The other way to copy colour processing..

So, matching the colour processing from one image to another is nothing new. It’s how we develop film-look presets, and how we developed retoucher-clone presets in the New York pack.

But what about when we don’t have a before and after image to compare and extract the colour processing from? Well it may still be possible – just so long as our source image has enough information in it to give us clues.

1. Can your image’s processing be cloned?

This shot of Cara Delevingne from a DKNY campaign is one of many from this shoot that use similar colour processing. What makes this image ideal for extracting the colour processing is that it contains black (the car wheel arch), white (the overexposed sky) and grey (the street in the background).

2. Set the Black point

Add a Curves adjustment layer. Select the Black dropper icon and click in the wheel arch. Now we’ve set the blacks in this image to real black. Notice the tone curve’s pulled down the blue channel considerable – suggesting there was a lot of blue in our blacks.

3. Set the White and Grey points

Now select the White dropper icon and click on the overexposed sky. Click on the Grey dropper and click on the road. Tip: you’re basically taking all the obvious colour processing off the image. If, once you’ve set all three points, you still see some unnatural colours in the image (for example in this one it was quite easy to get a little too much green coming through) just click around the grey area until it looks right.

4. Note the curve values

At this point I’ll open up TextEdit or NotePad and, going through the Red, Green and Blue Curves channels, jot down each pair of colour points. So here, for the top right point, I’d write down: R 238, 255. With three colour channels and three points each, you’re looking to note down nine pairs of numbers.

5. Invert the curve

Now it’s just a case of adding a new Curves layer, and going through the Red, Green and Blue (Curve layer) channels and inputting the numbers you just wrote down in reverse order. So 238, 255 becomes 255, 238. Recreating exactly the same curve, but with the x axis and y axis swapped. Apply this new curve on top of our colour-balanced image, and you should get the original back. So now, if you load one of your own images, and ensure the white, black and grey points are where they’re meant to be, applying the inverted curve we just created should give you the same colour processing used in the campaign images.

To recap: correct the black, white and grey points on an image suitable for cloning; take that curve and invert the axes.

(All images copyright DKNY – reproduced here for educational purposes.)