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Tip for fixing difficult colour casts in PS

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November 5th, 2009, 10:02 AM
Mega Super Mommy
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: San Jose, Ca
Posts: 1,000
If you're having a particularly hard time with white balance, it might be worth giving this a try. I don't have a 100% success rate with it, but when it works, it works really well!

1. Open picture.

2. Duplicate background layer.

3. Click the icon below the layer palette for a new fill/adjustment layer (the little half black, half white circle) and from the fly-out menu, select Threshold.

4. In the pop-up box, drag the slider all the way to the left so that the image goes completely white. Drag it back towards the middle until the first black pixels start to appear. These are the darkest pixels on your image and you're going to use these to set the black point. Click OK. If your image never turns completely white, don't worry - just don't drag the slider back, and use those black pixels as your target in the next step.

5. Select your colour sampler tool (in the eye dropper menu) and change the Sample Size (in the top tool bar) to 3 by 3 average. Click the sampler on the black pixels of your threshold layer. You'll see a little target appear with the number 1 next to it.

6. Double click on the threshold layer icon in the layer palette (NOT the mask icon to the right: the b/w square icon on the left (or it may be the half black, half white circle) to bring up the threshold sliders again.

7. Drag the slider all the way to the right until your image turns completely black. Drag the slider towards the middle until the first white pixels start to appear. Click ok. These are the lightest pixels in your image and will be used to set the white point.

8. Again select your colour sampler tool and click on the white pixels on the threshold layer. A little target with the number 2 next to it will appear.

9. Delete your threshold layer by dragging it into the bin. Your targets remain behind on the colour image.

10. Click Edit > Fill and in the contents drop down menu, change it to 50% gray. Click OK. The duplicated layer will fill with grey. Change the blend mode to difference.

11. As in step 3, add another new threshold adjustment layer.

12. This time, you will see only half a histogram. Drag the slider all the way to the left then drag back to the right until the first black pixels appear. These are your midtones.

13. Again, take your colour sampler tool and click on those pixels, creating a little target with the number 3 next to it.

14. Delete both your threshold layer and your duplicated, grey layer. Your targets will still be visible on your original colour image.

15. Bring up the Curves dialogue (Ctrl+M or Image > Adjustments > Curves). In the bottom right, you will see 3 pipettes. From left to right, they are for setting the black, mid-grey and white points respectively. You need to set the correct target colours first, so double click on the black (left most) pipette and enter 20, 20, 20 as the RGB values.

16. Double click on the middle pipette (the mid-gray point) and enter 128, 128, 128 for the RGB values. Double click on the right hand pipette (white point) and enter 240, 240, 240. When you close the curves dialogue later (NOT NOW!) you will be asked if you want to save these as the default values. Saying yes will avoid you having to take this step again

17. With the curves dialogue still on screen, click once on the black point sampler (left one) and click it in the centre of target number 1 (the one you set as your black point earlier on). Click once on the white point sampler (right hand one) and click it in the centre of target 2. Click once on the mid-grey sampler (middle one) and click it in the center of target 3.

18. Hey presto - your image should be colour corrected!! NB: If at any point you can't see the targets, it's probably because your colour sampler has defaulted to the eye dropper tool. Mine does that occasionally. Just reselect the colour sampler and you should see the targets again. When you're done with the correction, with the colour sampler tool selected, click on clear in the top menu bar and your targets will be removed.
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