Photoshop Advanced 1 WiSe

The script for the Photoshop Advanced Workshop is intended exclusively for use in class at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and should serve as a reference work for all course participants. It may not be passed on to third parties.

Welcome to the Photoshop Advanced Workshop.


The Photoshop Advanced Workshop is intended for users with basic knowledge in digital image editing, no matter if they acquired it in my Photoshop Basics Workshop or in other ways.

The goal of the workshop for advanced users is to provide a solid basis to be able to handle demanding image editing tasks. All further steps towards perfection you will have to do yourself in the practice of your own projects.

I will emphasize the practice side more than the lecture side in the workshop. Nevertheless, we also need to take an intensive look at technical backgrounds and contexts. On the one hand, it is important to understand why we choose this or that approach in this or that case. On the other hand, it is important to get to know the meaning of image processing in a comprehensive context.
Photoshop is not a stand-alone program. Image editing is an important element of what used to be called desktop publishing. So we’ll take a close look at properly preparing images for print output, but also discuss other export destinations such as the web or displays in general.

Of course, even the Advanced Workshop will not succeed in painting a complete picture of all the possibilities Photoshop offers. At least we will be able to deal with the essential aspects of digital image processing on an advanced level.

> Download exercise data from the base.

> Create student folder “Last Name-PSD-Advanced” within the semester folder.

> Move the exercise data to your student folder.

All laptop users are free to choose the location for the exercise data on their device.

Program environment

> Start Photoshop.

There is no need to talk about the Home Screen. However, a small note about the direct connection to Lightroom is appropriate here.

> Activate the Lightroom photos button.

> Activate Home button again.

Let’s quickly create a new document.

> New file / Print: A4 landscape, RGB.


In Photoshop, sometimes quite different tasks are performed. The classic image editor usually has quite different requirements to the program environment than, for example, the web designer or a Photoshop artist.

> Open Window / Workspace menu.

With the entries in the Workspace menu, Photoshop offers tools and palette arrangements that are tailored to specific requirements.

Basically, we don’t need to discuss these options in an advanced workshop. However, what I would like to encourage you to do – without going into this any further now – is to take advantage of the ability to create a workspace perfectly suited to your own working needs. Working in a well-sorted and, above all, familiar program environment makes the workflow much easier and faster.

As a rule, the workspace is set up on the basis of one of the standard workspaces listed here and the tools and palette situation are adapted to suit the user’s own requirements. Finally, you save the individualized workspace and from then on you move on ideal terrain.

However, we should not exaggerate when setting up a personal workspace. Individualization is good, but so is staying within sight of the standard.


> Photoshop / Preferences…

We covered Photoshop preferences sufficiently in the Basics workshop. So we can largely dispense with dealing with them in the advanced workshop. However, I would like to mention three points briefly …

> Show Interface Panel.

Professional image editors prefer to have the contents of the color channels of the Channels palette displayed as grayscale. They therefore uncheck the Show Channels in Color checkbox in the Interface panel. This allows a better assessment of the tonal values in the channels.

> Deactivate Show Channels in Color.

> Show Scratch Disks panel.

Handling large image files and applying complex image calculations makes Photoshop a memory hog at times. To temporarily increase the real RAM installed in the workstation when needed, Photoshop creates virtual RAM from available hard disk space. To make this possible, you must ensure that there is always enough free hard disk space available. The recommended minimum for this is 20GB.
Professional image editors like to equip their devices with a so-called scratch disk. This is a physical hard disk or SSD, which can easily offer 1TB.

In the Image Processing section, you can make a few basic settings for AI-supported processes.

Here we can determine whether our workstation or the cloud should be used for the calculations of the Select Subject dialog. The latter promises better results.
AI-supported selection processes and the use of the Remove Tool can be improved by choosing the more stable variant. A slightly longer calculation time is gladly accepted in return.

With this, we can leave the preferences, I think. Where it is necessary to explain further special presets or to consider their modification, we will have another look at the Preferences in the course of the workshop.


Libraries and the Creative Cloud play an important role in Adobe Photoshop. For those who get involved, the relevant features are an invaluable help in the workflow.

> Open Libraries.

Libraries is a web service that allows quick and ubiquitous access to elements such as graphics, colors, styles, etc. via the Adobe Creative Cloud.

For example, if you place a vector graphic or a color mark in Adobe Illustrator in the library, it will appear as a library entry in the other Adobe applications, such as Photoshop, because the element is uploaded to the cloud. This allows unhindered data exchange between the individual programs and speeds up the workflow.

Since setting up and dealing with libraries cannot be counted to Photoshop knowledge in the narrower sense, I will only refer to a few relevant points here.

First, let’s take a look at creating a library entry.

A graphical element, such as a shape layer, can easily be added to an existing library or a new one by drag-and-drop.

> Create any shape layer.

> Activate your library (= default library).

> Add shape layer.

Elements that are in the library can be imported into an open file in two different ways …

An element can be imported into the Photoshop document as a linked instance.

In this case, the element is not physically imported, but is merely a link to the instance in the library. You have to be aware that a change to the instance will result in a change to the linked element in the document. You may not always want that.
The cloud icon in the layer thumbnail indicates that it is a merely linked element.

In the context menu of the library entry, the corresponding command is called Place linked.

> Right-click Library entry / Place linked and cancel.

If you want to import an element into the document without maintaining the link to the library entry, you must press the Option key during the import process.

> Drag the same graphic into the document while holding down the Option key.

This element is freely editable in Photoshop and no longer has any connection to the original instance.

In the context menu of the library entry, the corresponding command is called Place layers.

> Right-click Library entry / Place layers and cancel.

As you can see, it’s quite convenient to use the libraries to quickly access your most important elements anytime and anywhere.


Image research and image acquisition

Image editing always begins with screening the material. Where does the image editor get her material, i.e. the images?

  1. She takes the pictures herself.
  2. She has a professional photographer take the pictures.
  3. She obtains the pictures from a picture agency.

If the image editor takes the photos herself, she already creates the images with a view to post production. The entire image editing know-how flows into the image creation when the shutter release is pressed and – sometimes burdens her. Because for the image editor, photos are pure material. Image editors can be fantastic photographers, but they can sometimes get in their own way when taking pictures.

The same is true in reverse for professional photographers. Basic image editing skills are essential for any photographer in this day and age. A photographer may or may not be a fantastic image editor. But at the very least, she must understand the demands of post production and be able to accommodate those demands.

From this perspective, the job descriptions of the image editor and the photographer have changed a lot in the last 30 years.

In any case, the two professions overlap in many places. Close collaboration between photographer and image editor is always beneficial. In graphic design practice, the link is very often the art director. If you want to learn more about photo briefing, photo monitoring and the entire image creation process, I recommend visiting my Praxismodul “Graphic Design I – Communication and Project Management” and “Graphic Design II – Basics, Design and Workflow”.

Nowadays, one often falls back on images from picture agencies. This is easy and fast, and if you pay enough attention to the rights situation, the use is problem-free.
The image search is convenient and usually accurate, provided that the search options of the image catalogs are used skillfully.

First, let’s take a quick look at Adobe Stock, the image agency that is integrated into the Creative Cloud. One way to access it is via the File menu in Photoshop.

> File / Search Adobe Stock…

I don’t want to advertise here, but I also don’t want to deprive you of the advantages of an integrated image acquisition workflow. Personally, I rarely work with Adobe Stock photos and then only selectively. But that has primarily to do with my job structure and not with the possibilities that are offered here.

> Enter the search term “beach”.

> Save to library by pressing the heart symbol.

> Switch to Photoshop. Library update by clicking on the cloud icon.

If you need many different images for your jobs again and again, you will benefit from the quasi integrated workflow of Adobe Stock insofar as images can be downloaded directly into the corresponding program or into the library.

Licensing must only take place once the use of the image for production has been decided. Until that time, the downloaded images appear as separate layers in Photoshop and remain watermarked. Licensing is done last by pressing the License image button.

The integrated acquisition workflow is of some benefit, especially for web designers.

Let’s take a quick look at Adobe Stock’s pricing structure.

> Switch again to the Adobe Stock website / press the Pricing button.

In the section for individual users, you can either pay for the license costs with credits or choose a subscription model. If you decide to use credits, please note that they are only valid for 1 year from the date of purchase.

Other picture agencies often go completely different ways in licensing. In any case, you should familiarize yourself thoroughly with the respective licensing model in advance. The pitfall is usually in the details.

Let’s take a closer look at the top dog among modern stock agencies …


Fast Facts: World’s largest stock agency; 80 million images; founded in 1995 by Mark Getty; 2016 merger with Corbis (Bill Gates).

Image rights

Paying attention to the licensing situation must be a matter of course for the image editor.

Pictures are basically not for sale. The copyright remains inalienably with the photographer. In fact the pictures of the picture agencies are therefore only lent by us. Strictly speaking, picture agencies only assign the right of use acquired from the photographer (author) to a third party, under specifically defined conditions.

Observing the licensing situation in the context of image procurement is therefore an indispensable prerequisite for legally secure use of the images in a wide variety of contexts. Failure to observe the licensing conditions can land you in hot water. Picture agencies such as Getty-Images take merciless action against unauthorized or improper use.

> Enter the search term “beach”.

> Activate filter.

> Click on any search result.

Royalty Free:

Obtaining royalty free images is very simple. Select image, select image size, pay, download. Once you have paid, you may use these images commercially in various media, usually without any restrictions, i.e. for an unlimited period of time.

Most picture agencies allow the free download of low-resolution versions of the pictures for layout purposes. Of course, people like to take advantage of this to create design drafts. Even if the agency images are not used in the implementation, this procedure is completely legal. With a simple, free registration one receives the layout pictures here even watermark-free.

If you use other image sources, e.g. directly booked photographers, the image rights must of course also be observed.

And even if the image editor uses archive images or images of unknown origin, it is important to clarify possible image rights before use. If the images come from professional hands, a look at the File Info (Cmd-option-shift-I) reveals who the rights holder is.

Especially in the case of non-profit jobs or low-budget productions, there is not always enough money to pay for image rights. If you want to use free images, which are offered in abundance on the web, you can search Wikimedia Commons, for example.


or visit sites like …


If you don’t find what you’re looking for in this pool of 300,000 free images, you’ll be shown favorable, paid alternatives in the search results, which will take you to and are subsidiary sites of Getty Images. You can see the business model.

But even with free images, the license conditions must be strictly adhered to. For many images, the use is free only in a limited sense.

At this point, I would like to mention two essential aspects of an image file that have to be considered already at the acquisition stage. The file format and the color depth. Both aspects determine the quality of an image file in an irrevocable way.

File Format

What all stock photos have in common is the fact that they are delivered in a compressed format, usually as JPEG files. JPEGs are only second choice for professional image processing.

Compression, in whatever form, is always accompanied by the loss of image information.

If classic photos are carefully compressed using the JPEG algorithm, at first glance a passable result is obtained – at least in comparison to more brutal compression methods. What does not escape the sharp eye of the image editor, however, are the typical compression defects called JPEG artifacts. For this and a few other reasons, JPEGs are not good source material for high-end image processing.

When the image editor has a choice, she prefers to reach for images that are in a different format. The common prosumer cameras deliver usable TIFFs. But even a TIFF already carries the blemish of formatting and, moreover, is often already available in a bit depth of only 8 bits/channel.

The ideal and desirable source material for high-end image processing naturally arrives on the image editor’s desktop in Raw format.

Bit depth

A raw file contains the unformatted, authentic image data as generated by the image sensor of the high-end digital camera. And the crucial point here is the significantly higher bit depth of at least 12 bits/channel. Nowadays, high bit depths such as these are already generated by professional small-format SLR cameras.

Bit depth

For comparison: an 8-bit/channel bit-depth image has 256 tonal values per color channel. An image with a bit depth of 16 bits/channel has 216, i.e. 65,536 tonal values per channel. This means that we are already in the so-called Deep Color range.

In short, the more tonal values, the more details and the greater the scope for editing the highlights and shadows in the photo.

At the beginning of every image processing is the image import. We don’t need to discuss the classic way via the Open dialog in the Advanced workshop, and we also already got to know the basic import options of Adobe Bridge in the Basic workshop. I offer a more in-depth discussion of the possibilities of Bridge and especially Lightroom every summer semester in the Praxismodul Image Management and Raw Conversion.

> Open exercise file 1.

If you want to import a raw file into Photoshop for processing, the raw conversion dialog starts.

Camera Raw

The built-in Raw converter in Photoshop is called Camera Raw.

Camera Raw generates a color image from the raw grayscale image data and the metadata (type of shot) also contained in the Raw, as well as the information about the camera model. Only this color image is accessible for processing in Photoshop.

Photographers like to think of the raw as the “photo negative” for traditional reasons. If they carry out a Raw conversion, they therefore speak of “development”. The two terms describe the place of the Raw file in the workflow quite well, I think.

In contrast to the Photoshop basics workshop, we will now take a closer look at the possibilities of Camera Raw. Especially for high-end photography and corresponding image processing Camera Raw is of great importance.

  • This has to do with the fact that Camera Raw is also available in Bridge and Lightroom, which means that it is already available in advance of Photoshop.
  • Camera Raw also offers a more intuitive approach to classic image editing tasks than Photoshop itself.
  • And on top of that, Camera Raw is also available within Photoshop in the form of the Camera Raw filter. So even in an 8-bit/channel environment, the convenience of Camera Raw can be used.

Now, before we take a closer look at the individual tools and features of Camera Raw, an important piece of information. All the settings we make in Camera Raw are saved as metadata either …

  • into a branch document (Photoshop and Bridge) or …
  • in the file itself (DNG format) or …
  • written to a database (Lightroom and Lightroom Classic).

Important to know: As such, the raw data always remains unchanged. The Raw file is not affected by the conversion and processing, but remains in its original state. All manipulations are performed by Camera Raw on a copy of the file, so to speak.

Let’s first try to orient ourselves in the Camera Raw user interface.


In the lower area you will find the horizontal filmstrip. Here the thumbnails of all images of the current conversion process are listed.

If several Raw files are opened at the same time, several thumbnails appear in the filmstrip. For a better distinction it is recommended to show the filenames as well.

> Right-click or click context menu of the thumbnail: Activate Show Filname, if necessary.

If you select multiple thumbnails in the filmstrip, the settings you make will be applied to all the selected frames. Of course, this only makes sense for basic operations, e.g. if you want to apply one and the same white balance to a series of photos.

Images edited with Camera Raw show an edited symbol in the bottom right-hand corner of the thumbnail.

Top bar and info bar

The bar at the top of the document window shows the filename and the camera model. CR2 of course stands for Canon Raw Version 2.

The info bar below the histogram contains the most important information about the shot. The photo was taken by a photographer friend (Arnd Ötting) with a Canon EOS 5DS at ISO 160, a lens 24-105mm at 24mm, with aperture 13 and an exposure time 1/200s.


We will deal with the histogram in more detail a little later in the workshop. But first I would like to point out a few features of the histogram, which are of course also of great importance in Camera Raw.

In Camera Raw, too, the histogram shows the tonal distributions in the usual way and is therefore an important indicator of the status quo of the image.

The histogram can also be used directly as a tool. If you move the cursor along the histogram, sensitive zones are highlighted, which can then be operated directly. The sensitive zones of the histogram correspond, of course, to the tone controls of the Light panel.

From left to right: Set black point, edit shadows, change exposure, edit highlights and set white point.

> Move the cursor from left to right over the histogram.

> Increase exposure via histogram: +1.00.

At the top left of the histogram box is the warning button for shadow clipping, at the top right for highlight clipping. If the warnings are activated, pixels with tone value 0 are marked blue and pixels with tone value 255 are marked red.
The two extreme values of deepest black (0) and pure white (255) are rarely desired in the image and can be quickly and easily detected and processed with this histogram function. Let’s try to take this into account.

> Switch on shadows and highlight warning (keys U and O).

A before/after comparison can be performed quickly by pressing the P key.

> P key and return.

Before/After views

Let’s start by taking a closer look at Camera Raw’s before/after options.

> P key allows a direct before/after comparison.

> The Q key lets us step through the before/after in different split views.

You can also do this by pressing the corresponding button in the footer.

The corrections made so far have not yet brought satisfactory results. Although the black point and the white point are set correctly and the image has been brightened a bit overall by the exposure compensation, we are still not dealing with an appealing color and tonal value situation. In fact, we’ve put the cart before the horse. Let’s reset all the settings and start all over again.

> Option-Cancel = Reset.

Now let’s turn our attention to the panels.


In the Edit panels, we make the most important settings for the raw conversion.

  • The tone value distribution is made in the Light panel
  • In the Color panel, we take care of the white balance and set the saturation values.
  • The texture of the image can be edited in the Effects panel.
  • Adjustments to the tone and color values can be made using the Curves.
  • In the Color Mixer, we use the HSL scheme to modify the colors, saturations and brightness of the image.
  • Color grading allows us to intervene in specific color areas.
  • In the Detail panel, we set the image sharpness and edit the image noise.
  • In the Optics panel we eliminate lens distortions. 
  • The depth of field of a shot can be adjusted in the Lens Blur panel.
  • We make perspective adjustments in the Geometry panel.
  • The Calibration panel allows us to compensate for the camera’s color settings.


With the Edit buttons, we first of all determine how the image is to be treated.

  • With Auto we can attempt an auto correction.
  • With B&W, the image can be processed in black and white.
  • With HDR, HDR images can be edited as such.


The profiles listed here can be called presets, since they establish the starting point for the raw conversion, so to speak.

Adobe Color is set as the initial profile. And we want to leave it at that. Adobe Color is the standard profile for all Raw files. It guarantees the most natural, neutral color conversion possible and generates a useful starting situation for all subsequent settings.

> Browse opens a menu that has different profiles to choose from.

Let’s return to Adobe Color and the Edit Panel.


The first step is to analyze the exposure and correct it if necessary.


The question is: Is the image generally too bright or too dark, or does the photographer’s intention coincide with that of the image editor. In most cases, it is not a matter of correcting an exposure error, but of optimizing the exposure with regard to the image processing objective.

First and foremost, therefore, the exposure must be checked for plausibility. Of course, a night shot usually has a lot of dark areas. The histogram is shifted to the left on the tone value scale. This is called a low-key image. However, if the right-hand side of the histogram, i.e. the highlight side, appears completely deserted, the exposure values may have been set too low when the photo was taken.

The exposure control can be compared to the aperture or shutter speed setting of a camera. It is operated to brighten or darken the image. You have to be just as careful here as you are when setting the aperture values on the camera, for example. Our goal is to achieve a better tonal distribution in the histogram, e.g. to shift the histogram of a too dark image a little to the right.

> Exposure: +0.25.

I find the exposure almost perfect and therefore increase it only minimally by a quarter stop.

The basic prerequisite for the success of an exposure correction is to have access to a correspondingly high tonal range. For this reason, as mentioned, the image editor wants material with a high bit depth of 12 to 16 bits/channel.

In an 8 bit/channel image, increasing the exposure value by even a quarter stop could be too much and leave a washed out or overdriven image.

For this reason, I usually do exposure correction as part of the Raw conversion, i.e. in Camera Raw. This is because in the course of the Raw conversion we still access the full bit depth of 16 bits/channel. For subsequent processing in Photoshop, the image is then usually downsampled to 8 bits/channel. More on this later.


The next step is to check the contrast. Exposure correction sometimes makes the image look a little washed out. That’s why contrast enhancement is done after exposure correction.

So the question is: Does the image have enough contrast or does it look washed out or too flat?

Contrast is an important factor for presence and tension in the image.

> Drag the contrast slider all the way to the right.

Here you can clearly see the consequences of too much contrast: The shadows turn black, the highlights turn white. This cannot be our goal.

> Contrast: +15.

Keep an eye on the highlights and the shadows when using the contrast slider, but don’t be put off if the highlights and the shadows slightly overdrive at one point or another in the image. We can get the highlights and shadows right back using the two corresponding sliders.

Highlights and Shadows:

Let’s see if we have any tonal values at all in the brightest parts of the shot.

> Zoom in on the girl’s head by dragging (or cmd-dragging).

> Drag the highlights slider all the way to the left.

Let’s look at the young woman’s temple and hair, and the reflections in the door. Tonal values present because 16 bit/channel.

Let’s bring the highlights back just enough to see sufficient tonal values in the brightest areas.

> Highlights: -50.

> Control: Activate warning for highlight clipping (O).

> Zoom out with cmd+0.

Now let’s check the tonal values in the shadows.

> Drag the shadows slider all the way to the right.

We have different tonal values far into the shadows. This speaks for the quality of the image. However, there is a lot of noise in the bushes on the right in the background.

Now we bring back the shadows just enough so that dark areas, such as the black jacket, have sufficient tonal values.

> Shadows: +30.

> Control: Activate warning for shadows clipping (U).

Blacks and Whites:

If the shadows or highlight clipping needs to be modified, use the white or black slider.

We can ignore isolated problematic areas at this point. However, the warnings for shadows and highlight clipping should not indicate large areas as problematic. So if it looks like this …

> Drag the Blacks slider far to the left.

> Double-click on the slider to reset it to zero.

In our image we can do without clipping the shadows and highlights.

Really dangerous could be an incorrect white point and an incorrect black point during the printing process. However, we don’t have to worry about the fine-tuning of these values yet. More about this later.

> Switch off the warning for shadows/highlight clipping.


The next action we usually take in Camera Raw is to perform a white balance.

White Balance:

With white balance, you want to create a neutral light situation in the image. When opening the Raw file, the color temperature and tint appear unchanged As Shot.
The influence of ambient light or flash during shooting can cause color casts, which can now be removed via a white balance.

Camera Raw offers a number of adjustment targets that can be selected in the small pop-up menu. One or the other entry is worth a try here, but you usually want to set the white balance manually.

White Balance Tool:

The White Balance Tool offers us a quick way to do this.

> We click with the White Balance Tool on a middle gray of the left panel of the intercom and cmd+Z.

Personally, I sometimes like to manually adjust the white balance by dragging the temperature and tint sliders.


The color temperature can be either too warm or too cool, depending on whether the photo was taken in a rather warm or rather cool ambient light. Accordingly, the image will have a yellow cast or a blue cast.


The tint can be either magenta-heavy or green-heavy. Accordingly, the image has a magenta cast or a green cast.

I think our image is a bit too cool and a bit green-heavy. Probably, the green-heaviness comes from the color of the glass panes. Maybe a neon light plays into the extended lighting situation of the shot somewhere.

> Temperature: +5650 / Tint: +12.

In fact, the result we achieved before with the White Balance Tool was already perfect.

White balance is about setting the gray areas neutral gray. I wasn’t concerned with eradicating the green tint of the glass panes. Identifying an image element that should appear neutral gray and then adjusting it accordingly is the easiest and most effective white balance procedure.

Note: The indicator for a neutral gray is that the values for RGB are all the same. The RGB values can be read in the info zone above the histogram.

> Check RGB values on the left panel of the intercom.

Photoshop of course offers a few other ways to do a white balance. But in Camera Raw the whole thing is quite easy to do, and the Raw conversion is exactly the right time to perform a white balance.

The Color Panel also offers two sliders for editing the general color saturation in the image.


The Saturation slider increases or decreases the saturation absolutely, i.e. without taking into account the differences in saturation present in the image. When dragging the Saturation slider, I make sure that the higher saturated zones in the image are not overdriven.

> Operate the Saturation slider and finally set it back to 0.


Vibrance gently increases the saturation values in the image by matching the existing saturation values as you increase them.

  • Use the Saturation slider to define the desired saturation maximum in the image.
  • The Vibrance slider is used to increase saturation in the less saturated zones of the image without causing an overdrive in the more saturated zones.

> Vibrance: +10.

In general, you should be careful when increasing the saturation values in the image. Excessive colorfulness can be quite nice when creating a look, but it usually looks artificial and causes disappointment in four-color printing, for example. Many highly saturated colors just don’t translate to paper. Highly saturated blues and greens in particular can be difficult to produce in four-color printing.


Once we have set the tonal and color values correctly, we turn our attention to the qualities of the image that affect the texture. There are essentially three sliders on the Effects panel available for this purpose: Texture, Clarity and Dehaze.

> Zoom in on the young woman’s face via dragging (or cmd-dragging).


The Texture slider is used to edit the contrast in the shadows and highlights of the smallest image structures. It can be used to reduce noise or, on the contrary, to increase local sharpness. The Texture slider is a relatively rough tool and should be used carefully.

> Pull the Texture slider.

With the Texture slider we create the initial situation for later tasks such as sharpening or blurring, removing noise or retouching dust and scratches.

> Texture: -15.

> Press the Before/After button.

In our example, I use it to further reduce the image noise. However, I do this carefully so as not to destroy the skin texture.


Clarity increases local contrast and saturation in the midtones. The elements on this texture layer get more three-dimensionality by dragging the Clarity slider to the right.

> Pull the Clarity slider hard.

As a result of exaggerated structure emphasis, pores and freckles mutate into pimples and other skin blemishes.

A careful increase of the Clarity increases the plasticity in our image without making certain skin areas problematic. Please pay particular attention to the increased plasticity of the hair strands.

> Clarity: +10.


Dehaze does exactly what the name promises. Basically we are dealing with an intelligent exposure correction.

> Press the Dehaze slider and finally set it back to 0.

You can achieve good results with this when retouching hazy landscape shots, foggy lenses, smoky bars, etc. In our example we can do without it.

The last two sliders of the Basic panel can be used to edit the saturation values in the image.


The vignetting sliders on the Effects panel can be used to edit any vignetting that may be present.

Vignetting is not undesirable in principle. Sometimes the vignetting effect is used to direct the viewer’s gaze. This can be done quickly using the Vignetting slider in the Effects panel.


The grain sliders can be used to create photo grain effects quickly and in detail .

As neither of these is part of the initial processing steps during raw conversion, we will not try this out now.

The adjustment options mentioned so far are familiar to you as correction dialogs or adjustment layers from the Photoshop program environment.
However, Camera Raw not only offers convenient access to features scattered throughout the program. Again, the key point that lets us make these basic adjustments as part of the Raw conversion is that the image here is still in the greatest possible bit depth. This gives us a tremendous amount of latitude in processing that we won’t have later if the bit depth is eventually reduced to 8 bits/channel.

We will run through the next panels a bit faster.


Curves are among the most important tools in Photoshop for making tonal and color corrections. Since we discussed their operation in depth in the Basics workshop, we can focus on certain application modes in the Advanced workshop.

Among other things, the Curve panel’s adjustment options are used to fine-tune the tonal distribution that you previously made in the Light panel.


> Click on the Parametric icon.

In the Parametric view, you work with sliders that allow you to quickly adjust the shadows, darks, lights and highlights. The markers can be used to modify the zones where editing is to take place.

> Drag the sliders and move the markers.

> Reset everything by double-clicking on the sliders or multiple cmd+Z.


The finer tool we find in the Point view of the curve.

> Click on the point symbol. 

Here we make the settings as we are used to in the Photoshop program environment and can intervene very specifically in different, even narrowly defined tonal value ranges.

> Drag the curve.

> Remove all curve points individually or press option-Reset Curve.

Targeted Adjustment Tool:

The Targeted Adjustment Tool, which is at hand in the Curve and Color Mixer panels, lets you make tonal and color adjustments by dragging on the area of the image you want to change.

  • If you drag to the right, the existing values are increased, …
  • If you drag to the left, the existing values are decreased.

> Click in highlight zones of the image and drag to the right and to the left.

> Cmd+Z.

Important to know: The correction made with the Targeted Adjustment Tool changes the clicked, local condition, but affects all tonal and color areas of the image.

You may have noticed that I have always expanded only that panel that I want to edit at the moment. This saves scrolling through the palette. This Single Panel Mode can be activated in the context menu of the panels.

> Right-click panel name.

Color Mixer

The Color Mixer of Camera Raw offers comfortable possibilities for a selective color or tone value correction in the context of the Raw conversion. The procedure is highly intuitive according to the HSL scheme (hue/saturation/luminance).


Using the Hue sliders, you can modify specific color ranges in the image. For example, if you want to change the red tones in the image, drag the Red slider, etc.

> Zoom out to 50%.

> Play through and set to 0 again.

You move the sliders back and forth between two colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Let’s try turning the turquoise a little to blue.

> Aquas: +40.


With the Saturation sliders we finetune the saturation settings we made in the Basic panel. This is no longer about overall saturation, but about adjusting the saturation of specific color areas in the image.
In this way we could, for example, reduce the green of the glass panes, create more neutral glass and steel tones.

> Aquas: -100 and again 0.

We could warm up the skin tones a bit in this differentiated way and blond the hair of the young woman.

> Oranges: +30.

> Yellows: +10.


With the Luminance sliders we determine the brightness values of the different color areas. We could, for example, darken the blue of the night sky further.

> Blues: -50.

Important to know: The modifications always affect all zones in the image where the respective color ranges are effective.

Color Grading

Color grading allows to create specific color looks separately in the midtones, the shadows and the highlights of the image. This is a powerful effect feature that is used rather less in everyday image processing.


Two important image processing tasks can be performed in the Detail panel: sharpening and noise reduction.


Sharpening is essential. In the context of Raw conversion, that is, at maximum bit depth and resolution, the image should be provided with a good basic sharpness. This process is called input sharpening. The adjustment options of Camera Raw are very well suited for this purpose.

Input sharpening is about gently improving the sharpness impression of the image to create a good starting situation for the subsequent image processing. We are not aiming at the final image sharpness yet and use the tools carefully at this early stage.

> Zoom to 100% via cmd-option+0 (head of the young woman and piece of the night sky).

A look at the panel’s default settings shows that Camera Raw is already in the process of sharpening the image.

> Sharpening: 0 and cmd+Z.

In case the default settings are not sufficient, it’s up to us to touch up here.

When sharpening, it is recommended to choose a zoom level of 200% or even 300%. After editing the details, however, we return to the 100% view to examine the result in normal view as well.

> 300% zoom in on the young woman’s head via cmd+.

Sharpening means increasing the contrast in the edge areas of the image.

> Sharpening: maximum and cmd+Z.

It is easy to see how this works from the forced hair structure. However, the negative effects of exaggerated sharpening can be seen in the skin, which now appears dry and leathery. The image noise in the night sky has also increased.

I think it is now clear why sharpening and noise reduction are combined in one dialog.

  • The Sharpening, Radius and Detail sliders correspond to the Amount, Radius and Threshold sliders of Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter, and their function and operation should be familiar.
  • Masking is based on an edge mask and protects the homogeneous zones of the image from sharpening.

> Operate the Masking slider. Observe the sky in contrast to the single hair.

> Set to 0 again.

When carefully sharpening, you clearly target zones that lie in the sharpness range of the image as a reference. At the same time, you try to exclude homogeneous zones from sharpening so that no unwanted effects occur there.

> Sharpening: 50.

Before we reach for the other sharpness controls to fine-tune the sharpening, we try to get the image noise under control with a Noise Reduction.


Camera Raw also offers AI support for noise reduction. Clicking on the Denoise button starts a somewhat time-consuming process, at the end of which a new DNG is generated. This then appears in the filmstrip and can be further processed and used as an alternative.

The results are quite usable. However, care should be taken not to apply too much smoothing. We will not try this out now.

Manual processing of the image noise offers more control.

Noise Reduction:

> Luminance: 20.

Here I direct my attention especially to the darker, homogeneous areas (sky), because there the noise occurs with preference. You raise the slider carefully and only until the noise disappears to some extent, the homogeneous areas look smoother, but the sharpness effect in the edges of the image remains.

If necessary, we bring desired details and edges back into the image by dragging the two additional Noise Reduction sliders Detail and Contrast.

Now we complete the sharpening process.

The default value for Radius is 1.0, which determines the width of the corridor in which contrast is increased at the edges of the image. Too large a radius will produce an unwanted halo effect at the edges.

The Detail slider determines how much contrast is increased in the texture area of the image.

> Detail: 100 and double-click to return to the default value of 25.

To protect the skin areas from over-sharpening, we should choose a rather low value here. But since we want to keep the hair structure sharp at the same time, we stay with the default value of 25.

With Masking, as mentioned above, it is possible to exclude the homogeneous areas from sharpening. This prevents ordinary skin pores from growing into pimples.

> Masking: 25.

A click on the Before/After symbol of the panel shows us the progress.

> Click on the Before/After symbol of the panel.

This completes the input sharpening and in one pass the noise reduction in the image. We will deal with the so-called output sharpening, which is always done at the end of the image processing, later.

For the sake of completeness, we should also mention the Color Noise Reduction slider. This can be used to retouch annoying color noise, should it occur. However, this is not necessary here.


One of the basic operations that I perform as part of the Raw conversion is definitely the lens correction.

We already know the classic lens corrections offered by the Photoshop program environment from the Basics Workshop. It works quite similarly here in Camera Raw under the titles Optics and Geometry.

Let’s turn to the Optics panel first.

Remove chromatic abberation:

Let’s take care of the chromatic aberrations.

> Zoom to the floor via cmd+click-drag.

Chromatic aberrations are the unwanted color fringes that are clearly visible here. Even the best lenses cannot suppress these color shifts to green and magenta or to blue and yellow. The reason for this is that different wavelengths are refracted differently in a glass body, short-wave light, i.e. blue light, more strongly than long-wave light, i.e. red light.

> Activate the Remove chromatic abberation checkbox.

By activating the Remove chromatic abberation checkbox, the problem can usually be solved quickly. We remove the remaining color fringes manually.

> Unfold Defringe panel.

> Defringe: Purple Amount 3 / Green Amount 10.

> Zoom out with cmd+0.

Use profile corrections:

Another insufficiency that comes from the lens is also well visible. This is the distortion caused by the round glass body of the lens at the edge of the rectangular image format. This shortcoming can also be dealt with quickly and well using the correction options of the Optics panel.

> Activate Use profile corrections.

If you activate the Profile Corrections, Photoshop reads the lens parameters from the EXIF data of the image and reduces the geometric distortion and any vignetting (wide-angle) based on this information.

If necessary, the Distortion and Vignetting sliders can be used to help a bit more.

> Distortion: 135.

If you want to make the assignment yourself, select the lens manufacturer, the lens model and a suitable profile or make the two corrections manually using the corresponding sliders.

Snapshot tool

Since we are satisfied with the corrections applied so far, we create a snapshot. Of course, we don’t do that all the time.

Personally, I always take a snapshot of the current state of the image only when I want to try out alternative correction methods and make sure that I can return to the current state of the image at any time without any problems.

> Activate Snapshot Tool.

> Snapshot “good”.


The Optics panel settings, the Crop tool, the Straighten tool, and the Geometry panel all play together in the Camera Raw application.

Often a lens correction is all it takes. Sometimes the subject also needs to be straightened, and sometimes perspective distortions need to be retouched. If the latter is the case, you make the appropriate settings in the Geometry panel.

> Expand Geometry panel.

A balanced perspective correction can often already be achieved by selecting the Auto button of the Upright commands.

> Upright: Press the Auto button.

If you want to make a perspective correction only for the vertical or only for the horizontal lines in the image, use the corresponding Upright button.

> Horizontal correction only.

> Horizontal and vertical correction.

> Horizontal, vertical and automatic correction.

Horizontal, vertical and automatic correction combines the three options you have just gone through.

I find working with the Upright Guided function particularly interesting. By setting two vertical guide lines, you achieve normalization of all verticals in the image. And in the same way, you can normalize the horizontals.

In our image, only a vertical normalization seems to make sense.

> Vertical guide line left edge intercom.

> Vertical guide line of the door handrail.

> Readjustment of the vertical guide line left edge intercom.

> Press the V key.

Press the V key to temporarily hide the guide lines.

We do not need to go into detail here about Vertical, Horizontal and Rotate. We know these functions from the Lens Correction dialog of the Photoshop environment.

With the Aspect slider, the subject can be stretched or compressed in a reasonably balanced way. However, you should not pull the slider too hard to avoid unnatural stretching or squeezing.

> Pull Aspect strongly and then +15.

Scale and Offset X/Y are self-explanatory.

> Scale: 130 / Offset X: -20.0 / Offset: 10.0.

Lens Blur

The functions of the Lens Blur panel are used to edit the depth of field of the image. Up to now, we have carried out such interventions manually using the classic Lens Blur filter, which we will also take a closer look at later. In Camera Raw, this is now done with the support of the Adobe Sensai AI.

When we activate the Apply checkbox, a calculation process starts in which the depth of field of the image is analyzed. Once the analysis is complete, we can use the given setting options to define the focus range.

We use the Blur Amount slider to determine the strength of the blur effect. If we move the slider to the right, we increase the blur in the defined area, if we move the slider to the left, we reduce the blur.

We define the focus area by editing the focal length. We can achieve this in two different ways.

If we use the Subject Focus, the focus range is determined automatically by Adobe Sensai. Of course, the result can be adjusted manually.

However, we can also define the focus area manually from the outset by activating the Point/Area Focus.

We can set a focus point by clicking in the image or define a focus area by clicking and dragging.

The depth map view is used for control purposes by visualizing the different sharpness zones.

If we want to go into more detail, we can use the panel’s Brush Tool. This allows us to refine the areas of sharpness or blurriness.

We will look at the setting of Bokeh Lights in the context of the discussion of the Lens Blur filter.

Let’s reset the last transforms by selecting the last snapshot.

> Activate Snapshot Tool.

> Click Snapshot “good”.


Calibration is only interesting if you are not satisfied with the first view of the raw image that Photoshop generates when you open it.

Currently, the development process is controlled by version 6. I am satisfied with this throughout. In practice, this option does not play a role for me. However, it can gain importance for photographers.

If the Raws of a certain camera always show the same deficiencies in the color conversion, e.g. always the same color casts in neutral image zones, one can make the appropriate compensation here with a calibration and save the corrected profile in the Presets panel as a new preset. Whenever you want to convert an image of the certain camera, you load this setting and the image is corrected according to the parameters once set.


Let’s quickly have a look at the Presets panel.

> Activate Presets Panel.

The Presets panel offers us the possibility to set settings as presets to apply them to other images. If we want to do this, we press the Create Preset icon. In the dialog we then determine which presets should be saved and which should not.

> Cancel Create Preset.

But the Presets panel contains much more for us. Here we find numerous presets that we can access to give the image a certain look.

> Open Creative Set and display effects with mouse-over.

Once you have found the look you want, just click on the entry and the settings will be applied.

> Click Creative: Cool Light.

Let’s cancel the preset application by selecting the last snapshot again.

> Activate Snapshot Tool.

> Click Snapshot “good”.

Now let’s take a closer look at the toolbar.

Crop Tool

The Crop Tool is rarely used in Raw conversion. It is only used when you know for sure that you can do without the parts of the image that fall away at the edges.

Straighten Tool

> Press the Straighten button. 

The Straighten Tool makes it easier to straighten the image.

For this you have to define a line in the image that should become absolutely horizontal. This way you can also force the absolute verticalization of a line.

> Activate caps lock (crosshairs) for better localization.

> Align vertically based on the door bar.

As you can see, in the left border area of the image the verticals, which were straightened via Geometry, tilt again. But this should not bother us. Straightening does not correct the perspective, but only compensates for the camera tilt.

Healing Tool

> Zoom in on the gray console area in the foreground of the image.

> Activate Healing Tool.

With the Healing Tool, Camera Raw offers us a powerful detail retouching feature.

The Healing Tool can be used in three different ways:

  • With the Content-Aware Remove function, retouch content can be created artificially. This always makes sense if there are no suitable zones in the image that can be used for retouching.
  • The Heal function is identical to the Photoshop Healing Brush in Normal Mode. Textures are cloned and adapted to the light situation of the immediate surroundings of the retouch.
  • The Clone function corresponds to that of the usual Clone Stamp Tool. Pixels are transferred 1:1.

> Activate Content-Aware Remove and retouch a spot.

> Activate Heal and retouch a spot.

> Activate Clone and retouch a spot.

Since the functions are basically the same as those of the relevant tools in the classic toolbox, the question arises why I should do the retouching in Camera Raw.

In fact, I usually refrain from doing spot retouching while still in Raw conversion.

However, there are several reasons I like to do elaborate spot retouching after conversion using the Camera Raw filter options:

  1. Unlike the Toolbox’s Clone Stamp Tool and Healing Brush, using the appropriate tools in Camera Raw doesn’t require an intermediate step to capture appropriate pixel zones. So you save the option-click.
  2. The retouch can be applied to a Smart Object and is then in the form of a Smart Filter, which remains fully editable. So I can easily improve the retouch at any time later.
  3. The pixel zone that is transposed for retouching can be modified precisely and at leisure until the result is satisfactory.

The latter can already be achieved by pressing the Refresh button.

> Press the Refresh button.

In this case Photoshop automatically draws an alternative pixel zone for retouching. Sometimes it works quite well, sometimes not.

If you want to control the process manually and precisely, use the options offered by the Overlay view.

> Activate Heal and retouch another spot with a single click.

> Activate Show Overlay (V).

In the Overlay view, you can move and enlarge the pixel zones that are used for retouching. You make the corresponding manipulations until you are satisfied with the retouching result.

> Move and enlarge patch.

The Visualize Spots function is used to identify spots for retouching. I use it only as a control tool to find out if I missed anything bigger.

> Activate Visualize Spots (Y) and drag the slider to the left.

> Deactivate Show Overlay and Visualize Spots last.


> Activate Masking.

The Masking function is a very powerful tool in Lightroom and in Camera Raw. It can be used to apply numerous settings locally.

In our tightly scheduled workshop, we’ll pick out just the most important function and take a closer look at working with the Adjustment Brush Tool.

> Masking: Activate Brush.

A look at the Effects panel reveals a number of adjustment options that we already know from other panels. But unlike the adjustment options in the Basic, Color Mixer, Detail, etc. panels, the Masking function lets us apply all effects locally to the image.

Our goal now will be to process the tonal values of the briefcase without affecting the tonal values of the rest of the image.

The mask is usually created before the effects are set. So let’s first take care of the parameters of the Brush we want to use to create the mask. We set Size, Feather, Flow and Density.

> Zoom in on the briefcase via cmd-click-drag.

> Size: 3 / Feather: 10 / Flow: 100 / Density: 100.

The Show Overlay checkbox of the Mask palette ensures that we see the mask while we are brushing.

> Brush the outline of the briefcase and paint a little over it last.

> Add the inner areas to the mask.

Corrections to the mask are made using the Eraser.

> Activate Eraser in the panel.

> Size: 3 / Feather: 10 / Flow: 100.

> Erase the excess part of the mask.

You can also switch between the brush and the eraser by holding down the Option key.

> Pressing and releasing the Option key.

While working, the size and hardness of the tool tip can be quickly modified by two mouse gestures.

  • Swiping to the left or right increases or decreases the size.
  • If you hold down the Shift key at the same time, the hardness value can be adapted.

> Swipe to the left and to the right.

> Shift-swipe to the left and to the right.

Once the mask is finished, we can hide it. Show Overlay can be disabled by pressing the Y key. The pin can also be hidden, by pressing the V key.

> Mask with Y.

> Hide pin with V.

Now we use the effect sliders to define the desired settings. The sliders correspond to various settings that we have already learned about. So we can start unhindered.

At the moment, our only concern is to gently lighten the very dark areas of the briefcase. For this purpose, we can use an exposure correction.

> Exposure: +1.50.

If you want to make further local corrections with other settings in the image, you create a new mask and again specify the desired settings.

> Click the Create New Mask button.

> Select Sky from the menu.

> Exposure: -1.00 / Noise Reduction: -80.

I think it has become clear what the strengths of Masking are. Since this tool is one of the high-end tools not only in the context of Raw conversion, but also in the Photoshop program environment, we will deal with it again later.

We will leave the Red Eye Removal Tool aside.

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the Color Sampler Tool.

Color Sampler Tool

The color sampler is used to define points in the image whose color you want to keep track of during the editing process. If you want to keep an eye on the results of the white balance, for example, to avoid unintentionally causing a color cast, you place a sampler in a neutral zone.

> Place sampler in the left zone of the intercom.

Equal values for red, green and blue represent a neutral gray.

> Reset sampler and deactivate tool.

Let’s finish our Raw conversion now.

Output of the developed image

If we want to preserve the settings we have made, but do not want to open the image or save it separately, we click on Done.

If we want to open the image for further image processing in the Photoshop program environment, we still have to look at what is hidden behind the link in the footer of the document window.

> Click on the link in the footer of the document window.

The dialog with the Workflow Presets opens. In this dialog you can set the Color Space, the Bit Depth and the Resolution.

The default color space selected in the Photoshop color settings is displayed here, of course. If we want to apply a different profile to the image, we can already do that as part of the Raw conversion if we make an appropriate setting here.

Color Space:

Since we want to keep our image in the very large and easily manageable Adobe RGB (1998) color space, we will not make any changes here.


For a high-end photo retouch we could choose 16 bit/channel as bit depth. This would allow us to save the entire tonal range to Photoshop, where we could make full use of it in further image processing. This is definitely worth considering. However, one must be aware that handling such large amounts of data does not exactly speed up work in Photoshop.

In most cases, we can safely steamroll the bit depth down to 8 bits/channel (16.78 million colors). None of the usual output targets in print or on the display is even close to being able to actually use the enormous image information of 16 bits/channel (281.47 trillion colors). And even the human eye can only perceive or distinguish around 10 million colors.


You can leave the specified 300 ppi as the target resolution. If you want to make modifications later, you do that in Photoshop’s Image Size dialog, as you know.

Smart Object:

We find an interesting checkbox at the bottom of the dialog box: Open in Photoshop as Smart Object.

Opened as Smart Object, all settings made during the Raw conversion can also be accessed in the Photoshop environment. The settings are not applied directly to the image pixels, but remain infinitely adjustable in the form of a Camera Raw Smart Filter. We will learn more about this later.

We’ll leave the checkbox unchecked, since we can enable the Smart Object option in other ways.

> Close Workflow Options.

If we press the Shift key, the Open button becomes a button called Open Object.

> Shift Open Object.

As you can see, the image was generated as a Smart Object with a bit depth of 8 bits/channel.

Double-clicking on the thumbnail of the Smart Object opens the Camera Raw environment and we can modify the settings we made during the Raw conversion.

> Double-click on the thumbnail of the smart object and cancel.

In the course of the Raw conversion, we primarily try to produce a perfect source material for the subsequent processing steps in the Photoshop program environment.

We always have to weigh up which measures make sense in the Raw conversion context and which can be performed just as well or better in the Photoshop program environment.

  • If we create a deep-color image, i.e. if we retain the maximum bit depth of 16 bits/channel, we only have to ask ourselves this question to a limited extent.
  • If we create a true-color image, i.e. if we reduce the bit depth to 8 bits/channel, we will carry out those measures for which a very large tonal range is advantageous as part of the Raw conversion. Other measures perhaps only in Photoshop.

> Open exercise file 2.

Color Mode

In the Basics Workshop, we already discussed the RGB and CMYK color modes at length. Let’s briefly recap the key points …


  • Primary colors Red-Green-Blue
  • Additive color mixing
  • 100% mixture = white
  • Output destinations displays, image sensor, projector etc.


  • Primary colors Cyan-Magenta-Yellow plus Black
  • Subtractive color mixing
  • 100% mixture = black
  • Output targets various four-color printing processes.

Now let’s deal with a few more specific color modes. Four-color printing is not mandatory. Images can also be printed in spot colors, for example.


The CMYK color space is strongly limited in certain areas. Highly saturated colors in particular, but also very delicate, light colors, cannot be reproduced in four-color printing. If you still want to access one of these special colors, it is possible to print it as a spot color.

The color impression of spot colors is not generated by the interaction of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, but is produced directly. The spot color is printed as such.

Spot colors are also used wherever an exact color value is required. For example, the colors used in a corporate design are always defined as spot colors first. A spot color definition represents a binding color reference. In any case, reproducing exact CMYK values is much more difficult.

If you would like to take a closer look at corporate design and color definition, you are welcome to visit my Praxismodul on the subject.

Cost reduction can be another reason for using spot colors. If the business card or flyer is printed on a two-color offset press, it is usually cheaper than printing on a press with five inking units.

In a word, there are many possible applications for spot colors.

Spot colors can also be used in images. Photoshop offers us two options to implement spot colors: By converting the image to Duotone mode and by creating a Solid Color channel.

First, let’s take a look at the Duotone mode. Like any color mode, it has to be selected in the Mode menu. The prerequisite for the conversion is that the image is in grayscale mode. So this is about converting the image as a whole to spot colors.

> Image / Mode / Grayscale.

> Image / Mode / Duotone.

Let’s take a closer look at the dialog. The Type menu offers four options to choose from.

  • If we choose Monotone, the image will be built from a single spot color.
  • If we choose Duotone, the image will be composed of two spot colors.
  • If you choose Tritone, the image will be composed of three spot colors.
  • If we choose Quadtone, the image will be composed of four spot colors.

We want to create a two-color image, so we choose Duotone for the conversion.

The entries Ink 1 and Ink 2 are now active and we can modify them. The first printing color is black. This does not have to be so and can be modified by us. A click on the Color Picker opens the familiar dialog where we can do the color assignment.

> Open Ink 1 Color Picker and cancel.

Black represents the shadows in the image and that should be fine with us. So we do not make any changes. And here immediately an important hint:

The color sorting should always run from dark to light. Ink 1 should always be the darkest spot color in the arrangement.

For the definition of the second ink we want to reach into the color pot.

> Open Ink 2 Color Picker.

We can select the print color black in the classic Adobe Color Picker. All other spot colors can be found in the Color Libraries

> Open Color Libraries.

Before we decide on a color, we must first determine the spot color system we want to use.

> Open the Book menu.

The Book menu contains a range of common spot color systems. These include such well-known systems as HKS (Hostmann, Kast and Schmincke), which is common in German-speaking countries. However, the most important spot color system is missing here. We are talking about the PANTONE Matching System. Since PANTONE colors are essential for graphic design, we will have to speak of a phantom in the following. I will also tell you the reasons for this absence.


For graphic designers and image editors, the PANTONE color matching system is the most common spot color system.

First of all, an important note:

The definition of a spot color is carried out in principle and without exception with the help of a real existing corresponding color guide.

PANTONE+ Color Bridge Coated

Digital color books, as we encounter them in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, are used solely to assign a color previously defined on the basis of a printed color mark. Only the physically real color mark of a color guide conveys an accurate color impression as it is to be expected in the print result. Defining print colors on the display is an absolute nogo.

The special color guide shown here is called PANTONE+ Color Bridge Coated. Its peculiarity is that it shows not only all the colors of the PANTONE matching system but also the corresponding CMYK approximations. This makes it a favorite of graphic designers, who use it to define a CMYK color with maximum similarity in addition to the spot color definition. This dual process fundamentally shapes color definition in the graphic design workflow. This is because wherever the use of spot colors is not possible, it is necessary to fall back on a CMYK color that is as similar as possible, and vice versa.

The left columns of the color guide show spot color marks, the right columns show the corresponding CMYK colors.

To explain the designations Coated vs. Uncoated:

  • A color guide with the additional designation Coated is selected when it is clear that coated paper is to be used for printing. Coated, i.e. surface-treated paper, ensures that the ink does not sink very deeply into the body of the substrate. This results in a brilliant and highly saturated color impression.
  • A color guide with the additional designation Uncoated is selected when it is clear that uncoated paper is to be used for printing. There, the ink penetrates deeper and thus appears more matte and a little darker in the print result.

Spot colors are real printing inks. To put it briefly: In the print shop’s ink store, there is a bucket labeled “PANTONE 485”, the contents of which are poured into one of the inking units of the press as required. Coated and uncoated thus refer to one and the same printing ink. The two color guides simply allow the designer to examine the color effect on coated paper on the one hand and on uncoated paper on the other.

Once you have decided on a color, you look up its entry in the digital version of the spot color system and select it there for use in the specific design context. 

So now the PANTONE colors are missing from the list of Color Books. The reason for this is that the monopolist PANTONE has provided a subscription model for the use of its Color Guides in the Adobe programs. The access to all PANTONE Color Guides is possible only with the help of the paid extension PANTONE Connect.

For graphic designers and image editors this is in any case bad news. Because there’s no way around using PANTONE colors for spot color printing.


Fortunately, there are a few easy-to-use hacks that work well to solve this problem. I would like to introduce one of them to you now.

A spot color is a color that really exists as such. In this tautological statement lies the key to the hack. In fact, I can turn any color into a PANTONE color by giving it the name of the PANTONE color I want and defining it as a spot color. So I don’t have to use a PANTONE color mark to define a PANTONE color for printing.

What may sound a bit cryptic at first becomes immediately clear when we apply the hack.

Let’s take a closer look at the PANTONE+ Color Bridge Coated guide. Below the two color marks are the corresponding color values. Here we find the name of the spot color PANTONE 382 C, the name of the process color PANTONE 382 CP. In addition, the CMYK value, the RGB value and the hex code are given.

As a reminder, the CMYK value defines a color for four-color printing, the RGB value defines a color for reproduction on a display, and the hex code, which is nothing more than a codified formulation of the RGB value, is used for color definition in web design.

Now we know that of the last three color spaces mentioned, the RGB color space is the one with the largest scope. The chances of finding an RGB color that looks like the desired PANTONE color are good. And we don’t have to look very hard. We simply use the RGB values that are thankfully listed on the PANTONE Color Bridge Coated guide.

But how to apply the RGB values here in the Duotone dialog?

That’s not too difficult either. We simply switch to the Color Picker in the dialog and enter the RGB values in the corresponding input fields.

> Bring the Color Picker into view by pressing the Picker button.

> Enter RGB values 196-214-0 and OK.

What remains to be done now to complete the full spot color definition is to enter the correct name. The color name is the crucial clue for the printer to pick the right ink can.

> Enter “PANTONE 382 C”.

Everything clear?

Incidentally, I expect we won’t have to deal with this little inconvenience of specifying a PANTONE color for too long. Adobe will come to an agreement with PANTONE Inc. and free access to all PANTONE color marks will be restored.


In German-speaking countries, another spot color system is of some importance besides PANTONE. HKS also offers a wide range of colors that can be reproduced in various printing processes. And for this, too, there is the distinction between Coated and Uncoated.

  • HKS K is to be used for color definition when printing on art paper, i.e. coated paper.
  • HKS N is used for printing on uncoated paper.

Which of the two color systems – PANTONE or HKS – I want to use depends not least on my color preferences.

  • The German HKS Color Matching System has a smaller range of spot colors than the American PANTONE. But HKS does contain color shades that are not to be found on the PANTONE color guide.
  • In contrast to HKS, the PANTONE Matching System is used worldwide and is therefore the most widely used color matching system of all. Almost every print shop is capable of spot color printing with PANTONE colors.

We now want to define our second printing color with the help of HKS K.

> Open Color Book HKS K.

The vertical color bar is used to navigate through the collection. The color definition is done by clicking on the desired color mark in the selection field.

> Click on any color in the color bar.

Since the color was previously selected on the color guide, the desired color mark is usually activated by entering the corresponding digits on the keyboard.

> Select HKS 13 K via keyboard entry 13 and OK.

If we are not satisfied with the combination of colors shown in the preview, we can now manually adjust the proportions of the two printing colors. We can do this with the help of the Duotone Curves.

> Click the Curves icon of HKS 13 K.

> Set the average value 50 to 100%.

> Set white point to 20% and OK.

Here you can increase or decrease the color application in ten tone value ranges separately from each other.

If you are satisfied with the result, you finish the conversion to the Duotone mode by clicking OK.

The image is now composed of only two printing colors, black and HKS 13. All printing processes in which spot colors can be used interpret this color composition as binding. Nevertheless, it is advisable to explicitly point out the use of a spot color to the printer in the accompanying letter when the printing documents are handed over.

> Back to RGB mode via History palette.

> Convert to CMYK.

Spot Channel

If you do not want to convert the entire image to a spot color image, but want to keep CMYK and additionally add spot color locally to the image, this can be achieved in Photoshop by creating a spot color channel.

> Channels palette menu / New Spot Channel.

> Select HKS K 43, Solidity 100% and brush a wide black stroke.

The value for the intensity of the ink application (Solidity) simulates the print result on the monitor. The 100% setting simulates an opaque spot color in four-color printing.

> Delete spot color channel.

> Channels palette menu / New Spot Channel.

> HKS K 43, select Solidity 0% and brush a wide black stroke.

A solidity of 0% simulates an overprinting spot color in four-color printing.

Mind you, this is a simulation. In fact, the density of the ink application depends solely on the tone value that is brushed in the spot color channel.

  • Black means 100% overprinting. The result is similar to the effect of the Blending Mode Multiply.
  • A medium gray in the spot color channel, on the other hand, produces a glazed color application in the conversion, and so on.

If you want to avoid color mixing in the print, i.e. if you want the spot color to appear purely in the print result, you must make a recess in the corresponding zone in the composite channel.

> Load solid color channel as selection via cmd-click.

> Activate composite channel CMYK and fill with white.

Those who have printing experience know that trapping (spread into or spread under) is needed when knocking out to avoid register errors.

> Cmd+Z and cmd+D.

Trapping for a spot color channel must be done manually in Photoshop. The Image / Trap… command is unfortunately not an option in Photoshop.

The rule is:

  • If the spot color is darker than the CMYK colors, it is spread under.
  • If the spot color is lighter than the CMYK colors, it is spread into.

In our case, it doesn’t really matter which way we choose.

It may sound a bit complicated now, but it is quite easy to do.

> Zoom in on the contour of the brushstroke.

Spread under:

> Load solid color channel as selection via cmd-click.

> Select / Modify / Contract: 2 pixels.

> Activate composite channel CMYK and fill with white.

The value 2 pixels is usually sufficient for offset printing (300dpi). Due to the poorer register accuracy, the trapping for screen printing must be selected somewhat larger. If you are unsure, you should of course contact the print shop in advance.

Spread into:

> Load spot color channel as selection.

> Switch to composite CMYK channel and fill with white.

> Selection / Modify selection / Enlarge selection: 2 pixels.

> Switch to spot color channel and fill enlarged selection with black.

> Cancel trapping.

Four-color images with spot color channels are either output directly from Photoshop as a PDF or, if the image is to be loaded in InDesign or Illustrator, as DCS 2.0. A DCS export as a multichannel document is also possible.

> File / Save a Copy: DCS 2.0, Spot Color Checkbox on.

> Preview TIFF 8 bit/pixel / DCS Single file with color composite (72 ppi); Encoding Binary or ASCII85.

> Cancel last.

Spot colors can be used to create great color effects and print complex color combinations. Wherever spot colors can be used, this should be considered.

For the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that spot color channels can be easily resolved to CMYK.

> Activate all channels in the palette.

> Channels palette menu / Merge Spot Channel.

Now let’s see how we can prepare our image for output in a very special printing process.