Color Techniques For Retouching


Lesson Info

Brightness Contrast Adjustment Layers

Brightness contrast. One of the things with brightness contrast that I want to talk about is there is a legacy version. And I'm trying to think of a politically correct way to say this but legacy version feels like, for me, that when Photoshop did this development, they kinda went, "It's kinda like new Coke." And then kinda went, "Oh, I don't know about "this new Coke, should we hang onto the old Coke?" So what they've done in brightness contrast is they've hung on to the old version and they've done it for a few reasons. So let's talk about this. My bias is about to show a little bit about brightness contrast. And perhaps what you could do is just write this down as a note. I believe with brightness and contrast that, aw heck, I'm just gonna say it. I think it's an amateurish ritual. I think if you wanna control tone contrast, you're better off using levels and curves. I do have a little bias about this, however it's not to say that people don't get perfectly good results with this ad...

justment layer, it's just that I know from my work I wanna have a little bit more control and this is just a little too single buttony for me. Single buttony, is that a word? Think it is now. I just made up my own vocabulary here. So with brightness contrast it controls, quite literally, brightness and contrast, alright? Now, this brings me to an opportunity here to talk about the auto button. The dreaded dun-dun-dun. Do you guys have sound effects? Wouldn't that be awesome, little sound effects? You can click the auto button and have brightness contrast decide for you how your levels of your blacks should be. I'm not a big fan of this. I am gonna talk about some of these functions later on. So I just feel like I should tell ya, it's there, you can use it, I'm not a fan, but that's alright. So brightness and contrast quite literally, as we said, controls the density... Density, there's a good word... And the contrast. Now what they have here, is they have this legacy button. And the legacy button allows you to actually control these in a whole different way. So what that means, and I'm gonna go backwards here for just a second. Brightness and contrast. So if we look a the properties menu, this is set at negative 50 and positive 60. On the legacy one, here on the right, it's set at the exact same code. Do you see that? Minus 50, minus 60. And what you're getting is a completely different result. So I cannot tell you the algorithm why that is, I cannot tell you, I don't know why it is. But that's how it works and I will tell you the only reason I use brightness and contrast, again, no judgment here, well, a little bit of judgment. What I tend to use brightness and contrast for is for masks. What? I use brightness and contrast for masks. Now what I mean by that is it allows you to crunch up or tighten or sharpen or harden a mask. So I'm on a mask on this little fox image. Not a fox, I'm sorry, it's a wolf. I'm biologically challenged you can see. And I'm gonna have to go to adjustments. What? I have to go to adjustments. Why have to do this is adjustment layers do not work on channels. A mask is a channel, okay? So I have to go to image, adjust, brightness and contrast. And what it allows me to do is, it allows me to sharpen or tighten or choke... I'm trying to use all kinda words that you guys might use... a mask, but what it does is it does it from the endpoints. So it'll take it from solid black to solid white, and bring it in or pull it out. And it leaves that 50% gray of the mask exactly where it's at so you can easily choke or expand a mask using brightness and contrast. And for that it is fantastic. So let me be very very clear. Image, adjust, brightness contrast. And while I'm doing that I'm on the mask of that layer. Okay? So it is the same as the adjustment layer. It's the same thing only it's hidden somewhere secret that you don't get to see and it's up here. I'm on a channel. Again I don't wanna talk too much about basic Photoshop stuff but masks live in channels. That's where they live, they're black and white only. And that is why you have to go to image, adjust, brightness contrast. Cool? You guys with me? Again it's a great, and I will tell you it is a great thing to use it for. So brightness contrast as far as an adjustment layer, I personally don't like it. It's not that it's not valid or a good tool, it's just that for me it's a little too generic. Maybe I can use that term, generic. Okay? Brightness contrast again, controls contrast. Nothing too big about that. Alright. I'm gonna take a moment here to just once again look at these adjustment layers. So what you can see is I'm kinda going down this way through the adjustment layers, however what you'll find is, like the solid color adjustment, I might use that, but for color, I might also wanna go to hue saturation, or color balance. And what I feel I need to tell you is these aren't necessarily in order of usage. Meaning solid color you could use, or hue saturation for color, they're not next to each other. They're down the row. So as you guys are exploring these, you can't necessarily just go in order when you're looking to see what an effect will be. Hopefully that'll be a little helpful.

There are countless options for manipulating, changing and correcting color your photographs. Clear up the confusion by joining professional finisher, Lisa Carney in her exclusive class focusing just on color. In this course, Lisa will identify and clarify different adjustment layers, walk through a professional’s workflow for color correction, and dive into working with curves.

You’ll learn:

  • How to work with gradient fills and gradient maps
  • Working with Hue and Saturation
  • Setting up a Color workflow system
  • Using Gradient Maps for Color Correction
  • How to use curves for matching color and tone

Handle color like a pro by learning from one of the best retouchers in Hollywood. Join Lisa for this extensive and in-depth look on working with color in Photoshop®.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017.1.0



  • This is an EXCELLENT class for Photoshop users! Lisa is very professional, knowledgeable and, also, a delight to watch and listen to! Not only that she explains the concepts but she also shares her own experience and her practical ways of using those concepts! Great, great class! Thank you, Lisa and CreativeLive!
  • I am really enjoying this class! Lisa makes complicated concepts easy to understand. She presents various ways of doing things so that you have options and can use the method that best works for your own situation. She moves quickly through the material, which I appreciate, and I since I own the class I know I can go back and review material when I need to. I love her style and approach to teaching, as well as her real world anecdotes and the way she shares her experience, both good and bad examples from her career. I'm so glad I purchased this class!
  • This course has an abundance of useful information along with professional tips based on actual field experience. This course is definitely one I will come back to from time to time to reiterate the information. For this reason the way it is organised is perfect to find information about a specific technique or adjustment layer. It is well composed with some humour and advanced information. Loved it and highly recommend it for people who want to deal with the little details and get things exactly the way they want. Not suitable for lazy or sloppy people who just want to get the job good enough for sharing but don't care about getting it perfect for print.