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Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

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  • Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

    This is a question from a beginner.

    How do I avoid "color shifts" when retouching darker skin. It seems most adjustments such as curves/layers/D&B, selective color, etc I make lead to oranges and reds coming out and the skin looks less realistic and not true to the original skin tone of the person or they start developing very noticeable patches of "variegated" skin.

    I've tried working only in color blend mode, only in luminosity, decreasing vibrance/saturation etc but thing just get worse and worse and the color moves further and further away from natural. 50% what I do is on blank layers.

    Sorry to not have examples ready yet.
    Thank you.

  • #2
    Re: Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

    Are you the photographer? If you're making moves that severe you might want to check on the initial exposure.

    You might want to try an adjustment layer to reduce the saturation just of the problem areas below your other adjustments.

    You can also make 2 versions from the raw file, one for highlights and one for shadows and combining the two.
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning


    • #3
      Re: Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

      Don't get into an arms race with adjustment layers. If your skin is going red or orange due to a curves layer, you probably cranked it way too much. Going through blending modes is something beginners due in an effort to try to remedy it (happened to me too, so don't feel bad).

      It means your artistic sensibility and grasp of the tools is probably terrible. The upside to that is a small amount of knowledge can drive enormous improvements, which can feel pretty satisfying.

      You probably need a number of things, but I would start with a nice place where you can concentrate. Take some time to look at each image and ask yourself what you want from it or rather what aspects you want to accentuate or de-emphasize. I think you'll like the results far more if you don't create these kinds of problems in the first place.


      • #4
        Re: Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

        Originally posted by keliot View Post
        How do I avoid "color shifts" when retouching darker skin.
        Understand the color space of your file. RGB can have extreme shifts even with small adjustments relative to a similar move in CMYK. I prefer to make skintone adjustments in CMYK, using cyan as the main contaminant, with black as the shape channel. This is very intuitive and a lot simpler than dealing with the issues RGB can produce.

        Make a duplicate layer, convert to a smart object, then convert that object to CMYK and make your adjustments. A classic Caucasian skintone usually has 1/3 to 1/5 cyan compared to Magenta and Yellow, which are usually similar in value - but that's just a starting point - every skintone is different, but cyan is often referred to as the suntan channel because it darkens the tone. The black channel adds shape and should never be present in highlight areas.


        • #5
          Re: Color Shifts in Dark Skin Tones

          Here's a video on correcting skin tones without having to resort to CMYK:

          Low Rez (YouTube)

          High Rez


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