How Gray is Gray?

November 16, 2015 | Leave a Comment |



In the vernacular the phrase “black and white” can be used to describe definitive answers, while the use of the phrase “gray areas” often means an area defies easy definition making it difficult to draw hard and fast lines.

While there is a general consensus as to what constitutes the colors black, white and gray, opinions vary significantly when it comes to identifying absolute blacks, whites, and grays.

Which of these colors is absolutely neutral? Which are warmer than neutral? Which are cooler than neutral? All of them are nearly neutral when compared to fully saturated colors. More importantly, which colors do you prefer? Which colors would most enhance the images you are producing?

It ‘s helpful to sensitize yourself to these many possibilities and to identify your personal preferences.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery workshop.

Read more about black & white photography here.

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OPTIC 2015 featured dynamic presentations by the world’s top outdoor photographers and gear from the premier manufacturers over three days in New York City brought to you by B&H and Lindblad Expeditions.

Couldn’t attend in person or want to review at your own pace? Now you can view all the presentations of your favorite speakers from the conference.

I presented tips and strategies For Mastering Color In Photoshop. Watch it and you’ll get a taste for the artistic perspective and advanced color adjustment strategies I offer in my digital photography and digital printing workshops. You’ll see in new ways.

View Mastering Color In Photoshop here.


How can you change the appearance of a digital image without changing the numbers that assign the color values? Change what those numbers mean by changing the image’s ICC profile. Using abstract or synthetic profiles, you can make massive changes to an image with little to no cost, changes that ordinarily would cause big problems using standard methods, such as posterization and noise. It’s a practice known to color geeks and few others. When you’ve got a big job to do, it can get you out of a pinch in a hurry.

In most cases, we think of using color management to accurately match colors when moving between different color spaces; ICC profiles are used to describe different color spaces and to make precise transformations to values moved from one to another to maintain consistent appearances. In very rare cases, when profiles are assigned to image files without a color conversion, the appearance of the image changes; values stay the same, but their meaning changes, so the image looks different. So when you use this unorthodox method of color adjustment, you get a change in appearance without changing the values in the file, and this is particularly useful when you want to pay a very small price for making very big changes.

Am I saying that ICC profiles are used to change values so the appearance stays the same? Yes. Am I saying that a color space is just a recipe for color, and that there are many different RGB recipes? Yes, but while they’re the standards, sRGB, ColorMatch RGB, Adobe RGB (1998) and ProPhoto RGB are just a few among many.

With just a little experimentation, you’ll find you, too, can make big changes to your images and pay a small price using synthetic profiles. Using synthetic profiles is color adjustment without editing values; they change no values, but they do change the meaning of those values—and thus their appearance. Don’t believe it? Check your histogram when you assign a profile. You won’t even see it move! It’s kind of unbelievable. Try it. See it with your own eyes. You’ll quickly become a believer, too.

Learn the steps you need to take to make your own synthetic profiles …

Read more on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Resonance in Blue and Gold IA

Originally designed for color grading film and video, Photoshop’s Color Lookup feature offers novel ways to adjust color that will quickly reveal new possibilities in your images. Capable of performing extremely complex calculations extraordinarily efficiently, color lookup tables (LUTs) work by looking up a source color in a table and using the replacement color specified in the grid to transform it for the final destination.

Like Match Color and Gradient Map adjustments (See my last two articles for Digital Photo Pro.) the color effects Color Lookup generates are so complex they are not easy to previsualize. Like anything new, this takes practice. And these are new! Experiment and you’ll find many rich possibilities. Unlike Match Color, Color Lookup is loaded with presets that will allow you to quickly explore many different effects, ones that are far more sophisticated than Gradient Map presets. In this way, using them can be as easy as using many smartphone app effects.

You can also generate your own Color Lookup presets. To do this create a color effect you like with any with any combination of adjustments layers, Opacity and Fill, Blend If sliders, blend modes. (Layer masking and transparency will not be included, because alpha channel information in alpha channels is not included in the recipe.) Then go to File: Export: Color Lookup Table, name the file, and click OK. (I recommend the titles you give your presets include the color space you created them in.) These files are stored in Photoshop’s Presets folder or if they’re saved as ICC profiles in your operating systems Profiles folder. You can now use your custom preset at any time on almost any file by making a Color Lookup adjustment layer and choosing your preset. You can share your custom Color Lookups with others by giving them these exported files. Color LUTs created in Photoshop can even be used in other programs such as After Effects, Premiere, SpeedGrade and other applications that use color LUTs.

Using Photoshop’s Color Lookup you can choose to create color effects as subtle or dramatic as you like. This game-changing color adjustment tool may seem exotic at first because it offers a new way of thinking about and seeing in color. Once you become more familiar with this mindset you’ll truly begin to see with new eyes. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Read more on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


 How was this effect created? See the illustrations below.

Little explored and capable of opening up whole new frontiers in color adjustment, Photoshop’s Match Color is a tool every user should be aware of, even if it’s only to know what’s possible.

There are three primary reasons to consider using Match Color.

1  – Match two colors exactly.  

(Match the color of one object to another.)

2  – Remove strong color casts.    

(It’s great for neutralizing underwater casts.)

3  – Creatively apply the color in one image to another.

(This will blow your mind!)

A few tips will help you make the most of this fascinating tool …

Read the rest of this post on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.




 New colors


Tool used


“Bring the power of desktop apps like Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC to your phone or tablet with all-new connected mobile apps. Capture colors and other inspiration, sketch and draw, and edit photos and videos — all on the go. Your Creative Profile lets you bring those assets into companion desktop and mobile apps, so you have everything you need to do your best work anywhere.”

Adobe just released 9 new mobile apps. Six of them are extensions of its major desktop apps. Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Sketch and Lightroom Mobile are for photographers; Illustrator Draw and Illustrator Line are for graphic artists; and Premiere Clip is for videographers. The other three allow you to capture content from the real world and quickly turn it into assets for use within the Creative Cloud; Adobe Brush and Adobe Color (formerly Kuler) and Adobe Shape.

My favorite? Adobe Illustrator Draw (formerly Ideas). I use it all the time!

Find out about these new Adobe Apps here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Photoshop Mix here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Lightroom Mobile here.

Find out about Adobe Photoshop Sketch here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Brush here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Illustrator Draw here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Illustrator Line here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Shape here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Color here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Voice here.

Watch the demo for Adobe Clip here.

Find out about Adobe Ink & Slide drawing tools.

16 Great Books On Color

September 2, 2014 | 2 Comments |


Looking for great books on color?

Browse this collection of my favorites.

This collection covers a wide range of aspects of the rich phenomenon including physics, biology, psychology, history and theory.


Find more great books here.


Looking for good books? Browse my Recommended Reading lists.

Topics include …

Creativity, Color, Graphic Design, Digital Photography, Photography Appreciation, Photography Theory, Photography Business, Important Thoughts, Cultures, Climate Change, Meditation and Journaling.

If you’re looking for great books on these subjects look at these books first.

Yes, these lists are missing some of the  important classics in these fields that are less accessible and require more effort. Essential, clear, actionable – these are the criteria I’ve used for this selection.

These are some of the books that have changed my life. One of them might change yours too.


This video offers many insights into and from one of the most influential color photographers of our times.

View more Videos On Photographers here.

Read conversations with photographers here.

How artists get there is just as important as where they arrive. My new ebook Process examines many aspects of my creative process – writing, drawing, painting, photography, Photoshop, iphoneography and more. Thirty-three chapters are organized into five sections – Color, Composition, Draw, iPhone, Write – showing how each discipline contributes to the completion of finished works of art.

This ebook reveals that an artist’s creations are produced by not one but many activities in many media and that the creative process is a never-ending journey of discovery that offers surprising insights along the way.

192 pages fully illustrated


$9.99 for Insights enews members

(Email for discount code.)

Buy the PDF here

Download a free preview here.

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