I recently learned a new technique to make your colors really go crazy from Mr. Photoshop Universe, Scott Kelby. If anyone is not familiar with Kelby’s line of Photoshop Books, Layers Magazine, the National Association of Photoshop Professions, PhotoshopUserTV.com, etc., consider him the Michael Jordan of Photoshop. Simply put, this guy is a genius in the Digital Darkroom. SOOOOO… when I read of a way to pop the colors in an image that HE learned from SOMEONE ELSE (Dan Margulis), I paid close attention. He was right, this is one SMOKING technique that I would like to share with you in a few simple steps:
1. Open your image and choose IMAGE -> MODE -> LAB COLOR from the menu bar. Be sure you also change the mode to 16bit if it is not already set to 16bit. This gives you the best transitions between colors and prevents colors from being clipped. (8bit = 256 colors, 16bit =65,536 colors).
2. Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl + J). Doing this is not crucial, but will give us room to work later on.
3. Go back to the menu bar and select IMAGE -> APPLY IMAGE. Choose SOFT LIGHT as the blending mode and select either the A or B channel. Lab color and lightness look awful so we are not going to use them. “A” channel makes reds and greens very saturated, while the “B” channel makes the blues more saturated while making greens look more yellow. (It’s a cool way to make green leaves look like early autumn). Don’t worry about the rest, just click OK when you are done.
4. If you need to fine tune the color changes, here is your chance to do it (remember Step 2?). You can drop the opacity of your corrected layer, or add a quick mask and paint with black to remove the color correction from selected areas. If you didn’t create a new layer, you don’t get these options. Flatten when done (Alt + L, then F) or LAYER -> FLATTEN LAYERS.
5. If you have an image that needs correction on the other channel as well, just repeat steps 2-4 and use the opposite channel than the one you chose the first time. Once again, you can add a mask or drop the opacity to suit. This is useful when you have lots of vivid colors in the foreground but want to POP! the sky as well.
6. Sit back and enjoy the new colors and marvel at how easy this really was.
RECOMMENDED READING: If you like this tutorial, I urge you to check out Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 (works for other versions of CS as well).