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Color Grading

Lesson 2 from: Creating a Cinematic Campaign with Special Effects

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

2. Color Grading

Lesson Info

Color Grading

On the Color Grading, I'm gonna show you three different methods of doing Color Grading and we're gonna use Adjustment Layers for this. We're gonna use Gradient Maps, Look Up tables, and Auto Color Curves. And I'm going to show you all of those, how do I wanna explain this? I'm gonna take the same image and do multiple methods on it at the same time. All right. Because I really wanna get you to have the idea down. Some of this stuff is pretty simple or not difficult, let's just rephrase that, not difficult, and I really wanna show it to you so that you put this in, I'd like to call it a bag of tricks. So when you're on a job, you can pull this out and use it whenever you want to. So I'm just gonna throw the mask away on this. This is a very, very, very simple technique called Gradient Map. And down here on your Adjustment Layers, there is something on the bottom, please note it's on the bottom and it's called Gradient Map, versus, I'm gonna throw that away, versus on the top, which is ...

something called the Gradient. Please do not get the two confused. They are very different. A Gradient puts a gradient in your file and a Gradient Map maps the color maps the color you have picked across the tone. Gonna go slow, and then I'm gonna speed up a little so bear with me if this is a little simplistic. So on the Gradient Map, if you click on your bar, the Color Bar, you can load whatever gradient you want. I have file, I kid you not, it's got about 75 gradients in it. And they're all titled with the movies that they came from so that I can pull them up. Now these gradients, I don't view these by names, they're colors so I keep them in a digital file. They're also in that bag of tricks so that when I go to different agencies I already have it. And if they say, "Oh, I want that I, Robot color," I already have that in a gradient already made up. You can also, in Photoshop, save it on the cloud, which is really groovy. So, if you start making gradients, save them and save them out. Okay, so that you can keep them. Cool. And what's nice about this is you can do this for campaigns. So I do a, what do you call it? Gaming campaigns also, and you'll have more than one image so lets say this was, I don't play these games, so I think it's Halo. I'm sorry, I don't know, I don't remember. I, anyway, whatever game this is for, that was image number one, and then that is image number two and then they wanted to have a consistent look across the board. And by the use of Gradient Maps it's one thing and you can get a consistent look, so it's pretty easy. So, Gradient Maps, number one. I've got so much more to show you. It's very exciting. Color, color, color. Now, the same kind of, image, let's just call it. I'm gonna throw the mask away. Our Color Look Up Tables. I love Color Look Up Tables. Again, image number one, Color Look Up Table, image number two with the Color Look Up Table. Now these are canned Color Look Up Tables, so this happens to be the Futuristic Bleak, which is very popular, right there, Futuristic Bleak. But one thing about the Color Look Up Tab, This particular Color Look Up Table, is, I find, when you do one it's not quite enough and I like to double it up. You can make your own Color Look Up Tables. So let's say you come up with a campaign that you like and you have to do multiple break-outs for it, you can compact all your color corrections into a single Color Look Up and then save it with your job. So, but, look how cool that is. I mean, it completely changes your job, just that one, there, and then this. And it adds a little tone. So, Color Look Up Table is a great option. Let's keep going, there's more. All right. Now, let's talk about automating some color. Okay, in my world, what happens a lot is we'll be doing a job and someone comes in and they're like, "Cool, can you match that?" Yeah. I can match that. And what often happens, I find, is folks (sighs) They put a lot of effort into a lot of layers to match color and sometimes it is so easy. So, do you remember that Gradient Map we just did? Let's do another one. So I'm gonna do a Gradient Map. And I wanna be really clear what happens with Gradient Map, I don't care how it looks when it opens, doesn't matter, What happens with Gradient Map, it is going to map the color you pick, it's gonna map the color you pick onto the section you choose. So, right here, these are the Darks, and right now the Darks are given a color of white. Well, that's weird, we'll that's all right. I'm gonna click on my little color box. I'm gonna go to my Match Two item, and I'm gonna pick on the Darks. Oh, let me explain one incredibly and annoying thing about Photoshop with the Gradients. Let me cancel this, I do this every time. Do you see I'm on the mask? When you make an Adjustment Layer, son of a guacamole, you need to be on the code. Do you know what I do, because it drive me nuts, I throw that mask away. I throw that mask away right away, because then I don't have to worry about it. Drives me nuts. Anyway, let's start over. Okay, so here, Gradient Editor. Down here on the right, do you see that black little house right down there on the bottom left? All the blacks are getting a white, all the whites are getting a black. So let's go to the bottom house and say, "Hey, I want those Darks." It's gonna pick the dark color. I'm now gonna go to the white house on the far right hand side, just click with my cursor, click on the little button that says, "Color," And then I'm done, I mean, it's two seconds, right? Ooh! Someone out there said, "Ooh!" I could hear 'em, it's on the internet, but I'm not sure. Here's the other thing that I want to let you know about this. If you click on your Gradient, and I click in here on any of the houses, it's very, very teeny-tiny, but do you see this little, tiny diamond that shows up here in the middle? I can slide this to the left, and it's gonna change the contrast. It's basically going to make more of the yellow go into the three-quarter tones. This will make more of the darks go the other direction. So you ac actually control the contrast. And it's one layer, you guys. It's one stinkin' little layer. Don't forget to hit Okay. So I can drop in any image here. Now the key to doing this effect is do you notice my sample image is on top? My sample image is on top. If I were to do this exact same process, let's do it one more time, and I had my sample image on the bottom, and I was on my guy, and I went, "Let's do a Gradient Map," and I throw the mask away, because that's so annoying that it wants to put you there, and I click on the Gradient Map, and I click on the Properties, oh, well, how can I do it? Look, it's affecting the main guy. I can't do that. Someone will do this at home, I know you will. I did it. So just remember, please put it on top. And put it on, up there, and then you can go back to your Gradient. If you want to, I know I'm going really slow right now, I'll speed up soon, and all of you'll start crying, If I go back to the Gradient Map, if you want to keep the mask, just click onto the code. This little icon, that means the code. That's the mathematical code. And then go about your business. Pick your color, hit Okay, and then you're done. It's pretty easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. I cannot tell you, most people do not know how to do this, and it's so easy. And you can drop in any other shot. Any other shot, so let's say they switch out the guy, the actor got fired, he sucked, they got a new actor, they put him in, I don't have to redo any channels, I don't have to redo masking for the color, it's all a drop-in. The other thin I want to say, this is kind of a professional tip for if you're doing compositions, The other reason to throw the mask away is if, this is my theory in life, if you have a layer with an adjustment, pardon me, if you have a layer with a mask, and that mask is doing nothing, it is a solid, white mask, throw it away. Because, have you guys ever been doing a composition and you're trying to find a cut line? Do you know what I mean? A cut line, a straight line, some kind of error? You have to click on every layer and you have to click on every layer mask, to see where that little goober is. If you throw the mask away, it cleans up your production time 'cause you're not looking, and you can move right away. Cool? I hope you found that interesting. Let's do the next one, 'cause there's more. All right, it's all about color. There's so much to cover in this class, I'm really excited. So I'm, oh, I know what I was gonna do. I'm running a little quick on time, do you guys feel comfortable with that? You got the Gradient thing down? Right, that was pretty basic. I'm sorry, I'm looking at the clock and I know I've more to show, so I'm thinkin' I'm gonna move along here. All right. I'm gonna show you my next favorite thing. Auto Color, Auto Color Curves. Once again, so this is the same idea, only this is a little more sophisticated, I would say. Often times people say, "I want you to match a file," like the one on the left, and you're starting with this one on the right. Now it's not gonna match 100%. We're gonna get the vibe, okay? But that's not quite the same as a Gradient. So let's do this quickly with a Gradient just so you understand which tool to use. So there we are with our Gradient. Get the Properties Menu back up. Oh, it's there, it' just down here hiding. Be on the code, not on mask, click on here to get your bar, quickly, pick the color, yeah, I'll take that. I'll do the Highlights. Ooh, I need a Midtone, don't I? Let's, tell you what, let's make the blacks darker, and then, I want to show you another thing here. I'm holding the Option key, Option key, I'm clicking on the little house, I'm dragging a new house out. Do you see that? I'm gonna click on the Color Box once again, go over here and find a Midtone. Hm, kind of not the best soft. Can you guys see this? I mean, I'm in the ballpark sort of, but there's some extra colors. So I would say for an image like this, not the right tool. Throw that away. Let's go to Auto Color. So I'm gonna do Auto Color Curve, I'm gonna throw that mask away, 'cause it's just gonna get in my way. Be on the code for the Curve, and I said, "Auto Color," didn't I? Now, be really clear, the sample is on the top. Do you see that, the sample is on the top, that's imperative. I'm not gonna click on the Auto button, like this. 'Cause all that's gonna do is want to give me an Auto Contrast. What I'm gonna do, is I'm gonna hold down the Option key Click on the Auto button. I'm gonna hold down the Option key and click on the Auto button. Now, see how my Shadow, Midtones and Highlights are grayed out? These are not available. If I click on Find Darks or Light, or Enhanced per Channel Contrast, then those are available. So that's what I'm gonna pick. And I'm gonna move my windows around a little so I can see what I'm doing. Just like the Gradient, I'm gonna click on the Shadow and pick a shadow. You can also pull it. Look at what the curve's doing, the curve's moving. Hit Okay. Midtone, pick a midtone. Now this is really subjective here, on a four-color image, so for right now I'm gonna click that one. And now I'm gonna do the Highlights. The Highlight one always is the one that does the bigger move. Now I've clicked the highlight. I'm gonna hit Okay. Take your hands off the car for just a second. This is really important. Look at that curve, that curve's an amazing curve. I would have, be hard pressed to make that curve without it auto-doing this. But, right now, this file is still malleable. I can click on the Midtones and still adjust the curve to whatever I want. But, and hear me loud and clear, the minute I say Okay, and Photoshop knows you do not want this to be your targeted color, I'm committed. Now, I can most certainly go back and do these curves and say, "Ooh, in the Highlights," see how it brought all those reds down in the Highlights, it put cyan, maybe I want a little more cyan, or I want less and I want to warm it up. It's totally malleable, but I can't Auto it. I can start all over again with the Auto, but I cannot tweak the Auto. Do you understand what I'm saying? So this is really important, because that can make you a little sad, too. This, by far, is my single, most favorite, hands down, color correction, and I use it all the time. It's amazing for skin tones. So, extrapolate, I know I'm doing cinema effects, but let's just talk retouching. Let's say you have person A here, and you have person B, and you want to match my skin tone. If you put person B on top, and person A underneath, I can use this Auto Color to select Highlight, Shadow Midtone, and mask it in on a person. It's amazing, you're gonna love it. All right. I'm gonna move on. Hopefully you'll find that helpful and useful and exciting and I'll get lots of love letters in the mail. Perhaps, all right. I'm gonna actually move onto a different subject. So that is Color Grading. Again, we use the Gradient Map, we use the Color Look Up Tables, and we use Auto Color, this is what it looks like. If folks get the course, then you get all these bonus materials, so you can actually follow along with this. The Color Look Up Tables are amazing, well worth your investigation, and as I said here on this handout, as you see here please remember to be on the code part of the layer. I know someone's at home trying this right now and they're like, "It doesn't work!" And it's because they're not on the code. So, not on the mask, be on the code. I didn't do this red one, that was the red one I was gonna do. It's the same technique, just with the red color. And then of course, we just went over this one. So you have that down, here is the, if you need it, here is a step-by-step how you do it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Cinematic Effects Presentation & Notes
Cloud Brush
Dust Brush
Light Ray Brush

Ratings and Reviews


Watching Lisa work her creative magic is so fun! This was such an incredible class, I can't wait to watch it over and over again while I practice using the tools and techniques that are covered. It's enough to make me want to move away from portrait work and into creative commercial art. Such an awesome class!


Lisa is a great teacher! She does move quickly, but I have found her instruction to be very precise, and focus. So I think the time she spends on each topic is very efficient, and thoroughly covered. I love her teaching style. Thank for for another great course Lisa!


There are so many ways to accomplish the same thing in Photoshop. But I always love to learn new ways. This is a great class if you are already comfortable with Photoshop. It is not a beginner class.

Student Work