Learn a quick fix using lab color mode in Photoshop for adding a color boost to your images. It is simple, you can make it a preset so it is easy to use again in future and it packs a real punch!


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley.

Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you a simple photo fix using LAB mode that’s guaranteed to add punch to your photos. Before we get started let’s have a look and see what it is that we’re aiming for.

This is going to be are starter image and this is the effect that we’re going to get very quickly and easily with this image. Now this might not be my ending point traditionally in fixing this image but I want to show you how to get from here to here. And where you take it from there is up to you.

Now this fix that I’m going to show you uses the LAB color mode otherwise known as LAB color. And you can’t use it in other applications because it is not available. So for example this mode is not available in Photoshop Elements but you can use it in Photoshop. And it works particularly well when you have colors that are sort of all in the same palette.

You can see here that we’ve got some browns and sort of gray blues but there’s not a lot of differentiation between them. It also works pretty well with desert scenes, lots of greens in an image where there’s not a lot of definition between the greens. So the effect is very, very simple. I’m going to start with my layers palette visible and I’m going to choose Image > Mode > LAB Color.

I’m going into LAB color mode. And that’s just switched the image into LAB color. And then I’m going to duplicate the background layer. So I’m going to right click it and choose Duplicate Layer and click Ok. So now I have two versions of the image one on top of the other.

Now the adjustment that we’re going to use with this image is a curves adjustment. So I’m just going to put everything out of the way for a minute and let’s go and get our curves adjustment, Image > Adjustments > Curves.

Now I like to save this fix when I create it as a preset. So I have it here. It’s called three boxes. I’m not going to use it this time because I want to show you exactly how to do it but this is how you would do it. And you can actually then save it as a preset so you can use it over and over again.

Now the curves dialog is showing you at the moment the lightness, the L channel in LAB. The other two channels are A and B and we want to work on A and B. These are the two color channels. Now this is going to be a little bit confusing if you haven’t dealt with it before. I’m going to explain it to you but you don’t actually need to know anything about it.

I do want to make sure that I’m showing this smaller grid. So I’ve got  my options available here and I’m making sure I’ve got a smaller grid. The A channel is the green magenta channel. So this is magenta, this is green. So when I drag in here I’m going to drag in three boxes and you can see that I’ve added a lot of green to the image.

And it works best when you have an image that’s nicely white balanced. So if your image has got a colorcast I suggest you fix it before you come in here. So I’ve dragged in here three boxes on the bottom of the image, bottom of the curve, and now I’m going to drag in three boxes on the top of the curve.

And you come in the exact same number of boxes. You can do one, two or three. Three is just a really, really big effect. And I want to show you exactly how that works. The idea is for this line to go through the middle. So we’re not adding a colorcast to the image. We’re just boosting the colors. So that’s the A channel, magenta and green.

The B channel is yellow and blue. And this is blue and this is yellow. We’re going to do the exact same thing. We’re going to come in a certain number of boxes. Now we could come in two boxes in either direction in this channel. I’m actually going to do three. But you can come in a different number of boxes than you used for the A channel but you’ve got to do the same number of boxes in a particular channel.

So if we’re in a B channel then we’ve got to go three boxes, three boxes or two, two or one, one. But we can’t do different numbers because if we do the line here no longer goes through the middle and we’re throwing a colorcast on our image. That’s why you’ve got to come in the exact same number.

So A channel, magenta/green, boosted that, B channel, blue/yellow, boosted that. The L channel is lightness. So if you want to you could add some contrast in using this channel but you don’t have to. The fix is not about that. So I’m just going to remove it. We’re just going back in with the colors that we’ve boosted.

At this stage if you want to save this as a preset click this little icon here and do Save Preset. And I’m just going to save it for you so that you can see how it works. Again, let’s call it LAB fix and I’ll click Save. And here it is here and we can apply it at any time to our image by just clicking on it. So now that we’ve done this we’re headed back into RGB mode.

So I’m going to click Ok. Now I’m going to choose Image > Mode > RGB Color. Now I’m going to be prompted to flatten this or not flatten. Now I don’t want to flatten. I want these two layers separate so I’m going to choose Don’t Flatten.

However, if we had done curves as an adjustment layer we would be forced into flattening that adjustment layer because it won’t come back into RGB color. That’s why I used just a regular adjustment on a duplicate layer because an adjustment layer won’t work for this process. So I’m going to choose Don’t Flatten because I want my two layers.

And you can see here that we’re back in RGB. And now what I’m going to do is I’m going to select a blend mode to blend these two layers together and I’m going to use the overlay blend mode. And I use that because it’s a really nice contrasty blend mode. If it’s too much of an effect you can always dial down the opacity.

I’m taking it back to the original image and now I can walk it back up and stop wherever it is that I think I’m getting a good fix. So that’s an LAB color fix. I think you’re going to really like it. It’s one of my go to fixes. I use it a lot and particularly on images like this because as you can see the starter image is really, really blah but this image a whole lot better and I really love it.

I’m Helen Bradley.

Thank you for joining me for this video tutorial. Look out for more tutorials on this YouTube channel and please subscribe to my channel so you’ll be notified when new videos are released. And at the moment we’re releasing every Monday and Thursday.

Also visit my website at projectwoman.com for more tips, tricks and tutorials on Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Photoshop Elements and a whole lot more.


Helen Bradley