PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL: Bringing someone into life using COLOR BALANCE


Program: Photoshop    |    Estimated Completion Time: 1 hour    |    Difficulty Level: Easy


Fun Trivia: I actually wrote this tutorial in 2011 and posted it in Posterous. And this is also the reason why I am married today. Ooooh…intriguing, yeah? I can share that story some other time. Let’s get to the part where I guide you on how to use the COLOR BALANCE to tune up a sepia photo.

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

STEP 1: Pick a subject.


Click on the image to download it.

Yes, our subject here is the mom (According to the China Underground website, she is actually a young mother. The picture was taken in Hong Kong c1946). Okay, so now that we have  decided which part of the image we want to modify, let’s move to step 2.

STEP 2: Do the cropping.

I recommend using the Pen Tool to crop the photo.

Trace an outline around the face, right and left arms. This is done so we can create a work path. (This is actually the vital part in this tutorial.) Once you’ve closed the gap, go to the PATHS tab and select the work path. On your keyboard, press CTRL (or command for MAC users) + click the PATH THUMBNAIL. You should be able to see ants’ trail after selecting the work path as shown in the image below.

Go to the LAYERS tab and click on the background image which is the photo that we’re currently editing and then press CTRL + C to copy and press CRTL + V to paste the selected part of the image on the same canvas we’re currently at. Can you see a new layer on top of the background layer which is the cropped face and arms of the girl? Now, let’s change the name of this layer from “new layer” to “skin”.

TIP: Make it a habit of naming every layer or path you create so you won’t have a hard time finding them later if there’s a need to edit or update it. It’s also good to be organized, it makes you work efficiently and faster.

Let’s double check whether we were able to cut it out properly by disabling the background image. Just click on the eye symbol to disable it.

Good? Okay, let’s move on to the next step.

Go to the PATHS tab and click on “create a new path”. There you will be able to see a new path has been created named as “Path 1”. Go ahead and rename it. Yes, type in “hair”. Now, proceed on cropping the hair. You just have to trace an outline again. So, you done with cropping?

Don’t forget to go back to PATHS tab and select the hair path you created before. Make sure you can see an active ants’ trail surrounding the hair. And then move to the LAYERS tab so you can so you can copy and paste the hair you just cut out on the canvas we’re working on. You just have to click the background image again and press CTRL/command + click the PATH THUMBNAIL. Repeat the cropping process until you’ve properly dissected the subject or divided the parts you want to tune-up.

STEP 3: Desaturate!

This is an important step to consider if you want to be accurate with colors. The objective is to turn the selected layer into Black and White so it’s easier for us to tune up the color. So select the hair layer and desaturate it. The image below shows where you can find the “desaturate” option. So just follow this step: go to IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > DESATURATE.

STEP 4: Tune up the image with the Color Balance Adjustment Layer.

So this is the part where we actually add colors in our subject. We have to create a different balance of reds, greens and blues to modify the look of our photo. Press CTRL + B which is the shortcut in getting to the COLOR BALANCE properties. Make sure that the Tone Balance is set to “Midtones” then play around with the color levels to achieve your preferred skin tone. For now, let’s set it to CYAN, MAGENTA and YELLOW. You can follow the color levels as shown in the image below.


We can now proceed in changing the color of her clothes. Yes, you have to do the cropping again. Create layering so you can give different colors to the clothes. Set the main garment to RED: +80 which means the color levels formula is +80, 0,0. I’ll let you experiment with the colors and skip giving you the formula for the other layers of the clothes. But as for the accessories: bracelet and the earring, you can follow the formula set in the image below.


You may want to munch on something before you end the photo manipulation so grab your Boy Bawang and enjoy it! 😀

Oooops! Did you notice that the skin tone is a bit greyish? Let’s adjust the color levels again so go look for the SKIN layer. Found it? Okay. Let’s go for a Dark Olive skin. Try to put in +17 (RED), -6 (MAGENTA), -16 (YELLOW). Fix the color of her hair, too. Go for this color levels: +9 (RED), 0, -16 (YELLOW).


And for the baby’s skin, let’s try this color levels: +27, 0, -24. Refer to the image below.


Boy Bawang break helps you see the imperfections, right?! Teehee… 😀

STEP 5: Use the blend mode and opacity.


Tweak the color of the hair on her forehead and the hairline. Color levels should be +21 (RED), 0, -28 (YELLOW) and reduce the opacity to 70%.


Then go to the BLEND MODE option in the top left of the LAYERS panel and change the blend mode for the hair on the forehead or hairline from NORMAL to OVERLAY.


And we’re done! Yay! Let me know if you did good. 🙂


Final Output.


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