Photoshop Elements 4 One-on-One
By: Deke McClelland
February 26th 2009
The excerpts chosen to be published on Indezine aim to show advanced color correction possibilities in Photoshop Elements 4.
We wish to thank Dawn Mann , Regina Wilkinson and Theresa Pulido for facilitating the permission to extract.
To feel comfortable working in the Color Variations dialog box, it helps to understand the composition of a little thing called the visible-color spectrum wheel. Pictured below, the wheel contains a continuous sequence of hues in the visible spectrum, the saturation of which ranges from vivid along the perimeter to drab gray at the center.
The colors along the outside of the circle match those that appear in a rainbow. But as the labels in the circle imply, the colors dont really fit the childhood mnemonic Roy G. Biv, short for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. An absolutely equal division of colors in the rainbow tosses out orange, indigo, and violet and recruits cyan and magenta, producing Ry G. Cbm (with the last name, I suppose, pronounced seebim). Printed in large colorful type, these six even divisions correspond to the three primary colors of lightred, green, and bluealternating with the three primary pigments of printcyan, magenta, and yellow.
In theory, cyan ink absorbs red light and reflects the remaining
primaries, which is why cyan appears a bluish green. Cyan and red
represent complementary colors, meaning that they form neutral gray
when mixed together. The Color
Variations dialog box treats complementary colors as opposites.
For example, clicking the Decrease Red thumbnail not only reduces
the amount of red in the image but also adds cyan. Similarly, Decrease
Green adds magenta and Decrease
Blue adds yellow.
Of course Ry G. Cbm is just a small part of the story. The color
spectrum is continuous, with countless nameable (and unnameable)
colors in between. Ive taken the liberty of naming secondary
and tertiary colors in the wheel. Because there are no industry
standards for these colors, I took my names from other sources,
including art supply houses and consumer paint vendors. I offer
them merely for reference, so you have a name to go with the color.
The practical benefit is that you can use this wheel to better predict a required adjustment in the Color Variations dialog box. For example, the color orange is
located midway between red and yellow. Therefore, if you recognize that an image has an orange cast, you can remove it by clicking reds opposite, Decrease Red, and then clicking yellows opposite, Increase Blue.
The other color-wheel-savvy command, Adjust Hue/Saturation (see the Tint and Color exercise on page 94), tracks colors numerically. A circle measures 360 degrees, so the Hue value places each of the six primary colors 60 degrees from its neighbor. Secondary colors appear at every other multiple of 30 degrees, with tertiary colors at odd multiples of 15 degrees. To track the difference a Hue adjustment will make, just follow along the wheel. Positive adjustments run counterclockwise; negative adjustments run clockwise. So if you enter a Hue value of 60 degrees, yellow becomes green, ultramarine becomes purple, indigo becomes lavender, and so on. It may take a little time to make complete sense of the wheel, but once it sinks in, youll want to rip it out of the book and paste it to your wall. Trust me, its that useful.
In the world of statistics, a histogram is a kind of bar graph
in which the bars vary in both height and width to show the distribution
of data. In the Levels dialog box, its a bit simpler. The
central histogram contains exactly 256 vertical bars, each only
one pixel wide. Each bar represents one brightness value, from black
(on the far left) to white (on the far right). The height of each
bar indicates how many pixels correspond to that particular brightness
value. The result is an alternative
view of your image, one that focuses exclusively on the distribution
Consider the annotated histogram below. Ive taken the liberty of dividing it into four quadrants. If you think of the histogram as a series of steep sand dunes, a scant 5 percent of that sand spills over into the far left quadrant; thus, only 5 percent of the pixels in the image are dark. Meanwhile, fully 25 percent of the sand resides in the big peak in the right quadrant, so 25 percent of the pixels are light. The image represented by this histogram contains more highlights than shadows.
One glance at the image itself (opposite page, top) confirms that the histogram is accurate. The photo so obviously contains more highlights than shadows that the histogram may seem downright redundant. But the truth is, it provides another and very helpful glimpse into the image. Namely, we see where the darkest colors start, where the lightest colors drop off, and how the rest of the image is weighted.
With that in mind, here are a few ways to work with the histogram in the Levels dialog box:
- Black and white points: Bearing in
mind the sand dune analogy, move the black slider triangle below
the histogram to the point at which the dunes begin on the left.
Then move the white triangle to the point at which the dunes end
on the right. (See the green graph below.) These adjustments make
the darkest colors in the image black and the lightest colors
white, which maximizes contrast without harming shadow and highlight
- Clipping: Take care not to make too many colors black or white. If you do, youll get clipping, an effect in which Photoshop Elements renders entire regions of your image flat black or white. Clipping is fine for graphic art but bad for photography, where you need continuous color transitions to convey depth and realism.
- Balance the histogram on the gamma:
When positioning the gray gamma triangle, think center of
gravity. Imagine that you have to balance all that sand
in the histogram on a teetering board poised on this single gray
triangle. If you position the gamma properly, you can distribute
the luminosity values evenly across the brightness spectrum, which
generally produces the most natural results.
Bear in mind that these are suggestions, not rules. For example, clipped colors can result in interesting effects. Meanwhile, an overly dark image may look great set behind white type. These suggestions are meant to guide your experimentation so you can work more quickly and effectively inside the Levels dialog box.
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