Color Tool

by Steve Simon

Using the levels control in Aperture, you can play with different color channels to make color adjustments; but I find the Color Tool a much more natural and therefore easier way to fix color, particularly with all important skin tones. These color tools are powerful, allowing you to fine-tune the hue, saturation, and luminance of each color individually. Of course you can use this tool to great advantage with all images from landscapes to still lives, but this post concentrates on skin.

I first use the white balance slider to get as close as I can get to natural overall skin color. If I had an overall magenta or green cast, I would adjust the Tint control. I always try and shoot a frame with my WhiBal card when I can, to simplify the White Balance Correction. See previous post.

Because I currently use one 23-inch monitor with Aperture, I find my screen is less busy by collapsing the colors in the adjustments HUD to "compact" vs. the expanded view, by toggling this button: Toggle.jpg

I then choose one color at a time to make my adjustments.

Collapsed Color Hudfinal500px.jpg
Collapsed view where Red has been highlighted and the saturation decreased. Twins ©Steve Simon

But if I'm working on an image where several colors need to be changed, I may prefer the expanded view of the colors (below), where I can easily move from color slider to color slider making multiple color changes.

It helps to know some color theory, but with the color controls in Aperture, the squares on either side of the slider show you toward which color your changes will be made.

Hue: The Hue slider will move the selected color closer to the color on either side of the slider. I find I most often use the Yellow Hue Slider with skin tones, warming up the yellows by moving the Hue slider toward the red.

Saturation: This slider will increase or decrease the intensity of the color high-lighted. I don't know about you, but with my digital capture, red is the color which most often needs de-saturating in the skin tones.

Luminance: This slider affects the brightness of the specific color highlighted; and is more subtle than using the Saturation slider.

After you make your changes, using the "Color Range" slider is a great way to finesse subtle skin tone changes. The range slider allows you to make even more subtle changes by increasing or decreasing the combination of color adjustments made with the Hue, Saturation and Luminance Sliders. It allows minor refinements that will satisfy your perfectionist tendencies.




I have made my adjustments on this image, but have unchecked both Color and White Balance to show you the original, un-adjusted image at the top. The middle image is with white balance only checked (showing) and the bottom image shows what the photograph looks like with all white balance and color adjustments.

Notice that I have stayed mostly in the yellows and reds for my adjustments, taking out some cyan and blue in the curtains. After decreasing the red saturation, I moved the yellow hue slider toward the red for a warming effect, and have increased the luminance in both reds and yellows to brighten them slightly. Then I finessed my changes using the Range slider.

Once you've made your color corrections for one image, you can lift and stamp to apply your changes to all images shot under the same lighting conditons.


Martin Herrera
2007-05-17 11:07:53
Thanks! This post has been incredibly helpful. As much as I consider myself a quite descent user of Aperture, I had not really until now leveraged the colors adjustments for skin tones. I had used it much more for my flower photography. Thanks so much! Great addition to my Aperture skillset.

Martin Herrera |

Edmund Fladung
2007-05-17 14:44:15
Hey Steve, absolutely wonderful tutorial. I really like how you focused in on skin tones. The color tool panel is a very powerful part of Aperture, but it can also be very daunting for those of us who don't quite know exactly how to achieve certain things, like good skin tones. Maybe this could be a mini-series of tutorials with Landscapes next? just wishful thinking. a big thanks.
2007-05-17 17:20:27
call me crazy!

I prefer "warmer" skin tones, and thus the middle pic is probably the one I'd have stuck with. it gets cooler & cooler the further down you go.

All preference, of course! And I do like the colors tool, was VERY glad they added it in 1.5. That was probably the ONE THING that really made me consider lightroom for a split second, is their version of that tool that for so long Aperture didn't even have!

Steve Simon
2007-05-17 19:13:02
You're crazy! It's all personal preference and I actually don't mind the middle one, but I do like the white as opposed to bluish, cyani curtains. Of course a properly calibrated monitor is a given, and it really depends on final output. For print, different papers are inherently cooler or warmer, so you may want to compensate. The fun never ends...
2007-05-18 21:11:49
Thank you Steve. I didn't realize there was an expansion to this tool and was actually quite bewildered by it...makes sense now.