Color Lookup adjustments

Photoshop has never lacked for ways to manipulate colors. But the new Color Lookup image adjustments in CS6 provide an interesting approach, one based on the use of look up tables (LUTs). These have long been used in the film industry as a way to standardize color between different applications. Not just to achieve consistent correct color, but also to apply special effects. For example, a lot movies these days make use of color grading to achieve a distinctive color look, which might be applied to all the footage in a film, or may be applied selectively, to create a sepia vintage feel, or add a deep blue color to night time scenes.

In Photoshop CS6 you can add a Color Lookup adjustment layer and in the Properties panel select effects from one of three different menu options: 3DLUT File, Abstract or Device Link. These coloring effects are achieved by remapping every color in the image to a different one using a lookup table. It is interesting to click on each of the menus to explore the results that can be achieved when selecting different effects.

This shows the Properties panel view when a Color Lookup adjustment layer has been added to an image.

I suppose you can look upon these as being like Photoshop action recipes. However, one huge advantage of using these LUTs is that unlike Photoshop actions, you are not limited by the need to maintain the same RGB color space in both the created action and the image to be processed. The Color Lookup effects are consistent regardless of the RGB space you use.

The effects (from left to right) are Normal, Candlelight CUBE, 2Strip, TealOrangePlusContrast
TensionGreen, GoldCrimson, FuturisticBLEAK, and ColorNegative.

Upgrade options

If the features I've just highlighted make Photoshop CS6 a compelling upgrade for you, there are a few purchase options you'll want to consider. Photoshop CS6 is available in both a standard and extended version (the features I've shown are common to both).

If you rely on other Adobe CS products like Illustrator or Dreamweaver for example, you can also purchase Photoshop as part of a broader CS6 Creative Suite package, with four different configurations - at different prices - from which to choose.

In addition, there is now the option to subscribe to Adobe's Creative Cloud service for a monthly fee. While this monthly service includes online storage space you must take into account whether upgrading by subscription is cost effective compared to an outright purchase. In the past, Adobe has upgraded their range of Creative Suite programs roughly every two years. With Creative Cloud priced at £46.88 per month here in the UK, that is equivalent to spending over £1,000 over a two-year period. For me then, the more sensible option was to buy a CS6 Design Suite upgrade. Your mileage of course may vary.

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Martin Evening is an award winning advertising and fashion photographer based in London, England. He is also a best-selling author of instructional titles such as The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book and Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers.