Something I get asked often is how to add color tones to your images. Often the easiest option is to use filters either in Lightroom or with a plugin software such as Google Nik. However, as you delve deeper into the world of color grading you will eventually become curious how to create your own effects.
There are obviously an enormous number of ways to achieve a certain look to your photos. The Adobe Kuler plugin for Photoshop is an incredibly powerful option that is available to anyone with Photoshop (for free) and provides complete control over the look and feel of an adjustment.
The first concept to grasp is color theory. You know, the whole color wheel thingy and colors complementing one another… Well this is huge. And while you don’t need to be an expert on the subject, it helps to know the basics which will eventually lead to a better understanding of the subject as you use it in practice. One article I have found extremely helpful on his topic was written by one of my favorite landscape photographers of today, Ted Gore. Gore has won several accolades in his field and produces some of the most amazing images I have ever seen. His article titled “Color Theory and Landscapes Photography” goes into great detail about color harmonies and how to work them into your images. He explains the difference between analogous, complementary, and monochromatic color harmonies (as well as several others that are much less obvious) and gives great examples of how he uses them in his work. I highly recommend this read as it applies not only to landscapes imagery but color grading and application on any photograph. At its core the idea is that certain colors simply work well together and are pleasing to the viewers’ eye when introduced into an image with subtlety. For example, blue and yellow are complementary colors. When the darker tones in an image are “cooler” and the lighter tones are “warmer,” the image is more aesthetically pleasing than if the color tones were simply left to chance.
This is where Adobe Kuler comes in. For one, the Adobe Kuler tool is free if you already have a Creative Cloud membership and you can also install the tool directly into Photoshop (directions provided here). Once installed, it is available by going to Window > Extensions > Adobe Color Themes which creates a new tab in your workspace. How is this useful? The tool provides a built-in color wheel which allows you to create custom complimentary color tones. More importantly though, it contains a ton of color pallets already available for use that follow the “rules” of color theory.