Incubation X

Original

Incubation X

Increased saturation in high ranges of saturation only

Incubation X

Red and blue added to high ranges of saturation only

Wouldn’t it be great if you could selectively adjust colors based on how saturated they are in Photoshop? You can! How? With a free plug-in Adobe provides called Multiplugin; it hasn’t been updated since Photoshop CS5 but it still works with current versions.

Why would you want to do this ?

Do you have images where semi-neutrals not saturated enough, but you don’t want other colors to get too saturated? Select the less saturated colors before adjusting them. Do you have images where you’d like to reduce the saturation of very saturated colors without affecting other levels of saturation? Select the more saturate colors before adjusting them. You can even select colors with medium saturation, separating them from both the high and low range of saturation. Using this technique, you can produce subtle color effects that aren’t possible with any other method.

You might ask yourself, “Isn’t relative saturation adjustment what Vibrance does?” Yes and no. Yes. Vibrance does saturate the less saturated colors more than the more saturated colors and it prevents clipping in the most saturated colors. No. Vibrance offers no control over which ranges of saturation are affected; it can only adjust saturation but not lightness or hue; and it limits how strong an adjustment you can make – it won’t produce effects as strong as Hue/Saturation.

Saturation masks aren’t for saturation adjustments only. This simple selection / mask can be used with any color adjustment tool in Photoshop, greatly expanding your ability to adjust color. Imagine adjusting the lightness and/or hue of high, medium, or low ranges of saturation independently of one another.

Semi-neutrals not interesting enough? Try selecting the low levels of saturation and shifting their hue. Cool them with cyan and/or blue. Warm them with yellow and/or red. Or, try a Renaissance painting technique and add brown.

Throughout the history of photography, most people didn’t think about color this way because they didn’t have the ability to do it. Now you can. It’s well worth your time to explore this new way of seeing, thinking about, and adjusting color.

Read more

05.highsaturation

One of the most distinctive features of a visual artist’s use of color is their use of saturation.

Many photographers are often asked, “Are you a black and white or color photographer?” (Curiously other visual artist’s are rarely asked this question.) While many people who ask it don’t mean it to be, it’s a loaded question. There’s often a latent assumption that you can’t do both well. In fact, work with one can strengthen work with another. Moreover, the question suggests that black and white (and shades of gray) are not colors, when in fact they are very specific colors – neutral colors. And, the question does not address with any specificity how a photographer uses more saturated color. Curiously, this question is rarely asked of painters and filmmakers. A more useful question might be, “How saturated is your palette?”

There are essentially six distinct levels of saturation – neutral, semi-neutral, reduced saturation, fully saturated, highly saturated, and super-saturated.

01

Neutral colors are characterized by a lack of saturation. Neutral lie along the luminosity spine that unites all hues. (Equal parts of complementary colors mix to create neutral colors.) At any one luminosity value there is only one truly neutral color. Using neutrals is comparatively simple, as two other variables (hue and saturation) in color are reduced to the same values (zero); it’s an economy of means. To appear luminous neutral images typically employ significant contrast in luminosity to compensate for it’s lack of hue and saturation. With a few exceptions, neutral images generally present a radical transformation of the way we see. Many people associate it with dream states, whether they dream in black and white or not. It is often thought of as elegant, if not conservative and restrained. The luminosity component of color aids in judging levels of illumination, spatial relationships, and volume. Formal qualities and qualities of illumination become a particularly significant concern in neutral images. Neutral images are often associated with antiquity or of timelessness.

02

A semi-neutral colors contain trace amounts of saturation. Values cluster around the luminosity spine within a small radius. Semi-neutrals do not include truly neutral colors. Semi-neutrals function very similarly to neutrals with additional complexity. Spatial relationships may be subtly accentuated by the slight addition of hue. Iridescent and lustrous color effects can also be achieved.

03

Images with reduced saturation use low levels of saturation. Values cluster around the luminosity spine within a larger radius but do not achieve full naturalistic saturation. Though not fully presented, the hue of elements within a composition becomes apparent. Similarly the ambient color temperature can be suggested. Spatial relationships can be more clearly delineated through hue. Hue becomes a significant concern in compositions, though it may or may not be a primary concern, depending on how it’s deliberate reduction is handled. Images with reduced saturation often do not appear realistic. They appear somewhat restrained, limnal, neither here nor there, but somewhere in between. Many people associate reduced saturation with the past, particularly the recent past.

04

Fully saturated images are the most representational images. Color can be used to make elements in a composition seem similar or different depending on the degree of contrast of one or more of its elements – hue, saturation, or brightness. All three elements of color can be used to describe qualities of form, space, and light. Often, to preserve a realistic appearance, luminosity contrast is lower than in neutral and semi-neutral palettes. Fully saturated palettes are relatively energetic. They have decidedly contemporary connotations.

05.highsaturation

Highly saturated images use a generous amount of saturation, without becoming unrealistically saturated. Hue becomes a dominant preoccupation. It may vie for becoming the primary focus of attention with subject, spatial relationships, or qualities of light. Highly saturated images are energetic. They have contemporary, generally expressive, and sometimes youthful connotations.

06

Super-saturated images use extreme levels of saturation. Realistic representation is generally not a concern. Colors often appear unrealistic. Additionally there is a tendency for colors to posterize, with abrupt transitions between different hues. Hue becomes the dominant concern, over subject or spatial relationships. Super-saturated images tend towards flatness. They are highly energetic, expressive, and sometimes associated with altered states of consciousness.

01.saturation.level

You can use the Color Sampler Tool in Photoshop in combination with the Apple color picker to graph color and identify the level of saturation of one or more images, either yours or someone else’s. See (list url for graphing color article) to find out how.

To lend unity to images within a single body of work it can be helpful, and in some cases necessary, to limit your use of saturation. Many artists will use just one level of saturation. While it is extremely difficult to present a wide array of saturation levels within a single body of work (though not a single image), for instance both neutral and saturated images, it is possible to present images that employ more than one level of saturation if they are closely related, such as reduced saturation and fully saturated or fully saturated and highly saturated palettes. As variety in saturation level rises it becomes more difficult to have separate images be seen as related.

When you think of Ansel Adams’ photographs you think of neutral images rather than highly saturated ones. When you think of Matisse’s paintings you think of supersaturated images rather than neutral ones. Think of your use of saturation as an essential component to defining your own signature style.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.

Learn more with my DVDs on Color here.

Learn more with my free color resources here.

Saturation

June 7, 2011 | Leave a Comment |

One of the most distinctive features of a visual artist’s use of color is their use of saturation.

Many photographers are often asked, “Are you a black and white or color photographer?”  (Curiously other visual artist’s are rarely asked this question.) While many people who ask it don’t mean it to be, it’s a loaded question. There’s often a latent assumption that you can’t do both well. In fact, work with one can strengthen work with another. Moreover,  the question suggests that black and white (and shades of gray) are not colors, when in fact they are very specific colors – neutral colors. And, the question does not address with any specificity how a photographer uses more saturated color. Curiously, this question is rarely asked of painters and filmmakers. A more useful question might be, “How saturated is your palette?”

There are essentially six distinct levels of saturation – neutral, semi-neutral, reduced saturation, fully saturated, highly saturated, and super-saturated.

Read more

Color has 3 elements – luminosity, hue, and saturation. All colors can be described as some combination of these three values. While we see all three elements simultaneously in a single color, learning to distinguish these three elements from one another is an important perceptual skill.

luminosity

Luminosity, the light and dark of color, can be describe on a scale of 0-100. 0 is pure black. 100 is pure white. (It’s the zone system’s 0-10 times 10.)

hue

Hue, the color temperature of color, can be described on a scale of 0-360. (There are 360 degrees in a circle. Every 30 degrees transitions into a new family of color – i.e. 0 is red, 30 is orange, 60 is yellow, etc.)

saturation

Saturation, the degree of neutrality of color, can be described on a scale of 0-100. 0 is absolutely neutral. 100 is maximum saturation.

LHS (luminosity, hue, saturation) is an excellent language for describing color perceptually (though not necessarily the best for editing and printing). Instead of memorizing RGB values for all the colors in all the standard color spaces, or CMYK values for all devices, or a Pantone swatchbook, you can simply observe color and translate that into 3 values.

LHS is an easy language to learn. Luminosity and Saturation are described on a 0-100 scale, essentially a 1-10 scale with more granularity. Easy. Learning numerical values for Hue is more challenging, but if you memorize a few values you can easily figure out the others. Think of the color wheel as a clock. 0 degrees, red, starts at 3 o’clock. Count back 1 hour, 2 o’clock, to the next color, orange, or 30 degrees. Keep counting back in 1 hour increments to the next color, (i.e. 1 o’clock or 60 degrees is yellow). (An easy mnemonic for remembering the progression of hues is ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You’ll need twelve words to make it all the way around the clock – red, orange, yellow, warm green, green, cool green, cyan, blue, warm blue, purple, violet, magenta.)

Consider LHS a ‘zone system’ for color. It’s a simple sophisticated language that can be used to describe color with greater clarity. You’ll find learning it will lead to better communication. Once you learn it, you’ll be able to communicate more precisely with others who know it – you can even teach it to others quickly.

You’ll also find that once you learn the language of LHS, you’ll see color more clearly, remember it better, understand more about how colors work together, and find ways to adjust colors to reproduce them more accurately or enhance their capacity for expression.

Learning LHS is time well spent.

Exercise

Identify colors with LHS numbers.

Here are three examples.

50-0-0

50/0/0

100-0-100

100/0/100

30:75:75

50/30/50

Now, call out numbers for more of the colors you see.

Make this a habit and you’ll develop razor sharp color perception.

Learn more in my workshop The Power of Color.

Learn more with my DVDs on Color here.

Learn more with my free color resources here.


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