Muted Colors: the perfect desaturation technique for Adobe Camera Raw
Find out how to make ‘on trend’ portraits with muted colors. In our latest photo editing tutorial we show you how to use Adobe Camera Raw to get creative with desaturation to make portraits with a touch of class.
Anyone who travelled to far-flung places over the summer will have come home with lots of colorful travel photos. Now the evenings are drawing in, it’s the perfect time to get creative.
Photoshop makes it very easy to increase colors and make your images ‘pop’, but it’s a look that has become passé through overuse. So why not go the other way instead and see what muted colors can add?
A muted color palette with carefully enhanced tones can lend your images a contemporary look that feels both fresh and retro.
Increasingly photographers are choosing to make the majority of their tonal edits using Adobe Camera Raw. In fact, to get the look we’re after here we’ll work exclusively in Adobe Camera Raw, without even opening the file in the main Photoshop interface.
Adobe’s powerful raw plug-in is the easiest and most intuitive place to begin editing your raw format files. It has several tools for making selective adjustments to different areas of your image, and every change you make is reversible.
It’s this control over every part of the process that makes Adobe Camera Raw (and the near-identical Develop Module in Photoshop Lightroom) such a useful image editor. The more you use it the more you’ll realise that opening files into the main Photoshop interface is often unnecessary.
How to achieve creative, muted colors in Adobe Camera Raw
01 Open in Adobe Camera Raw
Open Adobe Bridge and click on your start image. Right-click the file and go to Open in Camera Raw to open the file into the Adobe Camera Raw interface. You don’t need to have Photoshop open. This works with JPEGs and TIFFs, as well as raw files.
02 Camera calibration
Click on the Camera Profile panel, then go to the Camera Profile drop-down and choose Camera Neutral. Move on to the colour sliders: set Shadows to -12, Red Primary Hue to +21, Saturation to -15, Green Primary Hue to +60 and Blue Primary Hue to -20.
03 Back to Basics
Click the Basic panel icon, then use the sliders to adjust the tones. Set Temperature to 4950, Exposure to +0.45, Highlights to -30 and Shadows to +15. Hold down Alt while dragging Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites or Blacks to check for clipped pixels.
04 Tweak colour saturation
Move to the Vibrance and Saturation sliders at the bottom of the Basic panel. First drag Saturation back to about -17 to dull down the overall colour saturation. Next drag Vibrance up to about +35 to make some of the muted colours slightly more intense.
05 Boost the contrast
Click the Tone Curve Panel icon, then select the Point tab. Make a subtle ‘S’ shape to increase the contrast: click halfway up the line, drag up to lighten the midtones and highlights, then click and drag a second point in the lower left to darken the shadow tones.
06 Lower red saturation
Grab the Targeted Adjustment tool from the toolbar at the top of the interface, then right-click within the image and choose Saturation. Click and drag down on the red sign to target and lower the saturation of the reds. Stop when the Reds slider gets to about -22.
07 Drop the blues
Use the Targeted Adjustment tool to reduce the Blues and Aquas. Click and drag down over the shirt to lower the blues to about -61 and Aquas to about -17. Click on the Hue tab in the HSL Greyscale panel and set Greens to +43 and Aquas to +43.
08 Paint over the skin
Grab the Adjustment Brush, then click on the girl’s skin to set a pin. In the settings on the right, check Show Mask, then paint over the rest of the skin. You can set a conspicuous mask colour such as the green here by clicking the colour box next to Show Mask.
09 Lighten the skin
When you’re happy with your painted mask, uncheck Show Mask, then use the sliders to change the tones in the painted area. Set Shadows to +16, Clarity to -10 and Saturation to -15, then double-click all the other sliders to reset them to their defaults.
10 Mask the whites
Check New at the top of the Adjustment Brush settings, then zoom in close to the eyes. Set a small brush size in the Brush settings, then click over the whites of the eyes to set another pin. Check Show Mask, then paint over the rest of the whites in the eyes.
11 Colour the iris
Uncheck Show Mask, then set Exposure to +0.55 and reset all the other sliders by double-clicking. Check New and paint another mask over the iris. Set Exposure to +0.20, Shadows to +13 and Saturation to +30. Click Colour and choose a light blue tone.
12 Tweak the shirt
Set another new pin in the pupil, then paint over both pupils and the edges of the iris. Set Exposure to -0.60. Next, check Auto Mask, then set a new pin for the girl’s shirt. Set Contrast to +23, Highlights to -40 and Clarity to +37.
13 Adjust the background
Create a mask over the hair (Highlights: -53, Shadows: +30, Clarity: +20). Add a mask top right (Exposure: +1.05, Shadows: +48) and another bottom right (Highlights: -56, Clarity: -39). Finally, add a mask for the board (Saturation: -15 and Clarity: -35).
14 Add a grad
Grab the Graduated Filter tool, hold Shift and drag a line down from the top of the screen towards the foreground girl’s head. The tool has the same tonal sliders as in the Adjustment Brush. Reset all sliders, then set Highlights to -54 and Shadows to +36.
15 Crop the top
Grab the Crop tool, then right-click and choose 2 to 3. Click and drag a crop box that excludes the very top and left of the image, then hit Enter to view the results of the crop. You can tweak the crop at any time simply by clicking on the Crop tool again.
16 Darken the corners
Click on the FX panel to access Adobe Camera Raw’s effects. Go to the Post Crop Vignette sliders and set Amount to -20 and Midpoint to 50. If you want to see a before-and-after vignette effect, click the Preview box at the top right of the image window.
17 Reduce noise and sharpen
Click on the Detail panel, then double-click the Zoom tool to zoom in to 100%. Set Sharpening Amount to 41, Radius to 1.2, Detail to 25 and Masking to 39 (hold Alt while dragging the Masking slider). Now set Luminance to 38 and Luminance Detail to 10.
18 Save and close
Double-click the Hand tool to go back to full-screen view. When you’re happy with your edits, click the Save Image button at the bottom left. Choose a name, location and file format, then hit Save. Click Done to save all settings and exit the Adobe Camera Raw interface.
This entry was posted on Friday, February 1st, 2013 at 2:37 pm and is filed under Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.