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Adobe Lightroom Color Grading Tutorial

Liza Brown
Liza Brown Originally published Oct 15, 22, updated Nov 29, 22

The main focus of color grading is changing the colors and tones in your photographs. Recent updates to Lightroom and Photoshop's color grading functionality have improved its use and increased its capabilities. Color grading is ideal for giving your photograph a bit extra interest and improving the lighting.

All forms of photography benefit from and depend on color grading. The color grading tools in Lightroom and Photoshop will be especially appreciated by landscape and portrait photographers. If you're wondering what happened to split toning, it was replaced by the Color Grading module, which is why split toning is now referred to as color grading.

In this article
  1. Getting to Color Grading
  2. How to Use Color Grading
  3. HSL/Color Panel
  4. Hue
  5. Saturation
  6. Luminance
  7. Adjustment Brush

1. Getting to Color Grading

Select the photo you want to modify and go to the develop module in Lightroom to access the Color Grading tool. Then, move your cursor down to the Color Grading menu on the right side of the screen. To see three separate color wheels, choose this.

The same choices are available in Photoshop's Camera Raw Filter. Simply scroll down on the right side of the screen once you've opened a photo in the Camera Raw Filter until you see Color Grading. The process of color grading is identical in Photoshop and Lightroom. I'll be using Lightroom to demonstrate the example photographs for the purposes of this blog article.

2. How to Use Color Grading

The first thing you'll notice is that there are actually three identical color wheels. Each color wheel, though, has a distinct purpose. Midtones are controlled by the top wheel, shadows, and highlights by the left and right wheels, respectively.

Before moving on to the color grading stage, it's crucial to notice that you should balance the temperature and tint of your image. Instead of balancing the colors to create the image, color grading is a technique for enhancing the colors in the image.

Avoid using the midtones color wheel when using the Color Grading tool for the first time. First, try modifying only the highlights and shadows wheel. Warm hues in the highlights and cold colors in the shadows appear great in the majority of photographs. However, when using these sliders to create some truly incredible photos, you may let your creativity run wild!

I've added some yellow (warmth) to the highlights and some blue (coolness) to the shadows in this particular example. As a result, the sunlight in my image appears to be very warm and inviting, and the shadows take on a colder, bluer appearance.

The color wheels are actually fairly easy to use. To select a color, merely click and drag it anywhere on the color wheel. The color will become stronger the further you are from the circle's center. Each circle has a hidden slider bar underneath it. This modifies the related color wheel's brightness value. In other words, you can brighten or darken the highlights by adjusting the bar underneath the highlights color wheel. The ability to quickly change the brightness levels in the highlights, shadows, or midtones is a convenient feature.

Blending and balancing are the other two parameters that you can modify. You can alter how well the color in the highlights, midtones, or shadows blend with one another with the blending slider. The colors will blend in more naturally by moving the blending slider higher.

The amount of the image that is judged to be in the highlights, shadows, or midtones can be changed with the balance slider. For instance, if I move the balance slider to the right, less of the highlights will show the adjustment. Only the highlights with the highest brightness will be affected by the change.

3. HSL/Color Panel

Move to the HSL/Color Panel, which stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance, after your image is ready to use. It is located under Tone Curve in the Develop Panel. This adjustment panel, in contrast to the ones stated before, will let you change different colors in your image independently of one another. Hue, Saturation, and Luminance are the three modifications that each color will receive.

4. Hue

Hue is measured in terms of the color wheel's degrees. It's possible to change the color's real shade in this panel. For instance, you can modify the turquoise or blue to a more greenish tone if your scenario is a beach (as in our example photo). It's advisable to begin making adjustments to your panel's Hue before moving on to the others.

5. Saturation

The strength of the hue is known as saturation. (Remember that this HSL panel modification only affects the saturation of individual colors, not the saturation of the entire image.) In order to achieve a more subdued, muted appearance for this example, I reduced the Saturation on the aqua, blue, and green hues. To increase the intensity of your shot, you can do the exact reverse. Find the tweaks that suit your photo and the appearance you want to achieve best.

6. Luminance

Each color's luminance measures how brightly it reflects light. Use this tool to brighten or darken specific areas of your image (it works especially well to provide contrast to black and white images). To make the water and sky behind the model darker in this example photograph, I decreased the Luminance setting on the aqua panel.

7. Adjustment Brush

Further isolate a section of your image using the Adjustment Brush so that you can change the Hue and any other parameters you like. Your Adjustment Brush is the final brush icon on the top of your editing panel. Adjust your Hue and begin painting on your image where you wish to change the color to begin color grading.(At the bottom of the Adjustment Brush Panel, you can adjust the brush's size or feathering.)

This is perfect if you only want to edit one part of your shot. You can keep using the adjustments after you've painted your image to witness more changes as they happen in real time.

Here are a few tips to set you on the correct course because color grading might take some time and practice to master. Shooting in RAW will give you the most dynamic control over your colors, so be sure to do this. Try your best to start with a good photograph and to alter your default settings so that the canvas is even. Use color psychology to visually transmit the mood or feeling you wish to portray through color grading.

Utilize each panel to practice and experiment. There is no right or wrong method to color grade; it all depends on how you want your photographs to look stylistically. Press the Reset button in the right -hand corner of your panel to return to your original image.

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Liza Brown
Liza Brown Nov 29, 22
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