Jan 21, 2013

How to Master Editing Colors using LAB Mode in Photoshop

LAB Mode VS RGB Mode

It can be hard to pump up the colors in a photograph without making it look unnatural. In RGB mode, changing your colors in curves will also produce changes in brightness and exposure. To fix this, we can easily switch to LAB Mode by selecting it from the Image drop down menu.

LAB stands for Lightness, A Channel, B Channel. If you pull up a curves adjustment layer in LAB, you’ll see that your red, green, and blue channels have been replaced with Lightness, A, and B. Your A and B Channels ONLY affect the colors in your image, so you’re free to push them as much as you desire without messing up your exposure.

Once you’ve settled on colors you like, simply create a stamp visible layer by pressting Shift + Alt/Option + Command + E. You can drag this layer back into your RGB mode image and the incredible colors will stay the same. Try using this technique and post your re-colored images in the comment section below!

Before & After

Thanks to Ferd Isaac for the perfect photo for this tutorial!



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    Jay Stebbins

    Very Cool. I might experiment with simply working in LAB mode and exporting a finished project in RGB or what is needed for the final project. It seems to me LAB will be a much better way to adjust exposure when skin tones need to me exact as color on lightness are separated. When you are adjusting exposure otherwise it changes the skin to that odd orange hue. Just a thought.

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    Spy Black

    It’s actually easier and more intuitive just working in RGB using adjustment layer processes and transforms setting the adjustment layer to COLOR or LUMINOSITY, as needed. I set my images to 16-bit-per-channel as well to eliminate any banding artifacts. Lab is too much a pain with dysfunctional controls. You’d think for instance that you could lock hi and lo settings so you stay sync’d in color when needed, instead of doing one, then the other in a, then the same thing in b, etc. The color and luminosity settings in adjustment layers completely negate the need to use Lab and allow you to work with color as you know it.

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    Before and after of a shoot I did last year edited with this technique! Thanks a million! it was really cool to see the colors come out! I also used a level adjustment layer while in Lab mode! interesting effects! Very cool!!

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    This was AWESOME! Thank you for this vid. Never used LAB before but will do for sure now!

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    I am in no way dissing this, and am going to give it a play. BUT, does this just fall under the ‘many ways to skin a cat’ umbrella that is PS? I.E Can’t you do the same thing with curves then use the blend mode colour so it only affects the colour and not mess with tones?
    Even if thats the case – I’m pumped Aaron brought this to all our attention/knowledge/toolkits

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    Aleksander Torset Eriksen

    If you want to learn more LAB, check Dan Margulis videos in youtube or at Kelby. Everyone should know how to use CMYK and LAB together with RGB, and he’s the more like the “father” of LAB.