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Color (Wheel) Correction (Pt. 2/2)

You’ve done your color correction, via whatever method you prefer or the one that worked best for the photo at hand, but it still doesn’t look quite right. Here’s a way to “tweak” it using the color wheel – yes, the good old preliminary art tool, the color wheel! This works best, I’ve found, after you’ve corrected heavy color casts using the aforementioned methods, and are left with tints you’d like to adjust.

Here’s where we left off yesterday, still looking a bit on the bluish side:


If you’re adjusting color tints on a photo, as opposed to big time color casts, a great way to do this is by using the color wheel. No, that’s not a hidden feature of Photoshop (but maybe it should be…hmmm), I mean that by looking at a good old fashioned color wheel, you can determine the opposite color of the tint you are trying to correct and apply a fill layer or photo filter in that color to help correct that tint.


Since the opposite of blue on the color wheel is orange, I applied an orange Photo Filter Adjustment.


Keep tweaking using the color wheel until you’re happy with the color. In this case, it’s now looking a bit yellow to me, so I find the opposite of yellow, which is purple, and apply a purple Photo Filter Adjustment.


At this point, I’m feeling the overall photo is still too washed out, so I go back and repeat the fist step, the Levels Adjustment, “Midtones Darker” preset, this time lowering the opacity to around 25%. Next, we’ll do a Hue / Saturation adjustment level. If you’re not using Photoshop CS4, just bump the sliders up bit by bit on each of the colors in the drop down menu, always keeping an eye on the overall effect. In PS CS4, use the “little hand over the arrow” button, which is an individual color slider. You can go to any place on your photo, and select it with the Eyedropper that will appear. Slide your pen (mouse) to the left or right to adjust that tone. On this photo, I adjusted the blues, reds, magentas, yellows and cyans.


A major problem with this photo is that it has areas, on the knees, face and hands, that are very close to being blown out. Here’s a little trick to help tone down small areas of near blow out. This will only work if the area isn’t completely blown out, that is, no information left at all. Select a color, with the Eyedropper Tool, that is close to the areas you want to tone down. In this case I took a sample from the cheek area of the face. On a new, blank layer, paint over the lightest areas. You can also find the lightest areas using Levels, Curves or Calculations, if you’re so inclined.


When all the areas are painted in, change the Layer Blend Mode of the layer to Soft Light and lower the opacity to around 85%, or whatever looks best to you.


At this point you can make a few more small color tint adjustments, using the color wheel and photo filters if you feel it’s necessary. I went ahead and put a little more red back in, as I felt it was still leaning a little bit towards blue, at a very low opacity, about 20%. Pay attention to the skin tone. Asian skin, which this is, will be a little more on the yellow side, but not bright yellow! Find examples on the internet of different skin tones to base your colors on. If you use a yellow Photo Filter Adjustment use it at a very low opacity! One final thing you might do with this photo is a Curves Adjustment, taking it down a bit darker. The mask will be white. Change the foreground color to white and paint the person out. Since the colors of the skin, the clothes and the background are so similar, this makes the main subject pop a little more.


And here we are, from beginning to end:


If you have digital photo restoration questions or tutorial requests, email me at janine @ landailyn.com (no spaces, obvs)! I’d love to hear from you!

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

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