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Balance the colors in your images using Variations

Added on Thursday 5th of April 2012 03:49 am EST

by G. H. Cloutier
Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photoshop gives you a wide variety of color correction tools to work with. One of these tools is Variations, which even if you don’t use this tool to make the actual correction, it can help you identify a color cast.


To understand color balance using Photoshop’s Variations command, we’ll:

  1. Go over what the command actually does.
  2. Explain how you how to take advantage of the different settings you can use to correct your images with. 
  3. Show you how to balance the colors in your image making them both neutral and rich.


If you’ve ever printed color photographs, then you have some understanding of how to add and subtract colors until you achieve color balance. Photoshop offers a command called Variations that mimics the process of color printing and can help you achieve color balance in your images. The Variations command allows you to see multiple copies of the image (with slight color alterations) simultaneously. Since you’re able to easily compare the images you can achieve neutrality without a lot of fuss.


Color adjustments
The Variations command works well on images that need a general color adjustment, such as our street scene shown in Figure A. You can use this command on either CMYK or RGB images. In this case, our image is in RGB, and you can see at a glance that it’s far too red. So, we know we’ll need to counteract the red in some way. However, we want to be careful not to remove too much or the image will start to look too green.



To begin, open an image that you feel needs some color adjustment. To apply Variations to the image, choose Image > Adjustments (Adjust) > Variations. In the resulting dialog box, shown in Figure B, your image appears 12 times. By changing the settings and looking at these multiple copies, you’ll be able to see which settings look best for your image.



The controls
When you look at the dialog box, you can see that Variations controls are not super-precise, but they are quite functional. In the upper-left portion of the dialog box, you can see the Original image and the Current Pick. The Current Pick is the same as the Current Pick in the center of the image array. When you open the dialog box, your image is instantly adjusted according to the current settings. Since they’re right next to each other, you can easily compare any changes you make t...


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