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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.