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Tweaking Color Balance in Photoshop

Sometimes an image may have a slight color cast, either due to white balance issues or simply because you remember it looking different than your camera does. Even if all you want is to be able to tweak the color slightly to give an image a different feel it's nice to have an easy way to do it. As with most things in Photoshop, there are any number of ways to adjust color balance, but the easiest is the aptly named Image >> Adjustments >> Color Balance.

Of course I prefer to access the same dialog via the New Adjustment Layer option, but either way you get there the options are the same. And compared to many dialogs in Photoshop, they are actually fairly straightforward.

Colors are divided into channels with a slider for each. By adjusting the sliders you can control the color balance between Cyan and Red, between Magenta and Green, and between Yellow and Blue. The dialog further breaks things down loosely into Shadows, Midtones and Highlights. By selecting one of these under Tone Balance and then adjusting the sliders under Color Balance you can change the overall color of the image you are working on.

At the very bottom of the dialog is a checkbox for "Preserve Luminosity." Keeping it checked is a good idea as this prevents the image from changing brightness (luminosity) as you adjust the color balance.

Color Balance is generally best for trying to tweak the overall color of an image rather than correcting issues with parts of an image although you can use it with a layer mask or selection if you so choose. Be forewarned that the range of the color balance sliders is deceiving. It takes only a small change on the slider to change the appearance of an image. Don't overdo it or you will end up with strange results. It's all too easy to oversaturate the color you are trying to enhance.

Other than that, go ahead and have some fun. Many images can benefit from modest color balance corrections, so you should have plenty of opportunity to have fun.

The Photoshop CS3 Color Balance dialog
The Photoshop CS3 Color Balance dialog
Creating a Color Balance adjustment layer
Creating a Color Balance adjustment layer

Date posted: May 18, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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Color Balance Adjustment with Levels
Color Balance Adjustment with Curves

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