How to Master Color & Tone in Photoshop


The creative use of color often defines the artwork that we create. In this tutorial, we cover over a dozen different methods to color correct and color tone photos–all while combining our contemporary tools with the principles of color theory established hundreds of years ago.

UPDATE 10/12/2021: Adobe Color Themes (featured in section 03) was removed from Photoshop earlier this year. Once an updated version or a similar feature has been released we will update this page with additional information.


  • 31 Sample Images
  • 1 Photoshop Gradient
  • 2 Photoshop LUTs


Table of Contents

Color and Tone Part 1
  • 01 - What You Will Learn
  • 02 - Introduction to Color Theory
  • 03 - The Color Picker
  • 04 - Levels and Saving Layered Files
  • 05 - Curves
  • 06 - Vibrance
  • 07 - Hue/Saturation
  • 08 - Channel Mixer
  • 09 - Photo Filters
  • 10 - Color Lookup Tables (LUTs)
  • 11 - Gradient Maps
  • 12 - Selective Color
  • 13 - Solid Color Fill Layers and Blending Modes
  • 14 - Color Balance
  • 15 - Blend If
  • 16 - Capturing Accurate Colors
Color and Tone Part 2
  • 01 - Color Correcting Warm Skin Tones
  • 02 - Color Correcting Flushed Skin Tones
  • 03 - Color Correcting Fairy Lights
  • 04 - Color Correcting Warm Cast
  • 05 - Color Correcting Multicolored Lights
  • 06 - Color Correcting Stylized Lights
  • 07 - Color Toning Hue/Saturation
  • 08 - Color Toning Levels and Curves
  • 09 - Color Toning Gradient Maps
  • 10 - Color Toning Fill Layers
  • 11 - Color Toning Black/White and Sepia
  • 12 - Enhance Color of a Mountain Landscape
  • 13 - Remove Haze from a River Landscape
  • 14 - Enhance Color in a Sky and Water Reflection
  • 15 - Custom LUTs and Batch Processing
  • 16 - Custom Looks and Presets in Lightroom

Creative Coloring





Color Correction

The key to great coloring is starting an edit with natural, accurate colors and skin tones. In this tutorial, we share some helpful tips to keep in mind during the photoshoot and the post-production process to ensure that you start an edit off on the right foot. We also cover several examples where we recover skin tones affected by color casts or unusual lighting situations.

Color Toning

Coloring an image can be one of the most creatively satisfying steps to the editing process. Whether you’re making subtle adjustments, bold artistic changes, or you’re going for that vintage black and white look, we’ll show you how to get there.

Color Enhancement

Have you ever taken a landscape photo of an unforgettable sunset and the image doesn’t turn out quite like you remember? While they’re still sophisticated pieces of technology, cameras can’t always capture a scene quite like our eyes can. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to enhance the colors in a photo to bring those memories back to life.



Color Theory

The principles of color theory can be seen in practice in everything from fine art to advertising. Before jumping into Photoshop, we’ll break down why certain color combinations work so well together, providing you with a solid foundation to build off of before starting any project.

The Color Wheel

Understanding how colors interact and their relationships between one-another is vital for any visual artist. Throughout this tutorial, we’ll reference the RGB color wheel as we work to help identify when to utilize complementary, analogous, and triadic colors.

The Color Picker and Adobe Color Themes

Photoshop has several tools available for exploring color variations. The Color Picker gives you access to all 16 million colors at the tip of your finger, with options to optimize for print or web. If you ever need to find complementary or analogous colors, we show you how to take advantage of Adobe Color Themes which can instantly generate an entire palette from a single color.

Professional Coloring

Learn how to add beautiful, stylistic coloring while preserving delicate skin tones.





Tools & Techniques

Throughout 32 tutorial videos, we cover just about every tool, trick, and technique available to create colors that pop. After going in-depth into the benefits and applications of each tool, we’ll walk you through some practical examples that will have you ready to take on any coloring challenges that appear in your own work.

Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers are the core of the Photoshop coloring process. Learn the differences between Levels, Curves, Hue/Saturation, and more. Then move on to more advanced tools like the Channel Mixer and Blend If, which provide a much higher level of accuracy and control.

Highlights and Shadows

We live in a world of apps, software, and filters that promise to color your photos instantly. The truth is, nothing else comes close to the power and precision of Photoshop. Achieve professional results by learning how to individually target and color the highlights, midtones, and shadows of an image.



Your Style, Your Workflow

Whether you’re a fashion photographer, a wedding photographer, or an Instagram star, you’ve worked hard to develop your own distinctive style. We’ll show you how to use Photoshop to speed up your workflow while delivering the same looks that your clients and audience love.

LUTs, Actions & Presets

There are a variety of ways to save and apply looks within Photoshop. We walk you through creating your own custom LUTs and custom Actions so that you can apply the same look instantly to any photograph. Prefer Lightroom? We’ve got you covered with a how-to on creating Lightroom Presets as well.

Batch Processing

On a tight deadline and need to deliver several (maybe hundreds) of sample images to a client? While it may seem impossible, Batch Processing in Photoshop can apply edits to an entire folder of images within minutes while coloring, naming, and resizing them all automatically.




Course Instructor

Aaron Nace


Aaron Nace is a photographer, Photoshop artist and founder of PHLEARN. He is the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world with millions of YouTube subscribers.


  1. Once again, a great tutorial! Very clear, simple explanations! For those missing the Color Themes in newer versions of Photoshop, you can find it on the Adobe website under https://color.adobe.com/create/color-wheel As the Color Themes wheel is only a minor portion of the lessons it is not an issue to go over to the website to check it out. Enjoy!

  2. Some useful stuff in here but as someone else has said – adobe color theme is no longer in PS and so it kind of fell at the first hurdle.

  3. Wonderful! Thank you for this — can you tell us if it is possible to “preview” LUTs as we can in Camera Raw and Lightroom? Very awkward to have to apply each one to see what it does…

  4. HEY! Adobe Color Themes is no longer included with Photoshop. Please correct your lesson. What else in this series is obsolete or out of date???

  5. I love your tutorials but the color wheel is no longer available. If you could please provide an alternative. Thanks for all your awesome videos.

  6. Dear Sir, I request you revisit the colour wheel part since 14 July 2021 this has been discontinued by Adobe. So, how to use the saved colours in the library and how to import in to the gradient tool and swatches?

  7. Thank you ! a great tutorial though the tools very familiar (except channel mixer) still learnt a lot from little hints you shared !

  8. Another Fantastic class from Aaron Nace. I’ve used Photoshop as an amateur for years, but Aaron’s class on how to Master Color & Tone in Photoshop provided the background in color theory that I had been missing. I had never used the Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer until I watched these videos. Now I find my self using it on my photographs. Can’t wait to take more PHLEARN classes!

  9. thank you , i learned so much about colors

  10. As always great tutorial.. Absolutely loved it…thank you phlearn team

  11. I have been deep diving into color theory and color grading over the past 6 or 7 months and have watched a lot of videos and read a lot of books on this subject. I came to this course pretty advanced and just hoped to pick up an idea or two. Wow. Turns out it is the best overall course I have yet come across–both in the breadth of the course but also its depth. I learned much more than I expected. Great job.

  12. this is the singularly best tutorial I watched on line! Aaron thank you and your team so much!!

  13. Great tutorial! Helped me revisit some of the basics that I was starting to ignore.

  14. Beautifully Crafted. Highly Educational. Most of all: PHLEARN tutorials are Delights!

  15. I am already adopting some of the methods taught in these lessons. Likely always, the videos are clear, well structured and relevant. Thank you. Cannot wait for the advanced videos.

  16. What a terrific tutorial, teaches so much. Thank you deeply!

  17. Aaron, thank you for existing.

  18. I just subscribed for a year and literally watched the first 5 minutes of this tutorial and feel that it was worth the price of the entire years worth of subscription. You just explained color theory to me and compared paint and photography in a way that I could never understand before!! Wow!! Can’t wait to watch the rest of the 5.5 hours! Thank you!

  19. Another quality tutorial from PHlearn. There is a huge depth of information provided about colour and tone and the ways that you can apply it to your images. I’m now using adjustment layers that I had overlooked previous (eg. Channel Mixer) which combined with my new knowledge, has improved my images. Thanks PHlearn team! 🙂

  20. Best money that I’ve ever spent. I’ve been using Photoshop since 1990, and it has always been my favorite program. I try to use it as often as I can. I pretty much knew everything I needed, that is, of course, until I encountered a tricky selection. Then, I’d figure out some funky workaround and struggle; the end product just wouldn’t be what I was hoping for, and often would turn out different from the original concept, due to lack of knowledge. Within, the first tutorial, Aaron, you have revolutionized how I work in Photoshop and my skill has gone through the roof. I take your tutorials as a guilty pleasure because I learn so many tips and tricks, things I’d never learn simply by teaching myself. You’re are an amazing teacher, a great on-screen personality, and I will always be thankful to have found your online school. You’ve also demystified Lightroom, another program that I love to struggle with. It has become my new work-flow and catalog of imagery. Truly makes dealing with many images so much easier and faster. Thank you again, I have to get back to your color theory lecture. I wouldn’t want to miss anything. Sincerely, Dave Winfield (a true fan)

  21. Very good course, a question.. If I choose a color let say green and I look at the RGB is it so that if I want cold green I should have high number in B and if it should be warm I should have high numd´ber in R? Regards Micke..

  22. Excellent tutorial as always. I especially like how Aaron takes familiar tools and teaches new ways to use them. I regard myself as fairly adept with Photoshop, but with every tutorial, I discover new ways to apply what I already know. Top work from the Phlearn team. (Y)

  23. Aaron. You are definitely my favorite teacher ever!

  24. Great content. Unfortunately, the poor streaming performance makes it difficult to watch.

    PHLEARN Staff
    Sorry to hear about the troubles with streaming. Please contact our Support Team and we will address it immediately!
  25. I went to college to learn photoshop (well to be fair it was an overall design school) But in one week, I’ve learned more here than I have in 4 years of college.

  26. Superb. One of the best tutorials yet. I thought I knew so much about this topic then came this great tutorial and I know so much more. Many thanks. Tom

  27. Great tutorial, I learned alot 🙂 Here’re some takeaways I wrote down: – vibrance increases colors while not affecting much skin tones – hue/saturation, can change for example color of the car (individual color channels) – channel mixer good for black/white pictures gives more control, and more stylized images – channel mixer good for colouring photo like sky – you can do presets in channel mixer, curves – selective color is more settle – perfect for skin tone – color balance – midtones and highlights, in shadows can make shadows a bit darker and can lose some information – you can use blend if on your adjustment layers also – highlights, shadows are typically desaturated colors, midtones are typically where are more saturated colors – change unnatural skin color – hue/saturation color picker to select the target color, use hue to change the color – when changing colors of an image, if skin colors goes to cold, use curves (add red, remove blue) and on layer mask paint the subject’s skin – blend if – in order to affect the midtones move left slider far right and right slider far left – use gradient map with blend if to show on highlights/shadows or midtones only – add noise to make it blend better (also helps with banding), create new layer 50% grey, add noise, soft light 20%, guassian blur 0.3 pixels

  28. Like Aaron I am starting to like the Channel Mixer as well! I like the many tools used to get a result instead of using a cookbook method. The color theory is good and concise, I like that he refers to the color wheel for his case studies. Another great tutorial!

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thank you!
  29. another superb tutorial. Now I can correctly tone my photos. Thank You PHLEARN

    • Thank you!

  30. Top-notch education in photoshop , as pro member I learned a lot here , from simple to complex topics Aaron makes it easy to follow along . I advise anybody to get a pro member subscription because the content you will find here is amazing …. tutorials , actions , brushes … everything you need to improve your knowledge in this complex program . Five stars without doubts.

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thank you for the kind words! We hope more people discover PHLEARN PRO, as there is SO much value for a really low price.
    • Thank you for the kind words! We hope more people discover PHLEARN PRO, as there is SO much value for a really low price.

  31. Exactly what I needed! Great course! Thanks.

  32. Clearly, you put a lot of thought into the preparation and a load of effort into the series’ creation. I think I speak for most everyone here by saying, “Thank you, Aaron. excellent set.” In my case, I was slowly making my way through the numerous color-adjustment tools and had no idea how to sort them out, to figure out where to use each. You’ve brought me along with you a long way on that journey. Keep up the great work!

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thank you! We did put A LOT of effort into this tutorial.
    • Thank you! We did put A LOT of effort into this tutorial.

  33. Thank you Aaron as always you rocks!!! Really enjoyed and the best tutorial. It was really bonus for students if tutorial included how to change black colour as sometimes we may required to change black outfit. Thank you so much once again for sharing your knowledge.

    PHLEARN Staff
    Awesome! Glad you enjoyed it. Well, the challenge with changing the color of black, or even white, to something else is the complete lack of contrast. Sometimes, you just can’t accurately or realistically change those two to a new color without a ton of extra advanced work to get a realistic looking result.
    • Awesome! Glad you enjoyed it. Well, the challenge with changing the color of black, or even white, to something else is the complete lack of contrast. Sometimes, you just can’t accurately or realistically change those two to a new color without a ton of extra advanced work to get a realistic looking result

  34. Another great set of tutorials Part of what them makes great is your way of presentation. Keep going!!

    PHLEARN Staff
    Thank you! It was a fun course to create.
    • Thank you! It was a fun course to create.

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Aaron, I can’t thank you enough! The best PS tutorials ever.

  36. Very helpful tutorial Aaron, Thank you for your work. By the way……..love your hair style :—)

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