vibrance vs saturation photoshop
  • Saturation vs. Vibrance: What’s the Difference?

  • by Aaron Nace
    January 19, 2021
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Vibrance and Saturation are both helpful options that allow us to enhance the colors in our photos. But what’s the difference between the two and when should we use one over the other? Find out in this short demonstration!

Learn how to use Vibrance and Saturation to enhance the colors in a portrait while making sure skin tones look natural.

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vibrance vs saturation photoshop

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

ENHANCE COLORS, PROTECT SKIN TONES

BEFORE

Enhance Colors in Photoshop

Should I Use Vibrance or Saturation?

Vibrance and Saturation are both adjustments that will help you enhance the colors in your photos. But when should you use one over the other? To answer this question, let’s take a look at what effect each has on a colorful portrait image.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

Click on the Layer Menu, hover over New Adjustment Layer, and select Vibrance from the list. The Vibrance Adjustment Layer offers controls for both Saturation and Vibrance.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

With the new Vibrance Adjustment Layer placed above the image, start by dragging the Saturation slider all the way to the right. Notice the effect that it has on the image. All of the colors become more intense (or more saturated), including the skin tones of the subjects, causing the skin to turn to an unnatural orange tone.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

Return the Saturation setting to 0 and dial up the Vibrance setting to 100. How is the effect different? Notice that the colors in the image are still enhanced, but the subject’s skin tones remain relatively unaffected. This is because Vibrance works the same way as Saturation while avoiding warmer red and orange tones.

So what does this mean? If you’re working with images of people, Vibrance is the way to go. You can make colors more intense without worrying about making the subject’s skin look orange and unnatural.

Getting More Precise with Vibrance

Because Vibrance excludes some tones, it doesn’t have as strong of an effect as Saturation does across an image. There might be warmer tones in the background that you want to enhance that get passed over entirely. You have a couple of options to work around this.

First, you can simply Duplicate the Vibrance Adjustment Layer to help exaggerate the effect. Keep in mind that while Vibrance tries to avoid affecting warmer tones, it doesn’t do so entirely. As you stack Vibrance Adjustment Layers with the Vibrance dialed up, the skin tones will become more intense with each step.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

The other method to increase the precision of both Vibrance and Saturation is to combine the effects with Layers Masks. Layer Masks will allow you to show and hide the effect from whatever areas of a photo you choose. You can even create ultra-accurate Layer Masks using powerful selection tools like Select Color Range.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

You can use Select Color Range to isolate the skin tones from the other tones in the image.

vibrance vs saturation photoshop

By applying the selection from Select Color Range to the Layer Mask of each Adjustment Layer, you can include or exclude the skin tones from the linked effect. Now you can freely use both Vibrance and Saturation to bring out as much color as possible from the background while making sure the subject’s skin looks warm and natural.