5 Ways to Use the Color Calibration Tool in Adobe Camera RAW The power of the color calibration tool in Photoshop

in this video, Blake Rudis from f64 Academy looks at five different ways that you can use the color calibration tab in Adobe Camera RAW and why it is such a useful but underrated tool.

Before we start we have a confession. Like many other users of Adobe Camera RAW, we never gave the calibration tool a second look.  However, after watching this video we will certainly try and see how we can integrate it into our ACR workflow and we think that you should at least give it a go.

How does the calibration tool in ACR work?

The calibration tool in ACR lets you manipulate the red, green, and blue pixels of your image. There are many ways to manipulate color in Photoshop but the calibration tool works in a very unique way and is often misunderstood and thus probably less used than other ways.

The first slider controls the amount of magenta/green tint in the shadows and can have a pretty dramatic effect on your image.

The next 3 sets of sliders are a bit more confusing. They seemingly control the hue and saturation of the red green and blue but not in a way many people might think.

Colors on your screen are created by combining different levels of three primary colors. So to create yellow for example you combine red and green (in equal value).  The color calibration sliders allow you to control this mix for the entire image.

So reducing the reds for example will not necessarily simply reduce the red in the image like you can do with the ACR color mixer. It will reduce the reds from each color that has red in it and will change the image accordingly.

This makes the calibration tool a very powerful tool but it is indeed more complex in nature than a straight forward slider for increasing or reducing a very specific color.

In the next section, we will look at how Rudis suggests that you can actually use this tool effectively in your edits.

Retoucher Marcin Mikus with a clear explanation about the calibration panel in ACR

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What can you do with Color Calibration Tool in Adobe Camera RAW?

So let’s go over the uses Rudis demonstrates for the calibration tool in the clip above.

  1. Minimal color boost – you can use it to fine-tune colors in any image by playing with both the hue and saturation of the three primary colors – just remember you are going to affect every area of the image that has the color that you are changing not just the colors themselves.
  2. Bring colors out – in some images you can push the saturation way up if you want to get more vibrant colors, however, a good tip is to start with these changes before you make any other changes to the image.
  3. Better Color in Wildlife Images – Again start with the calibration tool, then make your other changes, and only then go to the color mixer and this can certainly apply even to wildlife image (although we are not fans of the blue color in the eagle feathers in the video).
  4. Much Better Skin Tone Quality – If you are adding the calibration later in your edit you should duplicate the layer you were working on and use that layer for the calibration (open ACR from Photoshop). This way you can add a mask or change the opacity and hence fine-tune the specific amount and areas where you apply the calibration effect.
  5. Calibration at the end of the edit – another way of using calibration is at the end of your edit just to add a touch of final color to an area and again in this case you can finish the edit, create a layer that combines all the other layers and apply the calibration change and add a mask to pinpoint the areas you want to affect.

Bonus Video: Rudis in-depth look at the color calibration tool/tab

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You can find many more Photoshop video tutorials on LensVid’s Photoshop section.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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