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Color Adjustments in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 5 of 6

Match Colors Using Numbers

Ben Willmore

Color Adjustments in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

5. Match Colors Using Numbers

Lesson Info

Match Colors Using Numbers

But you're gonna find that there's three colors that Hue and Saturation simply cannot deal with. And those three colors are not colors at all because they can be found in black and white photographs, and if a black and white photograph is not a colored photograph, then what's found within them are not colors. Instead, they're shades of gray. That means white, black, and gray, you cannot change using Hue and Saturation, because how did Hue and Saturation isolate a color? It ended up isolating based on hue, which means basic color, and in that bar at the bottom, you didn't see any blacks, any whites, or any grays. And therefore, it can't isolate or change those things. Therefore, when I had this first image open, if this background happens to be perfectly gray, and I'm not sure if it is, if there's some hint of color, it can change it. But if there's not, then moving Hue will change the color of everything in those bottles, 'cause they're color. But that background, it won't be able to c...

hange. Unless you do one thing. There's a Colorize checkbox, and that'll add color to the image, like takes all the color out and then forces color in, and that could do it. But, that's mainly for colorizing black and white pictures. So out of these hats, we could change the color of every single one of those hats. But the problem would be, the color of this hat is very similar to the color of this hat, and I doubt I'd be able to isolate it precisely. I bet you the darker areas on this hat are so similar in color to the darker areas in this hat, that it wouldn't be able to fully isolate it. So that's why we use adjustment layers. And with adjustment layers, we can paint on a mask to limit where things are changed. So here if I go to Hue and Saturation and I click on the red hat, and I see if that's good enough to be able to change its color. Let's get a purplish hat, maybe a little less colorful. There we go. And I just don't like that the other hats changed. Well, I grab my paintbrush tool, I paint with black. And as long as I used an adjustment layer, the adjustment layer will have a mask attached to it, and you can come over here and wherever you paint with black, you will prevent that change from happening. And so then the only area where I need to be precise is where this little shelf comes up and touches the hat. I'll get a harder edge brush. And you can click, hold Shift and click somewhere else and you get a straight line. Do that a few times. And now I've just made that hat shift colors without the others that are similar. There is some of the shadow on the right of it that's changing. So I just paint with black. So I didn't want that to change. But the thing I will not be able to change in this image using Hue and Saturation is the white wall that's there, or the hats on the upper right, because they don't have any color to them. They do have a slight hint of yellow, so I'd be able to get a slight hint of a change. But if I need to change that, then I need to switch to a warm cool adjustment. I need to switch to Curves. So let me show you how to precisely match two colors. I want to make the hats on the right side look like the green hat down here. Hue and Saturation won't do it because the color white is not found in there to isolate things. Only if I turn on the Colorize checkbox would I be able to do it. So what I'm gonna do here is I'm gonna make a selection. First let me throw away this current adjustment. And I'll use the Quick Selection tool. And I'm just gonna come in here and paint across the hats in the hope of isolating them. We can always touch it up later. I'm gonna then come in here and do a Curves adjustment layer. And this is where the info panel is gonna be useful. The info panel gives me a precise description of the color that's underneath my mouse. So, if I move my mouse on to what I'd like to match, I would like those hats to become this color. Well, with my mouse on top of those hats, I can look in the info panel. And when I look up there, I see numbers for red, green, and blue. And I can grab a pen, which I happen to have in my hand here, and I can write down those numbers, 125, 180, and 76. I have just effectively written down the color that's under my mouse. When you're in the info panel, if you see two sets of numbers divided by a slash, it means you're in the middle of adjusting a picture. You have an adjustment active and the numbers on the left are what you started with. And the numbers on the right are the result of your adjustment. So if the area where your mouse is changed at all, you'd see before and after numbers. All right, well now in Curves, I want to adjust the precise amount of red, green, and blue that's in that hat. And I can do that by going over here to red. I could move my mouse on top of the part of the hat I want to change. And just like when I was in a separate lesson about tonal adjustments, I could click to have it add a dot for that color, the amount of red that's in there. But, I could do the same thing with green. I could move my mouse up there and click, and I could do the same thing for blue. But there's a way to get Photoshop to do it to all three of those at the same time. And that's what I'm gonna use. It's a trick. If you have that hand icon turned on in Curves, then here's the weird trick. You have to hold down two keys in your keyboard. On a Macintosh, it's Shift + Command. On Windows, that would be Shift + Control. I'm holding them both down right now, and I'm gonna click the mouse button. What did it just do? All it did is it looked at the numbers that were in the Info panel and it wrote them down. Then it went into Curves and under red, it added a brand new dot. It's right there. And the number that shows up down here, is the exact number that was in the Info panel. So it measured the amount of red and added a dot for it. When you go to green, you got the same thing. We got a dot, and it's the exact amount of green that was in the hat. Then you go to blue and we got a dot for it. It's the exact amount of blue that's in the hat. Well, when you look at those numbers at the bottom, they're indicating, talking about the little dot that was just added, then you have both input and output. Input means what did you start with, output means what are you gonna end with. Well, do you remember when I had that other hat sitting there, the one I said I wanted to match? I grabbed a pen and I wrote down some numbers. Well, I'm gonna type in the numbers in here, wherever it says output, 'cause that's what I'm gonna end up with. Right now, I'm seeing red in the menu at the top so I'm gonna type in the first number, 125. Then I'm gonna switch this menu to green. And down here, I'm gonna type in the second number, which was 180. Then I'm going to switch to blue, and I'm gonna type in the third number I wrote down, which is 76. So therefore, the input numbers are how much red, green, and blue we used to have in the hat. And the output numbers are the amount of red, green, and blue we got from the hat we wanted to change, or match. The only problem is, it's gonna look a little weird because you see the shape of these curves, how they have like a abrupt angle to them? So the result will look a little weird, but we'll have to fix that. When I zoom out though, look at the hats on the right. The stack of hats in the upper right. Those are the ones I were attempting to change. And the area that I clicked on within it did become the shade of green I desired. The only problem is, the areas brighter than that and the areas darker than that look a little odd. And that's because the curve I just applied looks a little odd in the bright and dark areas. Right now, the areas that used to use as much blue as you possibly could use are still using that amount, even though an area just the tiniest bit darker than that is using a lot less. So all I gotta do is adjust this corner little dot and bring it down close to the other one that's there so it doesn't look like some odd shape. Instead, it looks like a nice, smooth shape here. Do the same thing over here to green. Grab the dot in the upper right. That's the dot for white, bring it straight down until that whole curve just looks like a normal, nice little thing. And what we got left? Red. Grab its dot, bring it down to get it a nice, smooth shape. Now if we zoom out, look at the hats. It's a little bit generic when it comes to highlights and shadows, but it's all green. We could always do a separate Curves adjustment layer and try to brighten the highlights, darken the shadows, or anything like that. Or I can even come in here and there's a pop-up menu at the top of the Layers panel. It's known as a blending mode, and I could set it to a choice called Color, which might end up doing it. But the problem with Color is that would end up not being able to change the brightness. And those hats, if you think about how bright they were originally, they were almost white. That's not quite gonna work. But there are sometimes other choices that are in here that would. Things like Multiply or Darken will often allow you to do that kinda thing. So in this case, I think Multiply's a little bit better. So, any time you need to precisely match one area to another, then you most likely want to use the numbers that are found in the Info panel. You put your mouse on top of the area you want to match, you write down the numbers in the Info panel. In essence, you're writing down the color that was found there. And then we can adjust the area until it matches. So I could use that here if I wanted the right side of the sky to match the left side of the sky. So if you want to see that, I could first select the central portion so I don't affect the building that's here. I could come in here and use Curves. I can't use Hue and Saturation because I can't isolate black, white, or gray. And that area on the right side of the sky is close to white. But I can with Curves. With Curves, I can move my mouse onto this area. Let's say it's right here. I want to get that to look like the other side. And there was a way to get it to add dots to all three curves. All it's gonna do is measure the amount of red, green, and blue that's currently in there and add dots to the appropriate locations to indicate that amount. And that was by holding down Shift + Command, and I click. That just added dots on my curves. Then to figure out what to adjust it to, I'm just gonna hover right over in here to say this is what I want to match, right there. I look in my info panel and I see some numbers. I'm gonna write them down. and 140. I, in essence, wrote down the color that my mouse is under right now. I'm then gonna come in here to the three curves. Red, it should already have a dot that was added at the moment I clicked within my picture, and I'm just gonna type in an output number of one. You see how much bluer that side of the image became? I'm gonna then go to green, if I can get to it. Green. The number I've written down, it's the second number. 71. It's gettin' lot more blue over there on the side, isn't it? And then I go to blue. The number I have is 140. And sometimes, it's not gonna be exactly what you expect. Well okay, here we ended up with yes, that tiny little brightest area ended up getting the right color, but the rest became black. Well, that's because, look at this curve. And going to the very bottom means no light whatsoever. And so you see how the majority of the curve went all the way to the bottom? So this is similar. Anytime you're working really close to white or really close to black, you're gonna end up with an issue, which is you have a dot really close to the right edge of your screen. And so grab the dot that's all the way to the right edge, and just bring it down until it's no longer a radical shape. Instead, it's just a nice, smooth line. And do the same thing to the others. It's gonna be when you're really close to the end so you need to do that. That one I already did and that means red is probably leftover. And this one went all the way to the bottom. So, let's see if it looks better when I bring it all the way to the bottom or not. Yeah, it's fine. But now, I adjusted the entirety of that circle. And I only needed it on the right side so now I'll grab my paintbrush tool, I'll paint with black. And I need a huge soft edge brush. The larger your brush is, the softer the edge becomes. And wherever I paint with black, I'll remove the adjustment. So I'm just gonna remove it from over here. You can lower the opacity of your brush. Maybe I bring the opacity down to, I don't know, 10 or 20% 'cause there's I think a little bit less I need right up here. Maybe a little bit less right in here. But, I just made, if I turn this off, before, after I matched the other side. I could grab my Selection tool, come in here and select these other areas that are in between these columns on the right side 'cause I didn't think about them before. And then without a mask active, I'm just gonna fill those areas with the color that allows the adjustment to come through, which means fill with white. Fill with white, all right. Look what we just did. That's pretty cool, I think, but you have to get comfortable with curves. And with curves, the main thing is the numbers are key. The numbers describe a color. If I want one area to match another area, I need the numbers to match. And then it's a matter of should it affect your entire picture or not? So you have to paint on the mask. So I'm not gonna do it here just because of limited time, but you see these guys that have been sittin' out in the sun? I caught these guys in Moscow. They're hangin' out. I could get rid of their sunburn. How would I do it? Well, you see right here is non sunburned skin. Well, why not get the numbers that are in here to become the numbers that are over here? And then you could mask it into the skin. In this particular case though, their sunburn is a particular color. So I could get away with using Hue and Saturation, and therefore, I could most likely isolate it and adjust it. I mean here, I'll just click on the image. You remember slamming those sliders together? Then we have the eyedroppers. So, click. I bring saturation down just so I can see the range I've isolated then grab the eyedropper with the plus sign if I need to expand. And then these other areas, I'm not gonna quite call them sunburn here. It's kind of a fade out area. So I might spread the little side sliders. You remember these? This means fade into. So I just pull that out about like that and it'll fade into these others. But see if I can get all of the sunburn to look black and white-ish. Then bring the saturation back up to the middle. And if I want to go from sunburn to non sunburn in here, how would I do it? Well, if this was sunburn and that's not, it'd be moving to the right slightly. So I move this to the right slightly. Go too far it's gonna become green. Then sunburn is darker than un-sunburned skin, so I need to brighten it up a little. And it might be a little bit more colorful, or less. Turn this adjustment layer off. Before, after. And if it's too much, lower the opacity. Or if there's a red car in the background, paint on the mask.

Class Description


  • Utilize the numbers in the Info Panel for precision adjustments
  • Understand how to isolate and shift colors using a Hue/Saturation adjustment
  • Color Correct an image using Curves
  • Apply a Gradient Map to simulate sunrise or sunset
  • Match color between images or objects


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)

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Karen K Hafenstein

I have 120 years of teachers in my family. I have seen a lot of natural teachers and Ben Willmore is one of the best. The preparation he does for his classes is amazing. His dialogue throughout hits every detail and shows his prowess as an instructor. Thank you, Ben!! I always loved Photoshop but now I actually understand it!