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How to Use Color Balance Controls in Photoshop CS6

With an understanding of Photoshop CS6 and color theory, you can probably use the Color Balance controls to make some simple changes to the color in your image. The difficult part is recognizing exactly which color you need to add or subtract from your image in the first place.

Colors are subtler than you might think. For example, a slight colorcast toward cyan can look a lot like a slightly green or blue colorcast. Is your image too red, or does it have too much magenta?

To use the Color Balance controls, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Image→Adjustments→Color Balance or press Ctrl+B (Command+B on the Mac) to access the Color Balance dialog box.

  2. Choose the Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights option to select the tones of an image you want to work on.

    Usually, Midtones is the best choice, unless your image has a colorcast in the shadows or highlights that doesn’t affect the overall image. That can sometimes happen when a subject is close to a colored wall or other object that reflects light onto, say, the shadowed side of a subject.

  3. Select the Preserve Luminosity option.

    When this option is selected, Photoshop modifies the colors of the image, but the brightness and contrast of the tones stay the same. If you’re not happy with the results, deselect the option.

  4. Move the Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, or Yellow/Blue slider to add or subtract color, watching the effects of your adjustments on the original image.

    The Color Levels boxes show the amount of each color that Photoshop adds and subtracts while you move the sliders. Here’s an example of subtracting yellow and green to improve the color in an image.


    The colors are arranged by their opposites on the color wheel. Dragging the slider toward Cyan adds cyan to the image and subtracts its complement, red. Dragging toward Green adds green to the image and subtracts magenta.

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