Color Correction


PhotoShop Color Correction


You can use PhotoShop to adjust colors in your image. You can change someones hair from blond to red, or you can adjust the tone of an image to correct for age or imperfections in the scanning process. You can lighten an image, make it darker, or add a sparkle to that special someones eyes!

You can affect the whole image, or just one part.


Correcting for Scanner Imperfections

A scanner is basically a color copy machine hooked up to your computer. It bounces light off of a photo and receptors read the color information returned to the scanner. Most photos are covered with a reflective coating, which makes the photo look better to our eyes. The same coating that makes a photograph look better to you and me, makes the photograph harder to see for a scanner. The reflective coating bounces some light back to the scanner before the light hits any color information in the photo. What you end up with is a washed out image with a "film" over it.

Most every time you scan an image in, itll need color correction. Color photographs will always need color correction. PhotoShop does a good job of correcting for scanner deficiencies, and often it can do the whole job in just one step!

When you correct for scanning deficiencies, mostly youll adjust the PhotoShops Levels, which refer to color levels. Color Levels range from 100% white, to 100% black. Usually when there are scanning problems, there is too much white, but sometimes there are other problems caused by the scanner itself.


Letting PhotoShop Automatically Correct Images for You

This next web design course tool is going to blow you away.


  1. Open boat.psd
  2. Use the crop tool to straighten the scan


  1. Click IMAGE-> LEVELS


The histogram represents color levels with black on the left and white on the right. See how much white there is? Images usually look better when the color levels are more balanced. Were going to let PhotoShop try to fix the image for us.

  1. Click Auto

Big difference, huh?


  1. Try IMAGE-> LEVELS-> AUTO with temple.tif


Fine Tuning an Automatic Level

Sometimes when you use the "auto" button in the level window, the image will come out a little too dark or light. You can manually adjust the midpoint, the place where colors become more dark than light.

A midpoint value of 1.00 is perfect center. 1.10 will make the image a little lighter, 0.9 will make the image a little darker.


To adjust the midpoint:

  1. Click IMAGE-> LEVELS-> AUTO
  2. Change the setting in the top middle box in the Levels window

Use small adjustments!


Adjusting the Levels Yourself

Sometimes you will get better results futzing with the levels yourself. "Futz" is a PhotoShop technical term.

Usually you wont be able to tell if automatic or manual results will provide better results. Youll probably have to try them both.


To manually adjust the levels, move the histogram triangles. You usually want to adjust the triangles so they line up with the bulk of the histogram. Dont adjust the middle triangle. Instead, use the input levels box like we did before.


Hiding Flashing Selection Lines

When you make a selection you get flashing lines that tell you where the selection is. Problem is, sometimes those selection lines get in the way. You can hide them by clicking:





Color Corrections

Images of all types would look better if this was a little bit darker, that was a little bit lighter, and this was a little more blue. PhotoShop excels in changing color values to give you better-looking images. Remember that any of these tools can be applied to an entire image, or to a selection.


Most of the Color Correction tools are found under:



Brightness and Contrast

Brightness is the amount of white found in an image. If you crank up the brightness, an image will become whiter. Sometimes dark hidden areas will reveal surprising detail!

Contrast is the difference between light and dark in the image. If you turn up the contrast light colors get lighter and dark colors get darker.

Using brightness and contrast, you can remove shadows or shiny forehead reflections. You can lighten teeth and balance images.

To use Brightness/Contrast:




Try to make the dark part of the green boat tarp lighter.



"Tone" means color, "saturation" means how much of that color.

Adjusting saturation will allow you to make changes that on the surface appear imperceptible, but that will really make a difference in your images psychological impact on your observer. When part of an image is slightly more saturated, it appears more full of life. You can saturate people or products to make them slightly stand out against their backgrounds. You can saturate eyes to give someone that special sparkle. Saturating can turn dull colors bright and vibrant.


The key to using saturation is "go easy". Dont over do it. A little goes a long way. Whatever other clich will make you treat the saturation tool with care.


To change saturation levels:



Changing Colors with Variations

You are just flat going to love the Variations tool. It allows you to change colors with easy, simple logic. It doesnt matter if you never went to art school, you dont have to know how to mix colors.


To use Variations:

  1. Select what you want to change

  1. Click ORIGINAL in the upper left corner
    **This is a very important step. Next time you come to Variations it will automatically apply the changes you made this time to the image. If you dont click ORIGINAL, your image will change in ways you dont want it to.

  2. Notice the different images previews. Click the image previews, and thats what your image will look like! Basically, you will hunt around for the preview that looks most like what youre shooting for. Then look at all of the previews again and see if you can get the image closer to what you want. Work slowly. Its okay to click twenty different previews.

.       You can adjust the amount of color change by fiddling with the "Fine - Course" slider.

.       You can adjust shadows, midtones, highlights, and saturation in Variations

.       If you will use a variation setting over and over, you can save it and load again next time you need it.

.       Variations tend to over or under saturate. Adjust the saturation to make a change appear normal.



Below are some examples of images changed with Variations

Emily has one green eye!


Balloons at sunset!


Im not sure which is better!

If you hit CTRL/CMD + Z more than once, youll just toggle back and forth between your last and current action. This is incredibility useful when trying to decide if you like an image better now, or before your most recent change.