Remove Color Cast in Photoshop Within Minutes
Even though modern cameras try to neutralize a fair portion of color cast and you’ve got the possibility to adjust the White Balance, color cast remains a common problem in the majority of the images we capture. It might not always be prominent but just a slight touch of color cast can be enough to make a great image appear less impressive.
A slight color cast can look good in certain images (such as a warm orange glow on a sunset image) but it’s better to manually add this in post processing or deliberately creating it by using a warmer White Balance in the camera. The color cast that comes straight from the camera is often less appealing and has a grungy feel to it.
In this article, we’ll look at 3 methods you can use to remove color cast in Photoshop. These methods are all fairly easy and won’t take more than a minute (at most!) to use, yet the difference can be huge.
Method #1: Levels Adjustment Layer
The Levels Adjustment Layer is a tool that can be used in a variety of settings. Those who already are familiar with Photoshop might know this tool as a great way of adding or adjusting the contrast. However, it can also be used to remove and neutralize color cast.
Let’s get straight to it:
- Open a Levels Adjustment Layer
- Change the Channel to Red (Click the arrow next to RGB and select Red from the drop-down menu)
- Take the left slider (darks slider) and move it towards the right until it meets the edge of the graph (if the edge of the graph goes all the way to the left, skip this step)
- Take the right slider (highlight slider) and move it towards the left until it meets the edge of the graph
- Change the channel to Green and repeat step 3 and 4
- Change the channel to Blue and repeat step 3 and 4
That’s it! The worst of the color cast should now be removed. In most cases, this method will do an acceptable job. Besides neutralizing the worst of the color cast, you might notice that it’s also added some extra contrast, which is in many cases a good thing.
If there’s still some color cast left and you’re not completely satisfied, simply open up the levels adjustment again and in each individual channel (Red, Green and Blue) adjust the middle slider (midtone slider) either towards the left or the right, depending on the color cast you have.
This is a technique that does require some trial and error but once you get the hang of it and understand how the colors of the different channels work, it has the potential to do a great job.
Method #2: Match Color
When the color cast is dominant, such as in the example image from this article, the Match Color technique will make the biggest difference. This technique is much easier than the previous and it requires only one simple click.
- Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Match Color
- In the window that appears, check the box for Neutralize
- Click OK
This took only a few seconds and the difference is extraordinary. As you can see on the image, nearly all of the blue color cast is removed and the image now looks much more like what I saw with my eyes.
Since this particular image had an abnormally strong blue color cast, I’ve adjusted the Match Color sliders slightly. The effect this has can easily be recreated through other steps and color management techniques in Photoshop but why not keep it simple when it does an equally good job?
By adjusting the Luminance and Color Intensity sliders, I reintroduced some color and life into the image. The saturation was slightly increased as well as the overall brightness.
In most cases, you won’t need to adjust them, though. Simply checking the neutralize box will be enough. However, this just shows that playing around with the sliders can be a good way to learn sometimes.
Method #3 – Nik Software
To remove color cast using the third method, you’ll need to install Google’s free plugin Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (I highly recommend getting the Nik Software Collection if you haven’t already).
Just like the previous methods, removing color cast in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 is a quick and easy process. It only requires a few simple steps:
- Open Nik Color Efex Pro 4
- In the left side navigation, find Remove Color Cast and click it
- In the adjustment window to the right, you’re presented with two sliders: Color & Strength
- Adjust the Color slider until you find a color that neutralizes your color cast
- Adjust the Strength slider until you’re happy with the result (the stronger the color cast the more strength you need)
It might take some practice until you find the correct color in the Colors slider to neutralize the color cast. For cold images, you would normally go for a warmer color.
There are a few other methods to adjust color balance in Nik Software as well, such as in the Pro Contrast adjustment where you’re presented with a slider named Correct Color Cast. However, the method shown above appears to be more flexible and will reward you with a more accurate result.
Global vs Local Color Management
All three of the methods explained above are easy, flexible and relatively accurate ways to remove color cast in Photoshop. I personally use these in my workflow and I recommend that you implement them in yours too.
That being said, I want to quickly talk about global versus local adjustments when working with color management. This is a slight digression from the color casts, though it still is on the same topic. Color Management and local vs. global adjustments will be discussed in a later article but it’s important to mention it now as well.
The techniques taught in this article are global adjustments, meaning that the adjustment is visible on the entire image. Even though most images require certain global adjustments, a global color correction is not always ideal. Remember that the colors in a scene change a lot and the camera isn’t always able to correctly capture this.
In some cases, you’ll want to keep the color cast in certain areas as it actually benefits the image. Typically, a shadow area will benefit from a slight blue cast while a warmer highlight area works with a yellow or orange color cast. Using Layer Masks to remove the adjustments (or weaken them) in certain areas can be a more accurate and visually pleasing method when working with color.
A layer mask can be easily added to the layers created in the methods above so I urge you to experiment with using one. Again, this allows you to manually remove the color correction (adjustment) from the places you want to keep the color cast.
What’s your preferred method of removing color cast? Let us know in a comment below!