We are happy to welcome Kara Wahlgren, owner of Kiwi Photography in South Jersey as our featured photographer in this week’s “Before & After” photo editing tutorial. Follow along as she demonstrates how to correct a green color cast in Photoshop.
The image above was taken at one of my favorite locations. The rich, green foliage makes a perfect backdrop—but it also creates a green color cast. Since I shoot here often, I’ve had to come up with a pretty fast technique for getting rid of greenish skin.
This image was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II with the 135mm f/2L lens at f/2.2.
Get Rid of Green
Your first line of defense is to tone down the green tint using the “tint” slider in ACR or Lightroom. Before I make any other changes, I use the dropper to set the white balance. Just click the dropper, then click a white or gray area on the image. For this image, I clicked on the white of her eyeball. The dropper isn’t foolproof and you may have to adjust the sliders it a bit, but it’ll get you close to the right color.
To tone down the green even more, I go into the Hue tab and move the yellow and green sliders to the left just a bit (in this case, I moved both to -10). This adds some rosier tones to those colors only, without making the whole image turn pink.
Once the white balance looks good, I do a basic exposure adjustment. The exposure was good SOOC, so I just brightened it slightly using the exposure, fill light, and brightness sliders. Then I bumped the blacks a teeny bit to add contrast.
Now I’m ready to fine-tune in Photoshop CS5, so I click “Open Image.”
Eliminate Stubborn Color Casts
Even after the overall color looks good, there may still be some green casts on the skin, especially in the shadows under the chin, arms, and legs. To combat that, I select a nice, rosy spot of skin from the forehead or cheek using the Eyedropper tool (#1). Then I click on the selected color (#2), which pulls up the Color Picker tool. In the Color Picker, use command+C to copy the hex code for the color you selected (#3). You might need the hex code in the next step.
Create a new Solid Color Fill layer. This should automatically use the color you selected with the Eyedropper in the last step, but if it doesn’t, you can paste the hex code in the box that pops up.
Creating a solid fill layer will initially cover your image with a solid color. Don’t panic.
Make sure your layers palette is visible (if not, click F7 to view it). With the fill layer selected, choose “Soft Light” as the blending mode, and lower the opacity to your taste. (I did 15% opacity.)
The solid color fill layer is automatically created as a “Reveal All” mask, meaning you can see its effect on the entire image. Since the purpose of this mask is to paint away color casts, I want to hide its effects on most of the image and only paint over the problem areas to reveal the effects. That means I have to turn the mask into a “Hide All” mask.
Full disclosure: This may not be the simplest way to do it, but I’m not a shortcut wizard! I click the Paint Bucket tool (#1) and set it to black. Then I click the white layer mask (#2). Then I click anywhere on the image using the Paint Bucket tool. That fills the layer mask so the effects of the fill layer are hidden.
Now I’m ready to paint back the effects of the fill layer over the trouble spots. I select the Brush tool (#1), set the size to around 100 pixels and hardness to 0% (#2), and change the opacity to 20% (#3). Then I paint over any greenish, shadowy areas. This adds a subtle, rosy hue to those spots.
Then I merge all the layers (command+E).
Add Some Pop
Now that I’m happy with the color, it’s time to add a last bit of “pop” to the image. There are tons of ways to do this, but this is my personal favorite. First, I create a duplicate layer of the background by right-clicking the background in the Layers palette and choosing “Duplicate Layer.”
Then I set the blending mode to soft light, and reduce the opacity until it gives just the right amount of pop. For this image, it was 15% opacity.
Don’t merge the layers just yet! It’s time to…
Fine Tune It
First, I make a final Levels adjustment. I click the background layer, then open the Levels tool (command+L). I make the shadows a little deeper, brighten the midtones, and boost the highlights slightly. I tend to edit on the clean side, so I made very minor adjustments, but you can go as dramatic as you want in this step.
Now it’s time to merge the layers (command+E).
I’m a sucker for a slight vignette. Not the cheesy chain-store oval vignette, but a subtle burn in the shadows to spotlight the subject. I use an action for this one—MCP’s free Burnt Edges action. I set the opacity of the action to 19%. Why not 20%? Just because 19 is my lucky number.
Last, I added just the tiniest bit of rosiness to the image using the Color Balance tool (command+B). I only adjusted the midtones, and bumped the reds to +2 and magenta to -1.
And that’s it—the finished product is ready! It may sound like a tedious process, but if you’re handy with layer masks and blending modes, each step will only take a few seconds.