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Adobe Photoshop Mastery: Retouch and Restore

Lesson 9 of 20

Correcting Color in Faded Images with Levels & Curves


Adobe Photoshop Mastery: Retouch and Restore

Lesson 9 of 20

Correcting Color in Faded Images with Levels & Curves


Lesson Info

Correcting Color in Faded Images with Levels & Curves

Now I'm going to do the same technique we did before levels air curves it doesn't matter which one of the two because both of them if you go to the side man, you have the choice called auto options, which will send you to the exact same dialog box again they'll come in here and try find dark and light colors and I'll try enhanced perkins channel contrast to see which of the two does a better job and I'm looking at color, not brightness, so I'm just looking what gives me the most true colors to me the top choice her dress looks a little too purplish not knowing what color it was. I'm just guessing where is that looks a little better to me we'll turn on snap neutral midtown's and see if it helps it makes it for me at least that look at the skin tones you see I want pure they become car everything for the most part but it depends on the image is not always going to be the case click ok then I can either fill the mask with white, which would mean apply everywhere or I could drag the mash t...

o the mask to the trash because if there is no mask there's nothingto limit where the adjustment applies so let's see what we've done, I'll turn off the eyeball before after that helping out quite a bit knows a bunch of other things we can do to go beyond that but let's just make sure it works on other images because what happens is people will be like although that's not gonna work out my image because my images whatever most of time it'll work it's just they haven't tried it who they think now I need something much more than that well, there are some images that needs something much more than that, but let's just see, since this image has no areas they're missing or nowhere is that look like blown out I just didn't need a selection auto options in dark and light versus her channel sometimes it's hard to decide see if snape neutral works in this case I don't think it's working quite a swell so there is another option and the image was planning and using it on it's this one though, because I think it'll be more dramatic, so but when it doesn't work, we need to do other things and so let's figure out what those other things could be I mean again goto levels and curves in before I went to the side menu and I had chose auto options and I played with these settings, but if it's an image where those just don't seem to help, then we need to learn about what is this trying to do and how can we do it manually in a way that might be more helpful, so I'm going to click cancel the auto options choice is utilizing these three eye droppers and it's trying to figure out where in the image to click with them, and we can do it manually so let's try to figure out what those eye droppers d'oh do you remember when we were in camera and we had a person with white wedding dress, the white wedding dress looked a bit blue, at least to my eye. I grabbed the nine dropper and I clicked on the white wedding dress in what kamerad did is it measured what color was there? And it said, hey, if you're clicking on an area that should be gray than whatever colors there shouldn't be there in most likely that color is contaminating your whole picture. So let's, shift the entire picture away from that color until this area that I've clicked on doesn't show up with any color and that's the concept between white mouse. The problem with a vintage photo that's faded over time is the color shift in weird ways where the dark part of the image might shift in a different way than the bright part of the image, and so we need to use something that's, not a single eye dropper like what you have for white bound instead, here we have three eye droppers if you look at these eye droppers, notice that one looks like it's, full of black. One of them looks like it's, full of white in one looks like it's, full of gray that's because they're designed to be clipped on where this one is clicked on in the dark part of the picture, this one's clicked on the brightest part in this one's clicked on some medium brightness, and therefore, if we have different problems in those three areas, you can deal with the different kinds of ships. So if my shadows of turning purple but my highlights are turning yellow, this khun deal with it white balance camp, because white balance can only do one thing. So I need these when it comes to the auto choices that are using those all it's doing is it's finding the absolute brightest in the absolute darkest part of the picture and it's clicking on them with the black in the white high droppers that's what it does, then you know that check box that was called snap neutral mid tones that I said, see if it helps that's using the middle eyedropper and it's just searching through your picture to say what's already closest to being gray and it clicks on it, but when you have a picture that this far gone the thing that's closest to being gray, there might not be anything that's close to being gray or it might be the wrong thing. So let's see what we can do about it. I'll do this twice the first time, just trying it out in the second time, refining how we go about it. So I'm going to grab the black eyedropper on top. I'm gonna look at my picture and try to determine where I think the darkest part of the image is, and there are sorts of ways of technically figuring out where that is and if you know what they are, feel free to use them. I just don't want to make the technique more complex than it needs to be, so I'm not utilizing those things, so I grabbed the black eye dropper by clicking on it. I look at my picture looking for the absolute darkest area, and I'm just guessing it's down in here because it looks like the darkest there. I'm going to clip my mouse there in this particular case, they didn't notice a big change, but on some images you're going to notice a dramatic change of color. Then I'm going to grab the white eyedropper, and I'm going to look for the brightest part of the picture that has detail. So this area out here there's no detail in there can you tell what's out there if it's sky or tree or what I can't there's no detail so I'm going to ignore the brightest area that has no detail and I want to go for the broadest thing that has any hint of detail and I'm guessing that will be part of her top and possibly over here I see a button on it that looks bright I'm going to collect conceive it helps didn't wasn't dramatic parents I mean to go to the middle eyedropper and now I'm looking for anything in the image that I think would be a shade of gray regardless of how bright it would be white is a shade of gray what I mean by shade of gray is something that has no color so I think the sweater that she's wearing looks to me like it's not yellow it's not blue it's not green I think it's a white sweater and so I'm going to move my mouse onto it click and see if it helps and I'll try different areas that you can always either choose undo command z and click somewhere else because you'll find the shadows are dramatically different than the bright areas blue and then I'll try something in between come on I had won a second ago there that didn't seem to do is bad then if I want this adjustment to not affect the brightness because right now if I turned off look at her hair before I could see detail in her hair after way today the change then what do I dio I change this menu the color okay now let's see what it's doing I'm gonna turn off the eyeball before er before after now to me her face is just looking a bit too greenish I don't know if you notice any that you could adjust these things up here you have three colors red green blue and if he happened to know what the opposite of these three colors are they would also affect those two if you want to know the opposite of red, green and blue the answer is sayin magenta and yellow sayin magenta yellow uh and so I could come in here and if it's too green I could choose green and I could move this little middle slider around to make it either more green or less green the opposite of green is magenta so if I'm a bit too far or blue the opposite of blue is yellow right over here one way is going to make it look more blue the other way will be more yellow but you confined to knit I find curves to be more useful in that regard because I could click on the image to affect various areas but here's before there's after so when the auto settings don't seem to help it all what you end up doing? I use thes ie droppers. I use the white eyedropper on the brightest part of the picture that has details. I used the black eyedropper on the darkest part of the picture, wherever I think it is an experiment with the middle eyedropper clicking on areas that look like things that might possibly be a shade of gray. Why does a shade of gray black as a shade of gray all the way change in between? And then we can always find tune the end result further in this case, I see an awful lot of purple left over, and we'll end up messing with that. But first, I have a question I don't understand. I mean, I've used those three eye droppers, but I don't, and the explanation has been different than what I did. I understand, but why is it when you clicked on use the white eyedropper and you click on a button which was kind of white, just like her sweater? And then you click your sweater with the great eye dropper? No document made such a difference. Well, this image has such weird color qualities of that just the difference in brightness like between the shadows, like if you look right now in this shadow, can you tell that it looks kind of magenta e by chance? I don't know if you can tell I can tell a little bit of that and I can tell this looks a little yellow, we over and here and all that, at least on my screen on the screen. It might be harder to see that, but just a slight difference in color. He's going to make a big difference when you click on it. That's not the case of this was aids normal photograph taken with a digital modern camera, then the colors and this would be really consistent it's that with old photographs, the dark part of the image can shift in a dramatically different way than the bright parts in so is weak over slightly darker and slightly brighter areas, the colors just quite a bit different. Um, I was told tio, try to find something that's like mid gray. Well, in that not actors of color. Well, all of these eye droppers have to do it with needing to see absence of color it it's not that the area currently has no color like if somebody's face happens to not have any color doesn't mean you should click on it because, you know, a face in real life would have color it's if you were standing in this scene. Viewing this actual content, what within this scene looks like something that wouldn't have color that's my mindset so if their face ever looks great that I'm not going to click on their face because I've never seen a great face, you know, um, in what the eye droppers do is they simply look and say, is there any color where you're clicking? If there is let's, shift the picture away from that color until there is no color there? And so that's, why you're looking for an area that should be great, those air the on ly things within your photograph that shouldn't have color, and so we're just trying to measure what's wrong with this picture by looking at areas that shouldn't have any color, because those are the areas that can tell us what's going on, it happens to be that the brightest and darkest parts of almost all photos don't have any color because you can't get to black and still have color showing up. You can't get toe white still have any color showing up, he looked at a picture of a red apple, the highlight on it will have no color. The absolute darkest shadow will have no color, because it just couldn't be that dark and still have the color there. So that's, why the bright and dark? But when it comes to the middle eyedropper a lot of people will say, look for a medium gray or they'll say eighteen percent great because they're used to that number in photography, but it's just looking for no color, it will be most effective as you get away from the really bright and dark areas, because we're already adjusting that the most effective as we get towards medium once, but I'm just going to click on various areas and experiment, so I find what does the best? So after this I could do another adjustment layer that would be probably human saturation in with human saturation, just like with curves, there's, a little hand tool, and if you happen to have gone up here and chosen member that choice and curves, I think it will remember it here to, you know, automatically turn the hand to along. So now I can come over here and click on her purple hair and dragged the left and it's going to lower the saturation mean how colorful all the purple stuff is, and sometimes I have to click more than once because it's not just purples, its other colors, but I can make it less colorful in those areas, and we could do other adjustments let's bring out some detail in her hair by going to curves if you want to pull a detail, don't we had two dots we click on the darkest area of whatever we want to pull a detail in, so click on a dark part over here we click on the brightest area of whatever area we're thinking up and we drag up I'm ignoring everything but her hair then if it's a small area we wanted to apply in the mask we inverted knowing never image adjustments invert keyboard shortcut for that is command I control I am windows then we grab a brush paint with white ah, but you don't have your opacity at thirty we can do that. We can also use paint on a mask of the human saturation adjustment there that might be lessening the color in there. So so far, what we've learned about color is one quick fix is to use levels or curves and use the uh auto feature, which is what did this to this picture. After that, we can further adjusted aiken brighten up her face a bit with curves. I can always go into human saturation make certain colors less colorful, that kind of thing but just want to make sure you knew of some basics they're just have saved these images in case we want to open them later and we'll do a little bit more on this but first, is there any questions or comments about what we had done as far as trying to resuscitate some of the collar from bernard, and they just want to know if the levels in the auto color that you've been doing here would that worked in light room as well. No, no light room only has white balance, and so light room is not going to be very effective when it comes to restoring, uh, old faded color photographs, you could do a little bit with the white balance eyedropper, and the other choices you would have after applying white balance is there's something called split toning split town ing pushes color into the brighter, dark parts of your picture, so if the dark party your picture looked all purple, you'd have to figure out what's the opposite of purple. And if you ever come across the color wheel, I've never seen a color wheel or it's got the spectrum of colors around it. If you find on the outer edge of that color wheel, whatever color it is, you have too much of let's, say have purple in your in your shadows, look directly across the absolute other side of the color wheel it's far away from that color is you can get and you'll see the opposite or if you happen to have photo shop. And you want to create a new document and just put the color you're thinking of in that document I want to know what's the opposite that's black and white picture it's not gonna help then ok, I want to do the opposite of this command I that's invert number that adjustment called enberg that'll show the opposite and so if you ever just not sure open a document throw in whatever color it is you're thinking of command I it's the opposite so in light room if we had purple shadows I could push green into them in greenwood absorb some of that uh yeah and say you want tio do that with the fringe can you see eyedropper sample that put it on the blank yeah, in fact there's other stuff you do let's say I wanted to find out the opposite of whatever this is although this is rather gray so it's there gray is the one thing that doesn't have an opposite because there is no color there's no opposite of something without color but let's say I copied this down here just select it and I'll talk comand see, I'll create a new document and paste so I might have had an adjustment layer in there it was thinking about the adjustment later I'll come down here I want the opposite of this so I copy uh new document paste ok that's just the stuff pace ident a couple things you could do first is you can apply a filter called average average means blur this so much that it becomes a solid color that's the average of what was there then command I or control I for invert that's the opposite color right there so that's the color you could push into the image and what it'll do was first absorb the color that was there until it get turns gray gray means no color and then if you kept pushing it in, it would start showing up is this color, but in light room you could try to do that with the, um what's it called the split toning feature, but you're going to be overly limited and have to be overly precise. I would only do that if you simply don't own photo shop otherwise you're wasting your time in general, you converted can you use a dropper tool to select that color? Then ah, get the rgb numbers and put it on your paintbrush interrogated in yeah, you could do that, okay? Yes so now let's, look at a little bit more with this. What I'd like to do is you see the color around the edge, how loose different than in the middle well, what I'm going to do is in the layers panel I'm going to create a brand new empty layer but clicking on the new layer icon so one to the left of the trash looks like a sheet of paper with the corner folded over there is my brand new empty layer I'm going to grab the paintbrush tool in one trick when you're in the paintbrush tool not sure if you're aware of it or not but if you want to paint with a color that's in your picture you can hold on the option key that's all ten windows and it will temporarily give you the eyedropper tool which allows you to sample a color from your image where when you click all it does is it changes your foreground color which is the color you paint with two whatever it is he clicked on so I'm going to click somewhere out here just grab the color that's there then I'm just gonna paint over of this edge and you might be going oh look it's making a certain longer that color well the problem is I'm covering up all the detail that was there so the background no longer has any texture where it is I'm painting well what I want to d'oh is do the same thing we did with an adjustment layer do you remember with an adjustment layer I had somewhere I wanted it to only affect the color and I didn't want it to be able to change the brightness and the way I did that is in my layers panel with the layer that was making the change active I changed this menu didn't I change it to a choice called color well, that's going to cause this layer which has paint on it toe on ly be able to affect the color of what's underneath it will not be able to affect the brightness then therefore, the changes in brightness that used to be in the background should be retained so if I hide, this will turn off its eyeball before you see the color shift at the edge of the picture after you see that the color shift is no longer happening because I painted with colors from the surroundings um and put it in there if it was set to normal, it would have covered up all the detail on that that edge and so wouldn't be useful, but setting it to color makes it so it cannot change the brightness it takes some practice to get that mentally stored in your head is a concept but it could be useful. Crop it out, mask it out whatever uh all sorts of things you can do there um so that's another thing that you have to quite often in fact let's do it a little more watch let's say I like this person skin tone better than this one well, I'm going to take my brush and ah, hold down the option can you remember? Option is where I can click on the image to grab a color to paint with and I'm gonna option click wherever I like the color on the skin come over here I'm still working on the same layer the woman set the color mode and now when I paint you see how I'm putting some of that color in but it's not changing the brightness so that if this person was less tan, it'll shift the color of their face but it's not going to make their skin darker, I'd have to do a separate adjustment possibly of curves too dark and face a little bit before I paint this on or afterwards in this case when I painted on it looks too colorful, so I'll do is I'll lower the opacity of my brush to say don't put a hundred percent of it and I'll bring my opacity down to thirty percent maybe and I'm just gonna paint some of that in here and see if you can bring this a little bit less of a magenta he look to her face maybe a painted twice on her cheek to bring in a little extra and I'll choose undo a few times see if you can see a difference look at her face after before can you see a difference in color we stole the color from the other face. He was too much. We applied it at full strength, so I lowered the capacity of my brush to thirty percent. I painted it in I happen to paint over the brightest part of the cheek twice with my brush so that it got two applications of thirty percent. Uh, yeah, you know that trick back to like the border? Did you change the mode of the brush? I could change you. Let me ask you a question in a different way. What? The hex. The difference between this mode menu, which has the same choices in it, and the one at the top of the layers panel? Because couldn't I just use the one that's up here? Well, in this particular case, I couldn't use the one that was at the top of my screen and here's. Why? When you use the paintbrush tool, you could only affect one layer at a time. And so the menu at the top of the layers panel says, how should this brush affect this layer the top layer and in the top layer we don't have the person's face in so it's not going to control how the color effects the face he controls, how the color effects the contents it's already in this layer and that part of the layer was empty and so it wouldn't have been ableto how does this affect emptiness you know if that's the mindset it would have the one of the top of layers panel is saying how should the contents of this entire layer affect what's under it and I needed to do use that because the picture itself is under it in the picture itself is what I wanted to effect right so the way I would be thinking about it is if I was not using any layers whatsoever then I could have used this because by brush would be painting directly on where the picture is the same layer if on the other hand the paint that I have is separate from the picture it's on it's on layer I need to work with the men you appear instead so it's a good mindset to think about that but it would only work if I was painting directly on the layer that contained the picture then that would work all right let's see what we've done to this image thus far uh to do that I'm just gonna hide the other layers that air in here in the hide the other layers there's a trick in that as if you moved to the eyeball for the one layer you want to keep visible you could hold on the option key which is all ten windows and click on it and most the time there that will hide the other eyeballs I've never seen it, and, uh, I must not have been holding option in a few option. Click a second time. It will turn those other eyeballs back on again. And so you can see what we've done to this image so far, a little bit better. There's still a lot more. You can do the image. We can fix those holes that are in it. But we might do that when we end up talking about retouching, because right now we're talking about. We're talking about color changes instead.

Class Description

Photographs are among our most treasured possessions, but not every photo was shot under optimal conditions or preserved in an ideal way – making photo restoration a big business opportunity for skilled photographers and retouchers.

If you want to answer every, “can you fix it?” with a resounding “yes,” Adobe® Photoshop® Mastery: Retouch and Restore with Ben Willmore is the class for you. 

You’ll learn:

  • Advanced color correction and enhancement techniques
  • Retouching and scratch removal strategies
  • Detail enhancements
  • Folds, scratch, mildew, ink and water stain repairs
  • Reconstruction of missing pieces such as torn corners and rips
  • How to make fix faded images and make skin tones more lifelike
You’ll learn what actions to take, the optimal order to perform them, and which tools are right for the job. Ben will share time-saving tips and offer insights on the corrections that create the biggest impact.

In Adobe Photoshop Mastery: Retouch and Restore with Ben Willmore, you’ll develop a whole arsenal of retouching and restoration techniques that will breathe life back into damaged and aging photographs. 

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 


a Creativelive Student

Wow! That is pretty much what I thought about the course. It was my first live studio experience and it was fantastic! Ben is a great instructor because he presents the information in a straight forward manner that is understandable, detailed, and concise all at the same time. I have a couple of his other classes and the handbooks his wife creates are exemplary and make going back and reviewing the rebroadcast so much easier. Also, I want to give a shout off to the Creative Live team...Kudos! They are an excellent host...they are professional and fun at the same time! The content they produce has helped me tremendously to expand my knowledge and skills and mostly importantly they are affordable!

Wilson Blackwell

Super class! Ben is the best at explaining Photoshop and how to make full use of it. This class included techniques I've never seen or heard explained in other photo restoration classes I've taken. And the accompanying book, while I've only glimpsed through it so far, is expansive, well laid out, attractive, and looks to cover everything Ben went over in the class - it's a valuable resource as well (thank you, Karen Willmore, for all the effort you put in to produce a worthy complement to what Ben teaches.)


Ben is one of my favorite instructors on CreativeLive. (That's saying a LOT because they are all so good!). Besides being very thorough and understandable, Ben sets himself apart with two things. 1. He thoroughly demonstrates a process, then does a recap of all the steps he just took. That makes it much easier to remember. 2. His wife takes notes during the broadcast and creates a handbook which is available to download when you purchase the course. Some people find it easier to learn by reading than by re-watching the video. I like it because I can find information by using a word search. I feel so fortunate that I was able to sit in the audience for this class. It was great to be able to talk directly to the instructor and interact with the other students.