the top right corner of the box. This doesn't close the window, it simply hides it.)

Anyway... so the water looks better. But... if any of you are like me when it comes to photo editing, (and I *know* some of you are!!) I get totally obsessive about it. So I took a few more steps to make some subtle differences that (to me) just make it all better. :)

6.) After altering the Cyan in my photo, the areas that are more green really stand out to me. So I altered the green as well. You can go about this a couple of ways:

- You can simply pull the Colors drop down menu again and choose Green and begin altering it. This would keep all of your color alterations together in one handy layer. And actually, at first... that's what I did.

- However, I found (as you will see further on down in the tutorial), that there may be colors that you need to alter in only *specific* areas of your photo as opposed to the entire photo. For instance, you may want to tone down a vibrant red colored slide at a park, yet keep the vibrant red in the pretty bow in your daughter's hair. (This is where your layer mask will come in.) But for now, instead of altering all of my colors in one layer, I named that layer "Cyan" and then added a 2nd adjustment layer and named that layer "Green".

Then just as before, I slid the levers back and forth until the green appeared less noticable.

I know, I know... the difference is subtle, but it made ALL the difference in the world to me. hahaha.

Now... because the reflection of the water on his skin (in real life) was reflecting the "aqua green" water, the splashes that are coming up around his face were much more of a yellowish-green. So the yellow "hues" that I altered within the Cyan and Green "colors" did not change this. I had to actually go into the main Yellow Color and adjust those hues to make the refllection on his face match the new blue of the water.

So, I repeated Step #6 and added a new Selective Color adjustment layer, renamed it to show the color I was now altering, and then slid the levers as needed.

Now... in doing so, it totally took out that yellowish tinge from his face and it looks great. But it also did one other thing... it took all of the yellowish warm tones out of ALL of his skin. Now, he looks all pinkish and weird. I didn't want him to look like someone had just rubbed him down with sandpaper. So THIS is where your layer "mask" comes into play. (This is also why I named each layer according to color.)


Layer Masks:

A Layer Mask is exactly what it sounds like. It is a "mask" that you put on a layer to hide certain parts of it... just as a mask you would wear on your face. There are really only 2 things you need to know in order to understand layers masks...

1.) White = visible
2.) Black = hidden
Think of it like this. (It's kind of silly, but it's how I finally made it click for myself. hahaha.) White is bright like a light and black is dark. If your layer mask is white (as ours is above) then everything is visible. If your layer mask is black, then everything is hidden. So imagine walking into a dark room. If you turn the overhead light on (white), everything in the room becomes visible. If you turn the overhead light off (black), then you can't see anything in the room. That being said... if you only want to see one object in the room, you could leave the light off and simply shine a flashlight on that object. Oh my gosh... does that make sense? (I know the scenario doesn't really work if you wanted to see everything in the room except that object, but i don't know... maybe you could get some track lighting or something... either way, it helped my weird "I-need-a-visual" thought process to grasp the concept... I hope it hasn't simply confused you more. hahaha.)

Anyway... let's put that all into Photoshop language, shall we? If your layer mask is white, you would choose your Brush Tool and then set black as your foreground color. Then, simply paint black *onto* your white layer mask to "hide" whatever it is that you don't want to see. You can also Invert your layer mask from white to black... then you would simply use your brush to paint white over the object that you *do* want to see. (If I have lost you, don't worry... the next few steps and screenshots should help it make sense.)


7.) Refer to your layers palette and actually click *on* your Layer Mask (the white square) within the layer. **NOTE: Since we are working with an Adjustment Layer, the mask on this layer will only hide/reveal the adjustment that layer is making. In other words... my layer mask adjusted the yellow tones in the photo. Therefore, what I'm hiding and revealing in this layer mask is the adjusted color, not the photo itself. Make sense?

8.) Now in this particular photo, I only want to see the adjusted yellow on that small portion of his face where that splash is. Since that is such a small area, I'm going to Invert my layer mask from white to black. To do this, just hit Ctrl+i on your keyboard. (**NOTE: make sure you have clicked on your layer mask and not the layer itself. You must click *on* the layer mask in order to make any changes to it. That [embarrassingly enough] was the SOLE reason I did not get layer masks for so long. hahaha. I chose my brush, I changed my foreground color... but all I got was a white or black streak along my photo. Talk about frustrating. lol.)

9.) Now that your layer mask is black, choose your Brush Tool from your tools palette and then change your foreground color to white.

10.) Now choose a small round brush and set the hardness to around 50%. Then run the brush over the area that you want the adjusted color to be visible. (If you refer to your layers palette, you will be able to see on your layer mask the white that you are "painting" on.)

So now looking at his skin, it has gone back to the original color, but the splash around his face still matches the blue of our water.

11.) Once I am satisfied with my image, I choose all of my layers, then right-click and merge them together. (You can certainly save a layered copy if you need to.)

12.) The last step I took on this photo was to brighten it up and define it a bit with one of my most common used actions in the whole wide world...
Pioneer Woman's Boost action. I use it on some level in almost all of my photos. (and it's FREE!!)

Here is my final photo in the end. Yay. :)


Alternative Instructions for PSE:
You go to Layer> New Adjustment Layer> Hue/Saturation

Then click OK

Then click where it says Master at the top and change it to any other color doesn't matter. Once you change the color you will be able to use the droppers at the bottom. Click on the first dropper and click on whatever color you want to change. Then just start playing with the sliders.
Masking works the same as in your tutorial.

I would love to know what you think of this tutorial. I hope it was helpful. As always, please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.


Mary Ann said...

Thank you so much for the excellent tutorial - you are so sweet!

S said...

Thank you, this is a great tutorial and best of all I understood it!

senovia said...

Wow! I've altered colors a little bit before, but this makes it easier to work with! Thank you!

My Two Seasons said...

Thank you for this great tutorial! I need to go try it out now!!

bonnieh said...

Excellent - so thorough - thanks so much!

Zeee said...

ohhh!! I sooo love it Amanda! This is sooo helpful! :) I can't wait to try it! :)

Love all your tuts! :)

AZK said...

Since I don't have the best camera in the world, I'm always trying to tweak the colors. I can't wait to try this! Thanks so much!

sf_gal said...

Thank you so much, Amanda, for this brilliant tutorial!!! You are so generous with your knowledge!

Digi Designz~Alicia Murphy said...

amazing tut! so clear to understand and indepth!

Anonymous said...

I understand! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Wow- I appreciate ALL your input. Thanks so much. What a terrific site!

djukaa said...

Fab tutorial, can't wait to try it out. Thank You!!

Debi said...

Thanks so much for your help with this issue. I am also extremely thankful for the interruption for the Mask tut...I have been surching for a long time to figure this one out. I have all thes wonderful masks and no know-how to use them. Thanks so much...Debi

DancingPrincessDesigns said...

You're an amazing tutorial writer! Thank you for sharing your talent!

KayM said...

This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I have a lot of photos with ghastly green grass in them that I wouldn't use because of the color. I tried this on one of them and it worked wonderfully! So cool! I'm excited!

Smith Family said...

LOVE this tutorial - although I'd have left the water green lol - but I hate leaving the green color cast on everyone in our church photos as a result of the horrid lighting :D And this is a MUCH MORE flexible way to edit them than what I have been doing :D

Ann Marie said...

That was pretty amazing, not just what you did with the photo, but that I actually understood it. Nice job!

Anonymous said...

Your tutorials are always so easy to understand. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Yanti said...

Thanks for the tutorial.

Anonymous said...

Great tutorial! Too bad PSE doesn't have the Selective Colour option. :(
Another reason for me to save up to buy PS! :)

Live From Memphis said...

Seems like a lot of steps for something you could have done in hue and saturation. Go to hue and saturation. Choose Cyan in the the dropdown menu, set hue to +41 and saturation to -19 then choose greens and set the hue to +20 and your done.

TaylorMade Designs said...

Live from Memphis: yes, i started there and the results are pretty similar. but i found in doing the rest of the photos in this water that going the selective color technique seemed to give me more flexibility and in some cases even seemed more precise. but using hue/saturation is definitely another option, especially for those with photoshop elements. thanks for your feedback!! :)

Kim said...

OMGOSH...this is awesome...I can't wait to try. thanks so much for your generosity:)