Getting proper skin tones has always been challenging. It can be hard enough to obtain a truthful skin tone on the face, but what about the rest of the body? Capture One Pro 7 offers an easy and effective tool to uniform these different skin tones.
Without this, the normal flow would be to correct to an overall skin-tone, using a combination of White Balance, Levels/Curves and Color Balance. The challenge a photographer faces after this general color correction step, is how to quickly but precisely correct local skin tones, where the skin has another tint. This could be caused by issues like lighting fall-off, off-tint foundation applied by a make-up artist, pigmentation difference etc.
To correct this using Photoshop the photographer would create a Selective Color (or Hue Saturation) adjustment layer with a mask covering the off-tint skin tone and correct the color. Then for each area where the tone is off, this flow will be repeated. As you can imagine, this flow is very time-consuming, requires detailed masking, and is very repetitive.
So how can Capture One help you? In the Color Editor Tool there is a tab called “Skin tone”. This tool is available from both the “Color” Tab and the “Local Adjustments” tab. If you are using it from the “Color” tab, the tool will act on the entire picture, the so-called Background layer.
If used from the Local Adjustments tab, you have to draw a mask on the area where you want the tool to have effect. I find using the tool with Local Adjustments gives me the most control, but using it on the Background layer can speed-up up the workflow a bit, but at the cost of effect precision. The risk here is that red and yellow colors can be unintentionally affected by the Skin Tone Tool.
Let’s see how all this act on a real-life image. On the image below the skin-tones are pleasing in the face and on her shoulders, but her legs and the fingers on her left hand have a noticeable magenta tint and do not match the upper body perfectly.
Preparing for using the Skin Tone Tool
To correct this tint, I start by creating a layer, and then masking the skin. When drawing the masks, there are a few pitfalls to avoid:
- Avoid being very precise around green/blue/cyan/deep magenta hues, as these normally won’t be affected when dealing with skin tones.
- Avoid masking into the hair. Especially blonde hair is quickly affected.
- Avoid masking into the lips, unless the “naked” foundation look is needed. Bright red lips will suffer greatly.
- Avoid masking into greens or light brown eyes. They can be affected by the tool.
On this particular image I have to be careful not to include the golden parts in my mask, as a golden color is close to a warm skin tone.
Once I am done masking, I select a skin tone using the Color Picker from the Skin Tone Tool. The color I pick will be the tone that Capture One Pro 7 applies to the leg and hand we have masked in.
Hue and saturation range
Next step is to widen the color range in 2 dimensions. First, press the “Span full saturation range” icon in the tool, then broaden the affected hue by dragging the endpoints in the color circle in each direction. If the image is highly saturated, it can be advantageous to also drag the “Smoothness” slider to the maximum value. This makes for a smoother hue falloff.
Using the uniformity slider
Now move the “Uniformity” slider to its maximum value of 1.0. This is where the magic happens. The skin tone I previously selected is now applied to the area I have masked, if the colors are within the defined range. Sometimes setting the Uniformity value to 1.0 can prove to be a little too much. On those rare occasions turn down the value, or, better, erase the mask with a low opacity Eraser Brush until reaching the desired amount of uniformity in the image. The rouge make-up on a model’s cheeks is a good example of when it would be a good idea to lower the opacity locally by using the Eraser brush.
Tweaking the skin tone
Once we are happy with the color range and the uniformity, we can start tweaking our skin tone. It can be difficult at first to hit the right skin tone with the picker, but this is easily modified with the slider controls. A rough hue and saturation selection can be obtained by moving the color selection point in the color wheel. Fine-tuning this selection is then done by adjusting the Hue Rotation, Saturation and Lightness sliders. As I am using the Uniformity feature, making these adjustments will affect the entire selected color range.
Getting a uniform look across multiple pictures
Most times I have to deliver a series of pictures, which have to have the same overall look. Here the Skin Tone Tool is very useful as the settings can be copy/pasted to the remaining pictures. A workflow tip is not to have any mask drawn when the settings are copied. As a mask is very specific to a certain picture, it would have to be manually erased in order for a new mask to be drawn on a second image.
Here is the final result as a comparison, showing the legs with and without the skin tone correction:
More than just skin
Even though named “Skin Tone”, this tool can be used for a lot more than just skin. It can also be used on other colors.
In this picture I have combined the use of the Advanced Color Editor Tool and the Skin Tone Tool, to make the water a blue tone instead of the typical Danish green water color. In a layer I have used the Skin Tone Tool to make yellow, green and blue/cyan tones look more similar. In the Advanced Color Editor I have then adjusted to the hue to make the water look bluer. A layer mask sees to that the sky is not affected by the adjustments on the water.