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Easy Coloring to Make Your Images Amazing

May 01

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Stylize an Image

See how to add interest and create an artistic feel to your photos using color toning. First we’ll analyze what could help the overall composition and use rocks that are already in the image to replace the bright sky. By burning in the edges the subject becomes even more of a focal point, and you can use apply image and layer masks to make sure it looks natural. Curves are a great way to add color to certain areas and are easy to adjust and work with.


1:00- Analyzing distractions
2:05- Selecting the sky and rock with the lasso tool
3:00- Moving one element of a layer with masks
4:40- Applying this to the sky
5:10- Focal Point
5:35- Vignetting with paint, fill settings, and multiply blend mode
6:35- Keeping our highlights to look natural
7:30- Using a layer mask to see where layer is visible
8:50- Burning in areas to draw attention to subject
11:00- Adding color using curves adjustment layers
11:30- Coloring for highlights and shadows
17:30- Question of the day

  • Ian Arneson

    I personally struggle with retouching and overall composition. The link below has a look that I would love to know how to do.

  • HighCaliberImagery

    I have trouble with blending in fly away hair from around the head and blending it in naturally.

  • Brad Holland

    You have reached Plaid status and are now 13% cooler than you were 18 minutes and 10 seconds ago. I’m diggin the way the “apply image” feature multiple times added depth to the layer mask. Here’s a to good sir.  Keep up the great work.

  • Rachid de Wind

    let me start by saying I LOVE PHLEARN and the work you do Aaron,
    and the look I’ve been dying to do and can’t get is this: 
    hope you could help me out with this :/

  • MatMal69
  • Bikershotz

    I love your videos but have difficulty following because of lag…any suggestions on dealing with that?

  • Tian Chew

    nice little technique for color toning there aaron~
    i’ve been searching and learning how to get the color tones in the links below, it’d be really great if you could share some ideas about how to do it =)

  • janelle

    hey Aaron, how do you think this work is done?? .  I can’t quite figure it out..
    Also, this  work is interesting also  

  • Elliott G Montello

    Hi Aaron, I would really like to know how to add back texture to skin after its been retouched, like re-adding pours in the skin and such :) Love Phlean its helped me out alot!

  • Tampa Band Photos

    I have the same issue on occasion.  Here’s a solution: click “Play” on the video, wait for it to start, and then Pause it.  Even though it’s paused, the video will continue buffering in the background.  Wait like 5-10 minutes for the gray bar to move all the way to the right, which means that the video is fully buffered, and then hit Play again.  Voila!

    Bonus Tip:  Pre-load several videos on different tabs of your browser using this technique, and you’ll be able to watch them back-to-back with zero waiting in between.  :)

  • Tampa Band Photos

    I shoot almost all of my subjects on white seamless paper, dropping it to light grey for easy extraction when compositing.  However, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to colorize the background to make it appear as if the paper were an entirely different color (like a bright red or yellow, for instance), but retaining all of the natural shadows.  Not an easy task!

    An equally acceptable alternative would be to create the background entirely from scratch, but I can’t seem to get the gradients looking right (to replicate the way light falls off naturally where the background curves to meet the floor).  So any tips you could provide on this topic would be greatly appreciated.  Keep up the great work! :)

  • Ian Arneson


  • Julene

    Any suggestions on simulating the effect of the Apply Image command in Photoshop Elements? Sadly, Elements doesn’t have it. There are many plug-ins out there to almost ‘build your own full version’ but I haven’t been able to find one for Apply Image. Any help would be most appreciated. Thanks!

  • Cristian Brigo

    I am very curious about oleg dou as well!

  • Ovi
  • Aaron Nace

    They featured him on the Photoshop website :)

  • Aaron Nace

    Great idea

  • Aaron Nace

    Hey Elliot, we cover that tons in the skin retouching pack available here


  • Ovi

    PRO Tutorials links don’t work. When i click on one it sends me the home page

  • Ovi

     i can’t open any PRO Tutorial. If i click on one it sends me to the home page

  • Amelia Fletcher

    Sorry about that! We’re working on getting it fixed

  • Joacim Roboman Schwartz

    Wow, I’m honored to have my image on Phlearn. But for your information Aaron, it is pronounced; [joe-a-kim], but you are not the first to do it wrong ;)

  • Dylan Strickland

    If you’re using Firefox, get a plugin called “download helper”.  It lets you download embedded video. I’ve got a terrible internet connection at home, so I just download a bunch of the phlearn episodes at work and watch them back later. It makes it easier to refer back to an older episode… although it occurs to me there may be an ethics issue there… I know this stuff is offered for free, but Aaron, please let me know if this bothers you, I love this site, and the last thing I want to do is take advantage.

  • Kim

    I flinch everytime I go through an album (from an event or just a shoot in the park) of edited photos… my color temperatures never agree! What are some easy quick fixes and tips for this terrible, terrible misfortunate of mine?

  • Karl Filip Karlsson

    Amazing coloring! :)

  • isayx3

    great pictures you linked :)

  • Brettrosephoto

    It takes a couple of steps but it is possible.
    1. Add a levels adjustment layer where you want it.
    2. Go to the layer you want to use as your “applied image” and duplicate with CTRL+J.
    3. Select that duplicated layer and CTRL+Shift+U to desaturate
    4. CTRL+A to select all then CTRL+C to copy
    5. ALT+Click your layer mask from step 1. This opens the layer mask in a ‘direct’ editing mode rather than just painting in it,
    6. CTRL+V to paste in your grayscale image. At this point you can invert, use your levels command, paint, etc. to tweak your mask.
    7. Click the eye icon to the left of the layer to go back to your ‘normal’ mask view mode.
    8. Delete the duplicate layer from step 2.
    Anytime you want to edit or change your applied image mask, just ALT+click the mask. You can also see the value and speed in using kb shortcuts for this kind of process.

    Hope this helps!  

  • Cefex

     very nice!

  • MariuszJ

    Jamie Ibarra’s work – his coloring techniques are one of a kind.

  • Alan

    Hello Aaron, from Argentina, I bought, a Bamboo wacom because you recommend me a tablet. and it´s the best thing have ever bought for work in my images. i know, this tablet isn´t the best model that somebody can buy, but thank you again.
    I want to tell you, that i like, your videos, and the way that you explain all the photoshop techniques, despite your english speaking .
    Sorry for my poor handwriting in English.

  • Hammontonphotography

    that’s exactly what i do! ;p let several images load on a few different tabs at the same time so  that i can watch em’ all :)

  • Hammontonphotography

    images=videos i mean

  • Isi

    Hey I wanna know how to get the look in Dean Bradshaw’s pictures

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    Awesome episode, Aaron! :)

  • Pingback: Soul Images by photographer Oleg Oprisko - Shapeshift : Shapeshift

  • Rachel Bellinsky

    Ha, I just emailed you about that exact thing, wanting to understand the editing on a particular image. I guess you get that a lot. :) Her skin is flat but in the most lovely of ways. How?!?

  • Tina_1138

    Hello I was wondering if you could do a tutorial on the  oleg dou  look?

  • Zen1138

     how to get the michael oswald look in photoshop

  • Mathieu Simpson

    Anything regarding Theo Gosselin’s way of editing would be GREATLY appreciated. 

  • Irene2808

    I’ve been using curves for color correction all the time, and out of stupidity (i saw the icon, never clicked it) I didn’t know I could literally click on the image to set the highlights and shadows automatically instead of doing it manual… 

    This is the result : )

  • Justin T. Smith

    Hey Aaron, Towards the end of the video you were saying we could tell you about some techniques were having trouble with. 

    There is this wonderful photographer Rickard Sund Not sure if you have heard of him or not. But his photography works is wonderful. I’m not trying to completely copy his retouch work, but I would love to figure out how he gets his skin so smooth but so natural at the same time as well if you knew how he got his curves to get the look he nails. Just pretty much, the over all picture style. 

    I print screened one of his images off of his website and uploaded it to tiny pic here can also find that same image Feel free to browse some of his work. Plus he has a nifty website. Hope you do a video or have any recommendations. 

  • Kevin Unger

    Hey aaron, I can never figure out how to get a nice vintage look that I actually like. I want to be able to do something along the lines of VSCO but I want to know how to do it myself! Any help would be amazing!

  • Guest


    I’m a huge fan of your tutorials, and I’ve grown a ton from watching them since purchasing CS6 last semester. Now that I have some skills under my belt, I’m attempting a series of self-portraits.

    I’m including my latest. I love the idea, and the execution I was happy with, but I cannot get my black and white to pop the way I had imagined. I feel as though there’s not enough separation between my subject and my background, and I don’t know if it was something I did in Photoshop, or if my focus was off?



  • Stephen

    yeah aaron nice work bro. i have this look it’s by Laurent NIvalle: the cars racing one…i tried it on my grading for a shoot i did for an ubuntuism clothing photoshoot:

    how is LAURENT DOING IT. I ended up with my own unique look at the end of the day…i am trying out high fashion split toning>>>>

  • King Zombie

    i think im quite good with my coloring grading, but i really can’t figure out how Jaime Ibarra gets his amazing colors…… he blows everyone away with color grading.

  • Lala Mabso

    High frequency separation is something that has not yet been explained to me very well. Maybe I can resonate better with your explanation of the technique. Please give it a go.

  • Teodora Nenadov

    I’m soo interested in retouching from shooting for UK Teen Vogue 2009 with Emma Watson, I would be thrilled if you’d like to teach us! :)

  • Brittni Beversdorf

    I would love to learn to add the color and contrast that Meg Bitton uses in her images. They have a lot of depth and richness!

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