Color Adjustments in Photoshop

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Sometimes you have an image that needs some help in the color department. It might have been shot with an incorrect camera setting, it might have a color cast (an unwanted tint of a specific color), or it might just be dull and dingy. Photoshop provides you with an incredible array of commands and tools to make the colors in your images look just right. You'll hear the term color correction being tossed about, but not all images have incorrect color. Some have very good color that can be great color. Instead of color correction, I like to think in terms of color improvement. And just about every image can use a little tweaking to improve its color.

"Here, Spot!" What is a spot color?

Spot colors in your image are printed by using premixed inks of exactly that color. (We're talking commercial printing press here, not your run-of-the-mill inkjet printer.) To properly prepare a spot color for press, it needs to be in its own spot channel, which is a separate color channel in which you show where and how the ink will be applied. (Channels in your image are eventually used to create the actual printing plates that pick up ink and put it on paper.) Because spot channels are used with CMYK images, dark represents more. Where you need the spot color at 100% strength, paint directly in the spot channel with black. In areas where you want only a light tint of the spot color, use a light gray.

You create your spot channel by selecting the Spot Channel command from the Channels palette menu. Click the color swatch in the New Spot Channel dialog box to open the color libraries. (If you see the regular Color Picker, click the Color Libraries button.) Select the appropriate book (collection of colors; see the figure here) for your project; then select your color. Click OK in the New Spot Channel dialog box to accept the color, do not change the name of the spot channel, and then click OK. You can now paint or copy/paste into that new channel.

When saving images with spot channels, you can use the PSD file format (if the image will be placed into an InDesign document), PDF, TIFF, or DCS 2.0. Check with the person handling the layout or the print shop to see which is required.

How do you know when the color is right? Your primary tool for the job is in your head. Literally. Make your decisions based primarily on what your eyes tell you. Sure, you can check the Info palette and the Histogram palette to make sure that your shadows are black and your highlights are white, but adjust your images until they look good to you — until you're satisfied with the color.

That little icon to the left is a little scary, but it does get your attention, doesn't it? This isn't a your-computer-will-blow-up sort of warning but more of a you-don't-want-to-waste-your-time-and-effort warning. Do your tonal adjustments before you start working with the image's colors. Go through the procedures in Chapter 5 first and then use the techniques here. Why? If you get perfect hue and saturation and then start making tonal adjustments, you're likely to knock your colors out of whack again. And, of course, there's also the possibility that adjusting your image's tonality will make the colors look perfect!

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