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Don't let color casts spoil your appetite for well-balanced images

Added on Saturday 13th of May 2006 02:00 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Photographs often absorb surrounding background colors, leaving the image with an unsightly color cast. But all hope isn’t lost; we’ll show you how to eliminate harsh color casts from your images with a Curves adjustment layer.


To eliminate color casts from your images, we’ll:

     Fill you in on what causes the color casts so you can strive to avoid them in the future.

     Explain why Curves are better than Variations when adjusting overall color casts.

     Describe how to analyze your image by checking the neutral gray values, and also looking at Variations for a visual reference.

     Show you how to set up an adjustment layer to preserve the integrity of your image.

     Outline the steps necessary to remove your color cast with Curves for precision control.



While it may be common for an image to pick up nasty background colors and cast them through your entire image, you don’t have to like it. And, more importantly, you do need to address the problem. We’ll show you how to tame that color with the help of a curves adjustment layer, as shown in Figure A .



A2- Corrected


Why such a color cast?

Color casts aren’t uncommon; however you can avoid them, if you know what to look for. There are many different ways that an image can obtain a color cast. Most of them are undesirable, however, we’ll show you which ones you’ll want to retain in your image.

        When photographing images with film, a color cast is often introduced when the temperature of the lighting doesn’t match the color balance of the film.

        When photographing images with a digital camera, a color cast is often introduced when the temperature of the lighting doesn’t match the white balance settings of the camera.

        When scanning images, a color cast is often introduced for a variety of reasons, such as not working in a color managed workflow, scanning without a scanner profile, or when equipment needs maintenance, such as when the bulb needs to be changed or the glass needs to be cleaned.

        When photographing outdoor images, a color cast is often introduced under strong lighting conditions, such as dusk, dawn, or high noon. These color casts are usually desirable to keep in the image, as they create an overall mood for the shot.


Why Curves are better than Variations

You can easily go into the Variations command, and, with a few simple clicks, come out with a quick fix to your color dilemma. But quick isn’t always better, and Curves are actually a more suitable tool for the job, for a number of reasons.

        Curves offer numeric control over the coordinates of the color’s input and output, making them more precise than Variations.

        Curves offer the flexibility of adjusting each individual channel.

        You can adjust Curves in an adjustment layer, which is nondestructive to your image’s pixels, while you can’t do so with Variations.


Analyze your image

The first step to removing a color cast from your image is to determine what color is causing the problem. At first glance, it’s easy to see that our image has way too much yellow present; however, not all images will be that simple. We’ll show you how to analyze the neutral gray in your image, to investigate your problem.


Check the neutral grays

In an RGB image, an area is neutral gray when it contains equal values of Red, Green, and Blue. So, you can check the values of a spot in your image that’s supposed to be gray, and check the RGB values in the info palette to see what channel is off.


Note: Not only can you analyze your images through the neutral gray, many times you can also apply a quick fix to your color cast through them. For more on this technique, see our companion article “Quickly eliminate a color cast by targeting your midtones.”


To analyze the neutral gray in your image:

1.       Select the Color Sampler Tool color_Sampler from the tool box.



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