Color grading your photos in Photoshop using the curves and hue/saturation adjustments is doable but sometimes it’s hard to see what’s happening. So I made for you a reference chart that you can import into your photos and it will let you see exactly how your adjustment layers are affecting the tones and colors in your photo. The reference charts are intended for people who already have some experience color grading their photos. It’s not really made for beginners… and I’m not going to be going into too much details about how to use the tone curve. So if this is something that might interest you, keep reading and you’ll see how it works.
Color Grading Chart Photoshop Tutorial
After downloading, you’ll find three image files.
Start by dragging and dropping the two Photoshop reference chart images into your document. You can scale it to any size you like and then you press enter when you’re done.
Make sure that the top reference chart is positioned as the top layer.
You can then place your adjustment layers in between the two reference chart layers. For most color grading effects, you really only need two layers, a curves and hue/saturation adjustment layer. You can add adjustment layers in the adjustments panel. If you don’t see this you can find it by going to Window > Adjustments.
In the Adjustments panel, add a Hue/Saturation and a Curves adustment layer. Position the layers below “Photoshop Top Layer”.
The upper tone chart here is for your curves adjustment layer. The bottom chart here is for your hue/saturation adjustment layer. Start with the tone curves. In the properties panel, click on the targeted adjustment tool. This tool lets you click anywhere in your image to add a point to your tone curve. But instead of clicking on your image, you’ll be clicking on the chart and dragging up or down to adjust it.
For example, if we want to lift the blacks, just drag on the black chart to lift it up. You want to start with the 5 zone chart.
If you need more precision, then switch to the 9 zone chart.
The gradient on the bottom of the chart is only there so that you can be sure that your tones are smooth and gradual.
As an example, here’s an adjustment I made with the tone chart.
Next, I’m going to switch to the red green and blue channels to tint the different tonal areas.
If you haven’t already, make sure you watch the video on the tone chart technique. It’s a great way to learn and understand how the tone curve works.
Next we’re going to move to the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. With this adjustment, you can use the targeted adjustment tool or use the sliders. I find it easier and more precise to use the sliders.
There are 4 rows in this chart. Basically when you’re adjusting the hue, look at the hue chart.
When you’re adjusting the saturation, look at the saturation chart here. Same thing with the lightness. This chart lets you see exactly what color adjustments you’re making. The rainbow gradient on the top is to ensure that your results are smooth and gradual. Small color differences are much easier to notice when you’re looking at the chart while making the adjustments.
When you’re done, you can hide or delete the two layers with the charts. And that’s how you use the tone and color chart in Photoshop.
By the way, if you want to export this as a Color Lookup Table or LUT to use in other software such as Adobe Premiere or Adobe Media Encoder, you can just go to File > Export > Color Lookup Tables.
Here are some examples of photos processed using the color grading chart for Photoshop.