LAB Color mode: part two / 15 comments + post
online tutorials

In this tutorial we are going to take a detailed look at how to manipulate colour using LAB Color mode. Specifically, we will discuss: the relationship between colours and their numeric values in LAB Color mode; how to alter a specific colour range within an image (a topic we briefly discussed in the An Introduction to LAB Color mode tutorial); how to alter a single colour within an image; how to colour correct an image in LAB Color mode; and how to tone the neutral areas of an image by manipulating the ‘a’ and ‘b’ Curves.

The specific topics covered include how to:

  • alter a colour range of an image by manipulating the ‘a’ and ‘b’ Curves.
  • alter a specific colour within an image.
  • colour correct or alter the white balance of an image.
  • creatively alter the neutral tones in an image.


oldest comments first
comment by mckun at 01:55 PM on 11 June, 2008

Another great toturial.
I notices that David used many photo post recently.It shows that David is a studying teacher.I like this kind of teacher.

comment by Bernard at 04:43 PM on 13 June, 2008

Thank you for both tutorials !!
I've learnt a lot of things !

It have found some misprintings in the 'Evaluating an image in Lab Color Mode' section. The figures in the text are not congruent with those in the images. 61L61A2B has to be replaced by 61L2A48B and 26L4A-24B by 36L4A-24B.

comment by djn1 at 04:50 PM on 13 June, 2008

mckun: thanks.

Bernard: I"m glad you found them useful, and thanks for the heads-up about the typos - I've now corrected them.

comment by Shawn Kingston at 04:38 AM on 25 June, 2008

David, I just wanted to thank you for this excellent tutorial. I have read several about LAB colouring and have never really understood the technique. I think I have finally got to a place where I can start to work better with these tools. I really appreciate the work you do and the help you give.

comment by Mad.Photo.World at 02:19 PM on 25 June, 2008

Great introduction into LAB mode. LAB mode is an amazing space to float around in. When you finally think you understand LAB mode, it turns around and bit you - just to keep you on your toes. I love LAB, but there are so much more to LAB than what you, up until now, have covered - so im expecting more in the future. Its good reading.

Remember: Its all about the center point .. sometimes :)

comment by Cesar at 10:25 AM on 13 July, 2008

Great tuto again!
I'm afraid that the hover about image 1 (show the original image) doesn't work.


comment by djn1 at 10:54 AM on 13 July, 2008

Hi Cesar, thanks for the heads-up about the problem with image 1 - I've fixed it now.

comment by Heli Soto at 05:10 AM on 19 July, 2008

Excellent tutorial. Very logical explanations that makes good sense! Got it!

comment by Mohamed at 03:45 PM on 29 March, 2010

Very simple explanations and excellent Tutorial. I know when and why to use this powerful color mode now.

comment by Jonas (americanvirus) at 06:24 PM on 9 April, 2010

Thanks David. I found this tutorial to be super helpful. After the first LAB tutorial I was left with so many questions about how to alter color without altering the tone of an image in LAB, so I was really glad that this tutorial addressed that.

I found that since often there are so many color ranges in a photograph, I would get a bit confused about what was happening while playing with the curves of the a and b channels in LAB color mode. One experiment that I found very helpful, which might help others was that I made a new file in Photoshop with a white background. I then painted four stripes onto the white corresponding to the colors of the a and b channels in LAB color mode: magenta, green, yellow, and blue. After that I could play with the curves of the a and b channels and really get a good feel for how each adjustment effected a specific color. Then going back and reading this tutorial, it all began to make much more sense to me.

Thanks again! I hope there will be more explorations and tutorials on LAB in the future!

comment by Ian Mylam at 04:46 PM on 13 August, 2011

A brilliant tutorial, as was the Introduction to LAB Colour. You have succeeded in explaining how to work with a conceptually challenging part of Photoshop very clearly. Your gift for teaching is the equal of your gifts as a photographer and as an image-processing expert - and that is quite something. The practical examples were very useful. Thank you.

comment by Wim at 01:38 PM on 25 August, 2011

I like the tutorial about LAB very much, although it is rather difficult sometimes, but I think I will be using it when processing my IR images.

I was confused about section 10 (under altering colour range in LAB) because you shifted the top right point to the bottom right to change the orange/yellow tone to blue. But then, as an explanation, you said: "By dragging the top section of the Curve down towards the bottom-left corner ".

Is this an error in the text, or am I still not getting it?

comment by djn1 at 07:23 AM on 26 August, 2011

Wim: well spotted, it was an error but I've corrected it now. It now reads ".. by dragging the top section of the Curve down towards the bottom-right corner ".

comment by Wim at 04:41 PM on 18 September, 2011

After a major pc crash, I finally managed to complete the two Labcolor workshops. I thought I knew a lot about the possibilities of photoshop, but I never used labcolor before. I think it is a great addition to my photoshop skills and tested your examples on some of my own pictures where I can achieve different results then what I got before using the 'normal' RGB route. So thanx.

comment by Antony Northcutt at 03:32 PM on 22 December, 2011

my head is spinning :)