Some­times you look at the work of a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, the pic­tures of a blog­ger on Insta­gram or the gamut of a film and you want the same col­ors as they have. The first impulse is to search through all the fil­ters in the down­loaded pho­to edi­tors, pump up the pre­sets. But the pros are the pros that cre­ate a pic­ture not like every­one else.

We’ll show you how to re-tint a ref­er­ence in Pho­to­shop, whether it’s a pho­to or a screen­shot from a movie, and explain when the mag­ic of a pho­to edi­tor won’t achieve the effect of the orig­i­nal, and what can be done in the future to fix it.

Pho­to: Eliz­a­beth Chechevic / instagram.com/chechevic_a

How to re-tint a photo in Photoshop

Ton­ing is a col­or or col­ors that trans­form the look of a pho­to. Tint­ing paints the pic­ture in the col­ors you need for the idea and change the mood in the frame. For exam­ple, sepia will cre­ate a touch of vin­tage, orange tones are asso­ci­at­ed with warmth, com­fort, which are good for wed­dings and fam­i­ly shoots, and cool bluish col­ors are asso­ci­at­ed with gloom and dra­ma, which is suit­able for genre por­traits.

Ton­ing means that the appear­ance of all the col­ors in the pho­to will change as a result. This is espe­cial­ly true for neu­tral col­ors — black, white and gray. The eye is most sen­si­tive and accus­tomed to them. We know exact­ly how objects paint­ed in these col­ors should look like. For exam­ple, it is an axiom that snow in real life is white, but if sud­den­ly it turns pur­ple or green in a pic­ture, it will catch your eye and cre­ate a cer­tain effect.

The rep­e­ti­tion of any tint­ing comes down to the fact that we must under­stand what col­ors black, white and gray were paint­ed in the ref­er­ence, and then trans­fer these shades to our pic­ture.

In the pic­ture on the right, only col­or infor­ma­tion remained. This allows you to see the main shades that are present in the pho­to / Illus­tra­tion by the author

How to repeat toning in Photoshop using a curve

1. Open the pho­to or screen­shot you want to re-tint.
2. Open the adjust­ment lay­er Curves.

We talked about how Curves work and how to use them to tone, light­en, dark­en and raise con­trast in a pho­to in this mate­r­i­al.

In Curves, you are inter­est­ed in three eye­drop­pers on the left side of the pan­el, which are called black point / black point, gray point / gray point and white point / white point / Illus­tra­tion by the author

3. Find black, gray and white objects that have been paint­ed in these col­ors in real life.

To make your life eas­i­er, hold down ALT and click on the black point slid­er first — this way Pho­to­shop will show the dark­est areas in the pic­ture. Then It will look like black spots on a white back­ground. Then click on the white point slid­er — so on a black back­ground you will see white areas. These are the light­est areas in the pic­ture.

If they are not high­light­ed, the slid­ers can be moved slight­ly from the edge to the cen­ter hor­i­zon­tal­ly. Remem­ber the dark and light areas and go to step 4.

The black point slid­er with ALT held down tem­porar­i­ly changes the pic­ture and shows the dark­est objects — a stripe behind the hero’s back, the back of the head, hair near the neck, leop­ard spots on the right. It is best to nav­i­gate by the main object in the frame — mod­els / Illus­tra­tion by the author

4. Take a black pipette, click on the area that should be black. We repeat the same with gray and white pipettes.

In this case, the col­ors in the pho­to will change, becom­ing more neu­tral. If the tint­ing was warm, choco­late, the pic­ture will become cold­er. And vice ver­sa.

In fact, this is how we remove tint­ing from the ref­er­ence, return the col­ors to nat­ur­al ones. This is nec­es­sary in order to then “pull out” these shades from the sam­ple and trans­fer them to your pic­ture.

The pho­to on the left is the result of white, black and gray point manip­u­la­tions. The curve that removes the tint has changed. You will need it in para­graph 5 / Illus­tra­tion by the author

Don’t be alarmed if the col­ors in the ref­er­ence image become inad­e­quate when you use three pipettes at once. This means that the pho­to does not con­tain all three neu­tral col­ors. Then, to repeat the tint­ing, it is enough to take sam­ples with one or two pipettes: black and white; black and gray; white and grey. Here it will only help to care­ful­ly observe how the pic­ture changes, to ana­lyze it. For exam­ple, if you under­stand that there are no gray objects in the pho­to, take only black and white eye­drop­pers. Do not for­get about the ALT method from point 3 — it helps to find areas with black and white pix­els.

5. The col­ors in the ref­er­ence pho­to have become neu­tral. Now we need to invert the curve to bring out the tint­ed col­ors. We will then trans­fer them to anoth­er pic­ture.

To invert the curve, first click on the mas­ter curve — it’s called RGB. If there is at least one point on the curve, click on it.

If you click on the drop-down list, you will see 4 curves — RGB Mas­ter Curve, Red/Red Curve, Green/Green Curve and Blue/Blue Chan­nel Curve. All of them will be need­ed to copy the tint­ing / Illus­tra­tion by the author

At the bot­tom you will see two columns — Input/Input val­ues ​​and Output/Output val­ues. This is where the point orig­i­nal­ly stood and where it moved to. You just need to swap these num­bers around by man­u­al­ly rewrit­ing them.

Select each point in each chan­nel in turn and swap the num­bers in the low­er col­umn. Here you need to enter 127 in Input / Input val­ues, and 148 in Out­put / Out­put val­ues ​​\u200b\u200b / Illus­tra­tion by the author

Do this for every point on every curve in all four chan­nels − RGB, Red, Green and blue. There can be a max­i­mum of three points on one curve.

After that, you will see that the tint­ing has not only returned — its effect has dou­bled / Illus­tra­tion by the author

6. Pick up the Curves lay­er where you did all the manip­u­la­tions and trans­fer it to the pho­to you want to tint. Ready! The col­ors in the image will be tint­ed with the ref­er­ence col­ors.

The pho­to on the left is the tint­ing that we took from the pic­ture from the pizze­ria / Illus­tra­tion by the author

Impor­tant: there are times when there is no black, white, or gray in the pho­to at all. Then the task becomes more com­pli­cat­ed — you need to inde­pen­dent­ly sort through all the curves, bring­ing the col­ors to neu­tral ones, such as in life.

Here it is eas­i­est to focus on famil­iar objects — if you know that the pho­to was tak­en on a bright sun­ny day, and for some rea­son the sky is yel­low, then it needs to be returned to the usu­al blue. If the skin gives off pur­ple, it means that pur­ple has been added to the tint in medi­um tones.

Why I can’t repeat tinting and why presets don’t work

The tech­niques stud­ied above, as well as the down­loaded pre­sets, will bring the col­ors in the pho­to to the desired ones. But this is not enough for the pic­ture to acquire the same atmos­phere as the orig­i­nal.

We have col­lect­ed com­mon rea­sons why tint­ing and pre­sets do not work, look ugly and, most impor­tant­ly, how to fix it and what needs to be con­sid­ered at the time of shoot­ing.

  • The pho­to is much lighter or dark­er than the ref­er­ence.

It is dif­fi­cult to cre­ate an atmos­phere of mys­tery, like from some kind of hor­ror, when the pic­ture was tak­en in the sum­mer on a hot after­noon.

1. Try dark­en­ing or bright­en­ing your pho­to with lay­ers Brightness/Contrast Brightness/Contrast, Exposure/Exposure, Levels/Levels or Curves/Cruves.
2. Pay atten­tion to the light­ing and cam­era set­tings while shoot­ing. If the ISO and aper­ture do not dark­en the scene even more, use ND fil­ters on lens­es that do not let in extra light. If, on the con­trary, there is not enough light — exter­nal flash­es.

  • The ref­er­ence and your shot dif­fer in the nature of the light.

You won’t be able to get soft light tones with soft chiaroscuro if you’re shoot­ing with hard light, which pro­duces con­trast­ing, sharply defined shad­ows.

Study in advance the pic­ture or screen­shot that inspired you. Soft­box­es and umbrel­las will help cre­ate soft light, tubes, reflec­tors, beau­ty dish­es with hon­ey­combs will help to cre­ate hard light. If the heroes have col­ored back­lights, then illu­mi­nate them from the side or from behind with a reflec­tor with col­or fil­ters, a lightsaber.

  • Col­ors inside the pho­to.

Under almost every post in the retouch­ing com­mu­ni­ties, begin­ners ask the same thing — how to make choco­late or brown tint­ing in Pho­to­shop. The gen­er­al prin­ci­ple we described above is to add a warm col­or to at least the shad­ows and mid­tones.

But after that, all expe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­phers and retouch­ers notice the fol­low­ing — it is impos­si­ble to achieve the desired effect with­out choos­ing the loca­tion, clothes and acces­sories of the hero in advance. With all your desire, you will not get a beau­ti­ful choco­late tint if the pho­to has a mod­el in blue clothes on a pur­ple back­ground. The effect of mys­tery and innu­en­do, which gives a dra­mat­ic por­trait, where almost the entire hero is in shad­ow, will not appear if you put the mod­el on a white back­ground, and also dress her in ruf­fles and bows. You won’t be able to make the mod­el look like the rays are falling through the blinds unless you let the light through the blinds or use gobo masks. This must be accept­ed and tak­en into account in advance.

The pho­to on the left looks warmer not only because of the ton­ing — the brown back­ground, orange table, red glass, yel­low lamps, as well as the col­or of the clothes and piz­za enhance the “warm” effect. The pho­to on the right is the same ton­ing as on the left, but the cold back­ground changes the per­cep­tion / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa / instagram.com/chechevic_a

Pick up the wardrobe and acces­sories of the mod­el in advance. Eval­u­ate the back­ground of the ref­er­ence and select the same or sim­i­lar. For exam­ple, white, black or gray back­grounds can be recol­ored to any col­or using col­or fil­ters. For a pho­to with choco­late ton­ing, a tex­tured fab­ric back­ground in warm col­ors is suit­able. Or take a green chro­ma key, which you can cut out and put any oth­er back­ground in its place.

Sep­a­rate ele­ments of cloth­ing and acces­sories can be recol­ored in Pho­to­shop itself using tools Hue/Saturation Hue/Saturation, Selec­tive Col­or, or with an ordi­nary brush in blend mode Chro­matic­i­ty / Col­or.