Photoshop Friday : A More Accurate White Balance

In a previous tutorial I showed you how to quick fix your exposure and color cast by setting the white and black points in a curves adjustment layer by guessing the light and dark points.   I also showed you how to use a color balance adjustment layer to correct obvious color casts.

This tutorial is a much more exact method of using threshold layers to find the true white and black points which will act as an instant exposure/contrast/color cast fix for your image. But it also goes a step further and sets the gray point for even more accuracy.

Using this workflow should help with stubborn images where you are soooo close but still feel like maybe the color or exposure is a bit off. This is particularly helpful in nailing the skintones which is always challenging!

Here is the before image:

Before image:



It doesn’t look too bad right? But once you see the after image below, it becomes clear that the first image was muddied up by a magenta color cast.

After Setting White, Black & Gray Point

After Setting White, Black & Gray Point

Now we have the correct brightness and skintone. A subtle difference here, but the results will be much more or less subtle completely dependent on the image you start with. Try it and you’ll see!


PS: Jasper was sleeping next door so I am quite literally whispering..You’ll probably have to jack up the volume to hear what’s going one.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Allie says:

Thanks for the tips!
Any ideas on how to do this in elements? I only have the option of using the dropper–no drop downs–so I wasn’t sure if I was able to use this in elements.
I appreciate all the tutorials! They are WONDERFUL to beginners like me :)
P.S. How do you get such a nice clean, bright coloring to your pictures? I love your style.

Angelina says:

Help! When I follow this tutorial to a T it seems as though the skin tones can end up hit or miss. I have even watched your skin tone tutorial, and do a check of the numbers after fixing the white balance, and sometimes they’re on and sometimes they’re off. Even the picture you demonstrate looks like if you checked the skin tones after the tutorial you would end up needed to warm it up a little. Not sure how to correctly phrase my question, but not sure why this doesn’t always seem to get skin tones right.

ariana says:

Hi Angelina, in the follow up comment I noted that there was some disagreement to the exact % of magenta and that 50% is too high.. if you keep it to about 1/3 I think you will find you rarely need to warm it up more!

Ashley says:

thank you soooo much for this! I have a few pics that I just couldn’t get right. I tried this out on a few & voila! thank you thank you! Your tutorials are sooooo helpful! I can read all day long & not get it, but when I watch you do it & the way you explain it…I get it! You are amazing!

Georgia says:

Oh hehe it’s ok! I know Photoshop well enough that I can follow the menu clickage. I’ve been using this method now to properly set Curves layers instead of the screen/soft light layer combination. The latest image of my husband in flickr was done via this tutorial!

ariana says:

Georgia, yeah I’m sorry about that.. Jasper was sleeping in the next room and I was whispering. I may have to redo this one..

Georgia says:

Thanks! The sound is really low though :( I had to turn my speakers all the way up and I could still barely hear you.

CMC says:

I love your photoshop tips! Thanks for posting. Great pics Jeff posted on FB of Jasper on his motorcycle!!!

HamiHarri says:

I love your tutorials…I just need to get a faster comp to allow my photoshop to work better :P

jbhat says:

You have a good weekend too! So glad it’s Friday…