Imagine this. You’ve just finished working hard on a cool 3D scene. You hit render, but the final image turns out a bit flat. Now you know that you can use Photoshop to color correct your render, but you’re not sure how?
That’s what you’re going to learn in this article.
Here I have shared my personal color correction process I use for all of my renders. There’s ofcourse no ‘one size fits all’, and there could be better processes than mine, but I’ve found this one to be the most efficient.
These are the adjustment layers I use in order —
Each layer’s settings are described below.
Don’t let the numerous settings demotivate you. Good news: you don’t even need to touch most of those!
0- Original image
As the very first layer, a curve will make the darks darker and the lights lighter, hence allowing us more headroom for further adjustments. A more or less sigmoid curve will work for most image types.
Note that you might need to tweak it a bit before finalising after all other adjustments are made.
2- Color Balance
Use this to boost the colors you need more in your image, and cut out the ones you don’t. Stick to the Midtones to keep it simple.
In this example, we boosted Red and Blue a little to get a more natural look.
Unless you want to completely change the colors of your scena few notches of Hue adjustments are enough.
Here we adjusted the hue to make the scene a little more magenta, and decreased the saturation and brightness to prevent unnaturally vibrant colors.
By the point you reach this point, you will realise that your image has either too much contrast, or too little of it. Adjust it with this layer.
This image luckily had almost natural looking brightness and contrast, so we didn’t need to do much. But some images need a bit more extreme adjustments.
5- Color Lookup
The image already looks good so far, but as a final touch, I will use one final layer. The Color Lookup tool acts as a filter on top of all the other adjustments and binds everything together.
You can select any preset that fits the color scheme of your image. This one went well with the “HorrorBlue” preset. The effect might seem a bit extreme, so bring the layer opacity down.
30% layer opacity preserves the effect, but also keeps it subtle enough to not become unnatural.
Some simple adjustments placed in the correct order can make the difference between your render looking like a flat washed out image, or a hollywood level poster.