Forums > Digital Art and Retouching > Color grading: Before or after retouching?

Retoucher

Sergio Manko

Posts: 123

Lisbon, Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, Portugal

Well the title says it all.I've been hearing mixed opinions about it, some do it before, some do it after the retouching and compositing. So far I've done it before retouching, and after retouching I maybe tweak the color grading a bit more.

What do you think works best?

Aug 29 12 03:01 pm Link

Photographer

Ruben Vasquez

Posts: 3117

Puyallup, Washington, US

Color is one of the first things I work on, but all the retouching goes beneath any color adjustment layers so its a moot point as color could also be one of the last things I work on.

Aug 29 12 03:26 pm Link

Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 22229

New York, New York, US

For me it's:

Color correction -> Retouching -> Color Grading

Aug 29 12 03:50 pm Link

Digital Artist

Koray

Posts: 6716

Ankara, Ankara, Turkey

cleaning and smoothing etc. comes first always for me...then it gets complicated tongue

Aug 29 12 03:54 pm Link

Photographer

Sean Baker Photo

Posts: 8044

Fort Knox, Kentucky, US

Almost always best to do it at the end -- when you've done a good job, it brings the image together, and when you've got work to do it'll let you know in a hurry.  But it is not a means for avoiding work.

Aug 29 12 03:57 pm Link

Retoucher

Sergio Manko

Posts: 123

Lisbon, Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, Portugal

The reason I like to do it at the begining is because it helps me to visualize the finished image much better, and also help not to go overdo retouching.

Aug 29 12 04:06 pm Link

Retoucher

Mike Needham Retouching

Posts: 385

Cheltenham, England, United Kingdom

After. If the brief is a certain 'look' then I might mock up a couple, but I always apply it after the retouch.

Aug 29 12 04:32 pm Link

Retoucher

Jakub Kusmierz

Posts: 87

Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Some color corrections in LR or CameraRaw but after that retouching comes first.
Only doing color grading before retouching to see what the image might end up looking colorwise.
So color grading always at the end i guess.

Aug 29 12 05:26 pm Link

Retoucher

Retouch007

Posts: 403

East Newark, New Jersey, US

I know people who do both. I like to clean up first (clone, d&b, heal) lastly I do the look. Even after the treatment you might go back and do some more clean up or bring stuff back. So it works both ways.

Aug 29 12 07:47 pm Link

Retoucher

Peano

Posts: 4106

Lynchburg, Virginia, US

Sergy Manko wrote:
What do you think works best?

Not surprisingly, it depends on the image (among other things). Example: If you're dealing with skin that has color problems -- uneven hues, blotches, etc. -- it makes sense to do color correction first, because that might resolve some of those color problems.

Aug 29 12 08:11 pm Link

Retoucher

Paul Snyder

Posts: 89

Columbus, Ohio, US

Sean Baker Photo wrote:
Almost always best to do it at the end -- when you've done a good job, it brings the image together.

I agree! I always do my color after as well.

Aug 29 12 10:16 pm Link

Retoucher

Pari Retouch

Posts: 693

Nāshik, Maharashtra, India

Koray wrote:
cleaning and smoothing etc. comes first always for me...then it gets complicated tongue

+1

Once I was badly stuck because I did color corrections before I started retouching on a project, I took a vow since then that I'll never do it before. big_smile

Now I do color corrections before but keep those layers on top of everything so I don't get stuck if client doesn't like the colors.

Aug 29 12 11:03 pm Link

Retoucher

Nienna1990

Posts: 569

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tel Aviv, Israel

Sergy Manko wrote:
The reason I like to do it at the begining is because it helps me to visualize the finished image much better, and also help not to go overdo retouching.

So why flatten it? Just use adjustment layers above the actual image.
Thats what I always do and like was said before - it helps to do the rest of the images from the same shoot.

Aug 30 12 12:01 am Link

Retoucher

Kristiana-Retouch

Posts: 289

Rīga, Rīga, Latvia

I'm the patient one big_smile I do color grading after I've done everything else. But I've tried both ways - what I discovered in my workflow was - if I'm doing color at the beginning I anyways end up doing some at the end.. so it makes no sense doing it twice. smile

Aug 30 12 04:07 am Link

Retoucher

Sergio Manko

Posts: 123

Lisbon, Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, Portugal

Nienna1990 wrote:

So why flatten it? Just use adjustment layers above the actual image.
Thats what I always do and like was said before - it helps to do the rest of the images from the same shoot.

I never flatten it. I use adjustments layers as you said. I'm just saying I do color grading before retouching smile

Aug 30 12 04:19 am Link

Retoucher

Ken Fournelle

Posts: 99

Saint Paul, Minnesota, US

If you did the color treatment or color grading first in your workflow and then the client didn't like it, or wanted changes it could be an issue with all your subsequent cloning, healing, copying image parts done down the line.  All those layers would have to be re-done to match the color change.

Aug 30 12 05:12 am Link

Photographer

A-M-P

Posts: 18458

Orlando, Florida, US

I usually do it after, but if ever do it in the beginning is just to see a mock up of what it would look like then I shut off the layer and work all retouching beneath the color grade layer.

Aug 30 12 05:16 am Link

Retoucher

Nienna1990

Posts: 569

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Tel Aviv, Israel

Sergy Manko wrote:

I never flatten it. I use adjustments layers as you said. I'm just saying I do color grading before retouching smile

Well if your doing it just so you could see some kind of an "end result" , I dont see whats the problem smile
I do it too, it does help -for motivation and inspiration to see what you will have at the end. Because, lets face it - colors are just as important as skin texture if not more.

Aug 30 12 05:20 am Link

Retoucher

c17h19no3

Posts: 36

Dresden, Saxony, Germany

I do color grading at the beginning and at the end of a project.
At the beginning i try to correct the skin color, because in acr exists a orange slider, they makes something much easier as in ps and there they don´t exist. wink
Also i try to correct some color cast, they maybe exist in the image.
After i have a clean and "neutral" image, i have the chance to bring it in several different color looks. This i do with color grading again. If i would a pro, the client could choose the best of the looks or could let change something of the image. ;D
So before an after.

Aug 30 12 08:09 am Link

Retoucher

Lulie Lens

Posts: 157

Paris, Île-de-France, France

It depends. Aside from what gets done in RAW, I usually apply colors after I retouch, but if I have a look in my head that I can't wait to apply and see if it'd work then I might apply it before. But if I do, I will most certainly apply it in a group layer at the top so I can retouch in the layers below it and have the option to remove, or change the applied look just in case.

And Nienna also brings up a good point:

Nienna1990 wrote:
So why flatten it? Just use adjustment layers above the actual image.
Thats what I always do and like was said before - it helps to do the rest of the images from the same shoot.

*Edit*
Never mind! I see you saw that already, and you're using adjustment layers too.. Good! But oops on my part.

Aug 30 12 09:12 am Link

Retoucher

Pure Magic Retouching

Posts: 2

Los Angeles, California, US

For me: Color correction -> Retouching -> Color Grading

Blending modes may work different from their normal state after color grading, that's my biggest reason why retouching is always first.

Sep 03 12 05:12 pm Link

Retoucher

Kristiana-Retouch

Posts: 289

Rīga, Rīga, Latvia

I forgot to mention - when I said I do color grading AFTER, I didn't count basic improvements in RAW, which obvious is before..

Sep 04 12 01:11 am Link

Model

moses ogho

Posts: 97

Ughelli, Delta, Nigeria

Although i'm kind of new to photo shop but i believe cleaning of the skin and other basic retouch should be done before colour grading. It's like asking an artist if he paints before he draws

Sep 04 12 01:51 am Link

Photographer

B R U N E S C I

Posts: 25319

Bath, England, United Kingdom

What I sometimes do is make separate B&W and colour conversions from the RAW file, do the retouching - skin, D&B etc. - on the B&W file and then import the colour file as a layer and apply it in "colorize" mode over the top at a reduced opacity.

A couple more layers of adjustments etc. can result in a PSD from which it's possible to make fully retouched 'colour' and B&W versions (with the B&W version generated properly at the RAW conversion stage rather than later) while only having to do the actual retouching work once.

Of course, if you're happy taking a retouched colour file and converting that to B&W then this method probably isn't for you.



Just my $0.02

Ciao
Stefano
www.stefanobrunesci.com

Sep 04 12 02:30 am Link

Photographer

Santiago Belizon

Posts: 59

London, England, United Kingdom

After the retouch!

I do it at the beginning as well, but only to visualize the finished image.

Sep 04 12 11:39 am Link

Photographer

Don Garrett

Posts: 4984

Escondido, California, US

Color "correction" happens when it is needed. Many processes improve one aspect of an image, while harming another. One thing that I have found that suffers is color balance, another is one color getting "out of control" - with the use of certain tools or processes. When this happens, I whip it back into shape !
-Don

Sep 04 12 11:56 am Link

Photographer

Terrence Jones Photo

Posts: 1

Raleigh, North Carolina, US

I have a question, I have been searching the internet for the answer for days.  The old rule was color correct > retouch > Color Grade.  I've noticed many people color grading in camera raw before going into photoshop. If your images are not color corrected straight out of the camera, when do you color correct and retouch your photos?
I must be missing something.

Nov 26 18 03:18 pm Link

Photographer

LightDreams

Posts: 1786

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Terrence Jones Photo wrote:
I have a question, I have been searching the internet for the answer for days.  The old rule was color correct > retouch > Color Grade.  I've noticed many people color grading in camera raw before going into photoshop. If your images are not color corrected straight out of the camera, when do you color correct and retouch your photos?
I must be missing something.

I think a lot depends on HOW someone is colour grading...

I'd suggest that those that do the artistic colour grading in RAW might be doing so to avoid all of the image banding and artifacts, etc, that can creep in when you do major shifts later.  In THAT scenario, it might make sense to start with the colour grading in RAW and move from there.

However, if you're using LUTs for your final colour grading, you're using a colour by colour direct replacement table. So assuming that you have a well designed LUT to work with (important) with smooth colour shifts, doing it as the final step would not cause those kind of problems.

I'd suggest in that kind of scenario (using good LUTs for colour grading), you'd still be better off with what you called the "old rule":  Getting your basic colour balance (including skin), exposures and the starting points for your shadows and highlights, etc, all up front in RAW.  Then do all of your retouching, etc, until you end up with a "clean" version of your final image.  Then add the final artistic steps, colour grading and vignetting, etc.

A future change is most likely going to be in terms of colour grading / artistic treatments.  If that's done last, you'll still have your completed "clean" version of the image to resort back to.

I'll leave it to the real retouching experts, but I'd suggest that in many cases, maybe the "old rule" may just still be the way to go.

Nov 27 18 08:34 pm Link

Photographer

Camerosity

Posts: 5805

Saint Louis, Missouri, US

Here’s a discussion by commercial retouchers Sef McCullough and Earth Oliver, during which they discuss the advantages of color grading (with LUTs, at least) in Camera Raw or LR near the beginning of the process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4lepCvxFM0

If you watch the entire video, they make a pretty good case for applying LUTS in ACR or LR, near the beginning of the process, rather in PS at the tail-end of the process.

They developed the 10 3D LUT packs (10 LUTs per pack) that are being marketed by RGG EDU. (RGG is Rob Grimm, an internationally-known food and beverage photographer. A couple of weeks ago, he changed the name of his educational site to PRO EDU. You can find it under either name.)

You can find the videos about the LUT collection there as well as on youtube, but if you aren’t familiar with the site, it might take a bit longer. Video demos of each set (separate videos for LR and ACR) by McCullough are available to the public on both youtube and PROEDU.

https://proedu.com/collections/post-pro … collection

Most of the LUTs I’ve seen are demoed using landscape and other outdoor photos with the sun (including sunsets), sky, grass, trees, buildings and often sand and water. Most of the ones I’ve seen don’t work very well with studio images.

Most of the RGG EDU LUT packs are demoed in the videos with both indoor and outdoor scenes including studio photos. It seems to me to be a very versatile and well planned and thought-out collection.

They work as well with skin and fabric as with landscapes and other outdoor shots – and with both light and dark skin.

Here's my current color workflow:

1) Do the regular color and other work in ACR. (The LUTs work in both LR and ACR. I use ACR.)

2) After that’s done, preview the image with each of the 100 LUTs in the collection. (You don’t have to actually apply and then un-apply each LUT. Just mouse over the LUT icons with the image open.)

The LUTS aren’t presets. Each change created by a LUT is customizable to a particular image.

During this stage, I might find 5-6 LUTS that would work with the image. If so, I save a snapshot with each LUT, then get the best look that I can from each of them (using opacity other sliders), then select one.

3) If I don’t find a LUT look that appeals to me with a particular image, I do the usual work in Photoshop (frequency separation, hair, any adjustment layers and color tweaks, etc.), then go through about 50 gradient maps that I’ve created.

Usually, I’ll find what I’m looking for by then. One image that I retouched a few weeks ago had two gradient maps applied (at low opacity in Photoshop) on top of the LUT from ACR.

If I don’t find it, I use Pratik Naik’s Infinite Color Panel, which I’m not using as often as before I got the LUT packs. And sometimes, I’ll find that, in the final analysis, the color work that I did in ACR looks best. If so, I’ll just tweak the color in PS before cropping, sharpening and vignetting.

I don't believe that one approach is always right, and the other is always wrong.

Just one photographer's opinion...

Mar 13 19 09:30 pm Link