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Describing Color

Lesson 2 from: Color Techniques For Retouching

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

2. Describing Color

Next Lesson: Color Settings

Lesson Info

Describing Color

So, the first part I'm gonna talk about RGB versus CMYK, and then we're gonna talk about some color terminology. I know this can be a little dry, but I think if we're not on the same page with our language, it can get a little confusing, so bear with me. We're just gonna go through some technical stuff, briefly and quickly. So, first, let's talk about RGB versus CMYK. And there are for many people, there's a big issue, ooh, do I retouch in CMYK, or do I retouch in RGB? I'm gonna give you my philosophy, and you choose what works for you. I prefer to only work in RGB. There's a multitude of reasons. For one, there are millions of effects and filters that you can do in RGB, that you cannot do in CMYK. And in entertainment, in particular, they use every single one of them. So, it's necessary for me. In addition, file size. So file sizes can get out of control in general, and I kid you not, I often work on 32 gig files. And my poor little computer is arrr, it's too much. So when you have a ...

CMYK file, your file's even that much bigger, 'cause you have an extra channel in there. So, that's a minor reason, but it does add up, time wise. Now, when you're working in RBG, you also need to consider what's gonna happen to your file if it's going to print. If it's gonna go CMYK, excuse me. So think about it this way, your end destination. You need to know your end destination when you start. Now, with the advent of social media, it's gotten really problematic because what I do, print retouching, used to always end up on a printed page. That was it. Print. Well now, it's no longer just print. It's print and screen, and they're equally important. So, when you're designing and or retouching, in your mind, you have to constantly think about, where is this going? And when I'm working on RGB images, if I know it's going to CMYK, I can't deliver a super saturated RBG image that's not gonna match the print that's out in the world. Hopefully, that makes sense. So, I'm not telling you which way to do it, I'm telling you to be aware of it. That you need to know if you're working in RBG or if you're working in CMYK, in the end, and what your final destination's gonna be. Okay? Now in addition to that, if you see here, we're gonna talk about color spaces. You get to choose within RGB or CMYK, which color space you're gonna use. Oh my God. See there's lots of choices here. So, I'm gonna try to break that down a little bit. In terms of terminology, I would like to tell you, just to make sure we're on, not tell you, but discuss. So when I talk about chroma, 'cause I will use that reference with color. I'll say, oh the chroma is too hot, or the chroma needs to come down. It's the purity or the vibrancy of the color. Now many people will say saturation. And you can use that as well. Maybe I'm old school, but chroma is a word I will use, and I want you to know that's what I'm referring to when I talk about vibrancy. Now, I just said saturation. One of the things I'd like you to consider, or think about when we're talking about hue, saturation, or luminosity. So when someone says, the hue, what they should be referring to, and I do say should, is the actual color. The hue. The color. But many people often will say hue, meaning saturation. So you gotta be really careful about your language in here, and I just wanna make sure we are on the same page. If I'm saying hue, I am saying color. What is the color? Not the chroma. Not how bright it is, but what it is. Why this gets very tricky in Photoshop is the hue saturation adjustment layer, which everyone uses. I use it all the time. Nowhere does that say chroma in there. Aw. So I just wanna make sure we're cool. Saturation refers to the intensity of the color. So if you look at the bottom of this image, it's gray, and as it goes up, it goes saturated. Okay? Luminosity. Luminosity is, think of it as the light value. Lumens, for light. Okay, so hue, saturation, luminosity. Color, intensity let's say, and light value. Okay? And here's another image to show you basically the same thing. So if you look at this Hawaiian seascape, you can see the color on hue, you can see the saturation, it goes from gray up to saturated, and luminosity, is the light value.

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Color Channel Explanation Images
Color Techniques Workbook

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Outline Cards
Adobe Stock Contributor

Ratings and Reviews


Another awesome course by Lisa Carney, packed full of information This course is really a comprehensive look at colors ... I learned so much, and even stuff I thought I knew pretty well, I found some pretty eye opening new information. I find Lisa Carney to be a wonderful teacher. When she has an important point to make she'll say her point, pause and then repeat what she just said, just to lock it into your memory. Fantastic. Side note: I signed up for the CreativeLive creative pass as soon as I realized how great all of Lisa Carney's classes are. I'd started to buy them one by one and quickly realized they are all wonderful. You can watch this class from beginning to end and get great information ... but to get the most bang for the buck you'll want to pause, hit rewind, get a cup of coffee, open Photoshop and try out her tips while you watch. There are sections I rewound and watched about 5 times, to be sure I understood all the subtle points. Lisa Carney is pretty amazing - she works really hard to thoroughly explain the process she uses to solve problems, and she never glosses over anything important. To cover a particular point, she'll start with a finished file with all the layers - and instead of simply explaining each layer like a mortal would do, she'll literally delete all the adjustment layers and start from scratch to show the process. This is incredibly empowering since it gives you an understanding of just how easy the process can be once you get the hang of it


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!

Maggie Lobl

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!

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