Correcting Color in Photoshop {and PSE}

I thought it might be fun to take a photo and work on one thing at a time, and have the tutorials build on each other, all using the same photo. I am starting out this “series” in Photoshop CS6 beta, but the steps can be done in Photoshop Elements also (or an alternate step in PSE).

The image I am using is one I took over the weekend for my sister, Kirsite, who needed a new head shot. I told her I would do but asked one favor in returen- that I could use the pictures for tutorials – and she graciously consented. Thank you, Kirstie!!

Okay, we are going to start out by analyzing the image. What is amiss with the photo? What could be made better? The first thing that jumps out at me is the color. The image is too warm (happens when you shoot in the evening sometimes), and she has areas of redness on her neck, chest and cheek.

To tackle those issues, we will use ADJUSTMENT LAYERS. You can find your adjustment layers by clicking on the half black/half white circle at the bottom of the layers palette.

Once you click on the icon, a long menu will pop up. Choose Color Balance (in PSE, choose Levels and do a WB adjustment)

If the Tone isn’t already at Midtones, click on the menu and choose it. If you are editing a subject with much darker skin, like African American, then you may want to choose Shadows.

The image we are using has too much red in it (make sure you identify the problematic color – watch video tutorial for more explanation on that topic), so I pulled the slider on the Cyan/Red spectrum towards Cyan, which pulled out some of the red.

I really liked what this did for her skin, but didn’t like that it made her hair a bit green. So, I took a soft, black brush and used the mask to conceal some of the change on her hair.

After getting the color where I liked it, I then tackled the redness on her neck, chest and cheek. I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment for this step, and after creating the adjustment, I went into the reds and tweaked the sliders to be what you see below.

I inverted the mask (control/command + i) and used a soft, white brush over the areas that were red. I used a stronger brush over the areas that were more red and a lighter opacity brush over areas that were less red.

Here is the result of the two layer adjustments (no other edits were done to this image, because we will be doing that in upcoming tutorials).

To see these adjustments in “real time” watch the video tutorial below. If you have PSE, I do show how to use Levels since PSE does not have Color Balance.

About Amanda

I am passionate about helping others learn how to use their DSLR cameras and editing programs. More information about me can be found at my About page, or by visiting my personal blog.


  1. Great tutorial Amanda!
    There is no denying you two are sisters!! so pretty!

  2. kelly tonks says:

    on you hue desaturation, shouldn’t the saturation be minus not plus?? Lightness I understand and hue adds yellow I think which is nice. I’m sure I’m missing something?! :-))

    • Kelly,
      The only time I increase the saturation and lightness is with the reds, it just seems to be a nice balance. I don’t do that when correcting any other color casts (yellows, greens, etc.).

  3. Great tutorial; thanks! I’ve been wondering how to color correct without always having to adjust the hue/saturation.

    • Elana,
      One of the good/bad features of Photoshop and/or PSE, is that there are always two or more ways to do anything. That can be very frustrating for those just beginning to learn their program.

      That said, another way you can tackle color issues is with Levels or Curves, by going into the particular color channel and tweaking those sliders.

      If using Color Balance or Hue/Sat don’t do what you need them too, try Curves or Levels. Hopefully one of those will fit the bill.

  4. Catherine Carmichael says:

    As a new DSLR owner and user I have to say how wonderful I find your blog and tutorials. I appreciate all the info you so graciously share with others. I also appreciate that your Actions are so reasonably priced and for a newbie, I haven’t had spent an arm and a leg to try using them.


    • Thank you so very much, Cathy, for your sweet and supportive comment!! I am thrilled that EE has proven to be a good resource for you, and that the actions meet your needs and budget! ♥

  5. Hi Amanda: It is just my preference I guess but the corrected skin was just too blue on my screen. I like the before as she seemed to be more glowing. Valerie

    • Valerie,
      What browser are you using? If it is Chrome, try looking at it via Firefox or Safari. Chrome is not colored managed and often make images look blue-grayish.

      The other thought could be that your monitor colors are off. I calibrate mine with Spyder 3 Express and the prints from WHCC and MPix Pro look just like the colors on my screen, so I’m sure they are correct.

  6. Debbie Borato says:

    Hi Amanda, do you ever edit in camera raw first?

    • Debbie,
      Great question! This picture is a raw image and I did nothing to it in ACR so that I could show the edits via layers in Photoshop.

      The reason I did not edit in ACR with this particular image is because I want PSE users to be able to apply the techniques also. The ACR that comes with PSE is very stripped down compared to the ACR that comes in Photoshop CS#.

      If I were to edit this image in ACR (or Lightroom since the two are very much alike) I would have tweaked the WB a bit, then used the Hue/Sat panel to tweak color, as well as used a brush to minimize the red splotches.

  7. This is a great tutorial. Their is so much to learn and I appreciate these tutorials. Do you mind if I pin this to my Pinterest board?

  8. Angelia Ritza Miller says:

    thank you so much for this tutorial!! I have read and watched tutorials and seem to keep missing the one important step this is such a great help!!

  9. Kim Peterson says:

    Thank you so much again for your tutorials! You are so generous to share with us, and I agree with a previous comment that your actions are reasonably priced not to mention beautiful and professional and worth so much more!

  10. Hi Amanda! Would you please consider doing a tutorial for PSE users who edit using Adobe Camera Raw? I think many people think it is not for jpegs… I would love to get your insight on ACR. Thanks for all you do- I have recommended your site to anyone who asks! Hi Amanda-I love y

  11. Hi Amanda! Would you please consider doing a tutorial for PSE users who edit using Adobe Camera Raw? I think many people think it is not for jpegs… I would love to get your insight on ACR. Thanks for all you do- I have recommended your site to anyone who asks!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I learned so much in this tutorial! I was just SURE there must be a way to adjust saturation and hue of specific colors within PSE but hadn’t found it until you referenced the Hue/Saturation and I saw the pull-down menu for the individual colors — finally! I just pulled out two of my favorite photos with bad color casts and have made huge improvements. Thanks for your generosity with your knowledge and experience.


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  2. […] am building on the picture I used for a color correction post last week, so the only edits done to this image were for the white balance and color casts. I will […]

  3. […] you miss the first two part of this series? The first one was Correcting Color in Photoshop (or PSE), and the second was Enhancing Eyes in Photoshop (or […]

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