How to get uniform skin tones

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cg

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.

Farvekort-Skin tone forskelThe Skin Tone Tool being applied as a background layer on an X-rite ColorChecker SG

 

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.

NoSkinToneCorrectionOnLegsLegs and hand need skin tone tweaking to match the upper part of the body, which already has a pleasing skin tone

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.

SkinToneMaskOnMasking in the layer containing the skin tone layer, avoiding hair and golden areas

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.

HueSatRangeWidening the hue and saturation and increasing
the smoothness of the fall-off

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.

UniformitySliderThe Uniformity slider set to Max

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:

FinalCorrectedVSUncorrectedWith and without the skin-tone correction using the Skin Tone tool in Capture One Pro 7

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.

cg1The Skintone Tool can correct much more than just skin tones. Here the color of the water have been uniformed to allow for further corrections using the Advanced Color Editor.

 

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.

 

Best regards,

Christian Grüner

 

 

Christian Grüner

Christian Grüner

Christian is a Test Engineer with the QA/Test department in Phase One. In the very little spare time a job in Phase One gives Christian, you’ll find him shooting pictures, recording aerial imagery with pro-grade drones or trying not to crash on the mountainbike in the woods. 

34 thoughts on “How to get uniform skin tones

  1. Matt Timmons

    Thanks much for this brief tutorial. I’ve poked around with the skin tone tool but never figured out how it’s used; I end up doing all skin corrections in Photoshop. If a more extensive video showing the use of this tool could be made, I’m sure it would help users like me learn to use the full potential of the tool. As it is now, it’s mostly a lack of understanding how the skin tone tool works, especially in different situations.
    Also, how does one copy the settings used in a mask and apply it to numerous other photos without copying the mask itself onto the other photos and having to erase/re-draw each one?

    Cheers,
    Matt

    Reply
    1. tony

      Matt,
      I agree with your comments. I did figure out the layer question I had but, all I was successful in doing was changing the color hue of the face. It seemed that the other adjustments did nothing. No smoothing occurred.
      I do much better with a video anyway. Id like to see it happening rather than reading a step by step instruction. That said, I appreciate Christians offering…Just wish it was a video instead.

      Reply
  2. tony

    Christian,
    I enjoyed your article on skin tone. Unfortunately, I have never made a layer in C1pro. You passed over that. I know others probably have done this before but it stopped me from going further with your tutorial. Any help?
    thanks
    tony

    Reply
    1. Billy Walker

      Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      Tony, layers in C1 Pro as follows:

      Please note C1 Pro layers are very similar to Photoshop layers. Although they lack the level of sophistication of PS layers they are nonetheless powerful, and like PS are non-destructive. I believe you can create up to 10 layers but I am not positive of that.

      In addition, the following assumes you have not customized your C1 Pro screen to any degree. Here goes:

      1) Have an image present in the Viewer (center of screen)
      2) Left-click the Brush icon found towards the upper right-hand corner of C1 Pro. This will open the Local Adjustments tab.
      3) You should see an Adjustments Layers menu present. If not, here is how you add that particular tool to the Local Adjustments tab: Left-click “View” in the horizontal menu found at the very top of your screen – Next, left-click “Add Tool to Local Adjustments Tab” – Next, left-click “Local Adjustments” – This will insert the Adjustments Layers capability.
      4) Left-click the “+” symbol to add a layer
      5) Left-click the “-” symbol to remove a layer
      6) Right-clicking while inside the Viewer will bring up the “Brush Settings” tool
      7) In addition, make sure you left-click the Brush icon located in the middle of the screen towards the top in order to create masks. This Brush needs to be active (an orange color) in order to make use of the tool.
      8) As in PS you can name the layers if desired.
      9) At this point you can make use of a variety of sliders as enabled within the Local Adjustments tab.

      I hope this helps you to get underway with C1 Pro Layers.

      As for skin tone corrections I found this tutorial to be very helpful. Given the frequent difficulty in getting skin tones dialed in correctly I think it would be extremely beneficial to many of us if an extended training session including sample images was put together for proper use of this tool.

      Reply
  3. Billy Walker

    Tony, layers in C1 Pro as follows:

    Please note C1 Pro layers are very similar to Photoshop layers. Although they lack the level of sophistication of PS layers they are nonetheless powerful, and like PS are non-destructive. I believe you can create up to 10 layers but I am not positive of that.

    In addition, the following assumes you have not customized your C1 Pro screen to any degree. Here goes:

    1) Have an image present in the Viewer (center of screen)
    2) Left-click the Brush icon found towards the upper right-hand corner of C1 Pro. This will open the Local Adjustments tab.
    3) You should see an Adjustments Layers menu present. If not, here is how you add that particular tool to the Local Adjustments tab: Left-click “View” in the horizontal menu found at the very top of your screen – Next, left-click “Add Tool to Local Adjustments Tab” – Next, left-click “Local Adjustments” – This will insert the Adjustments Layers capability.
    4) Left-click the “+” symbol to add a layer
    5) Left-click the “-” symbol to remove a layer
    6) Right-clicking while inside the Viewer will bring up the “Brush Settings” tool
    7) In addition, make sure you left-click the Brush icon located in the middle of the screen towards the top in order to create masks. This Brush needs to be active (an orange color) in order to make use of the tool.
    8) As in PS you can name the layers if desired.
    9) At this point you can make use of a variety of sliders as enabled within the Local Adjustments tab.

    I hope this helps you to get underway with C1 Pro Layers.

    As for skin tone corrections I found this tutorial to be very helpful. Given the frequent difficulty in getting skin tones dialed in correctly I think it would be extremely beneficial to many of us if an extended training session including sample images was put together for proper use of this tool.

    Reply
      1. Billy Walker

        David, thank you for the heads up on this webinar. I just signed up for it. Even if it does start at 5am on the east coast of the United States. I guess that beats 4am by a bit as other Capture One webinars I’ve attended :-) .

        Reply
      2. Tan68

        Webinar… I forgot to keep checking for them. I found older webinars stored here: http://www.phaseone.com/en/Imaging-Software/Capture-One-Pro-7/Tutorials.aspx

        I couldn’t find a list of upcoming webinars, though…

        Also, if it is relevant to your planned webinar:

        I know how to create a new layer and copy the mask from one layer to the new one.

        I am not sure how to copy settings from a previous layer to the new one… For example, the double headed arrow in the Color Editor tool for adjustment layers is grayed out for me on Windows…

        If there is a way to do this and it is appropriate to include with your other information, I would like to see in June.. I admit, this is more of a ‘how to use layers’ question than color tool Q.

        Reply
    1. tony

      Thanks for the info Billy. Ive done a screen shot of it and will follow your advice.
      thanks again.
      t

      Reply
  4. Fiona Campbell

    Amazing tool. I think the Tweaking the Skin Tone section needs fleshing out a bit. You don’t say what the colour selection tool is. A bit more detail here would be helpful. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Heiko

    Die genannten Arbeitsschritte sind sicher sehr wertvoll, ……. aber leider ist alles in englischer Sprache. Es werden die Tools auch in englisch gezeichnet, und es ist fast nicht möglich (wenn man nicht gutes Englisch spricht) in der deutschen Version C one zu erkennen was gemeint ist.
    Eine Übersetzung wäre wünschenwert und hilfreich.

    Reply
  6. Bryan

    I think this could be very helpful, but agree that more detail on doing it and/or a video would help. Especially the part of applying it to other images from the shoot as the masks would be different.

    Now off to play with some images to try to learn this trick and see if I can apply it to future job workflows.

    Reply
    1. tony

      Bryan,
      Great post. Yes I did the exact same thing. Copy and paste the adjustment and the mask was in the totally different place. Id like to see a video of this in action.
      C1Pro is an amazing program. Doing so much more than I usually do in it. Id love to learn more about it.
      Right now I am experiencing a problem processing to DNGs. The image goes about 80 green and max contrast. Tech says they are aware of this. Anyone else experiencing it? Converts to proper color in PS5.

      Reply
    2. Tan68

      I think a mask may be necessary when I am using the tool to make things look the way I like. The mask may be needed to protect lips or etc. as mentioned in the article.

      If I want to copy the settings of the first image to other images without the mask, I could first delete the mask. Of course, my mask is gone from my first image…

      I know how to copy a drawn mask to a new, fresh layer in the same image. But I don’t know how to copy settings of that layer (for me, the typical double headed arrow for copy adjustments is grayed out in the Adjustment Tab color tool..) so that I have two skintone layers in my first image: 1 with mask & 1 without.

      So, to retain my mask in the first image but have a maskless layer to copy to other images… I could create a variant of the first image, quickly delete that mask with a large brush, copy my maskless adjustments to multiple images, and then delete the variant… A way I can think of to do it, but maybe not the best way. ?

      If my images need the settings but no mask, I might do this. If all the other images will need a mask to protect lips or what-not, I will be drawing a mask anyway and it doesn’t take long delete masking from the first image with a large, hard brush.

      This is a chore I like. After sweating the drawing of a mask, wiping away a mask carelessly, not because I made a mistake but because I will start on a new image, is pleasing. Like erasing a chalkboard. Granted, I work as a hobby with not many images…

      Reply
  7. Tan68

    The last couple articles about color correction caused something to click. Now, I think color and contrast are, maybe, the most important things.

    I have a few pictures of northern seas. One has the green.. I see it could be distracting for some pictures, but I kinda liked it. Perhaps because it is different from my gray southeast American water. :^)

    Reply
    1. Christian Grüner

      After getting the shot itself right, colors and contrast are what makes the image get personality and expression.

      I’m glad our articles have helped you!

      Best Regards
      Christian Grüner

      Reply
  8. Robert Davis

    I can’t get the skin tone tab to work as a local adjustment after drawing a mask with the brush. I’m in the local adjustments tool, I’ve drawn a mask on my daughter’s face with the brush, I have the Color Editor added to local adjustments. Any adjustments made in the Skin Tone tab are still made globally. I’m confused. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Christian Grüner

      I can’t say exactly what is going in your case. There are no known bugs with regards to the masking.

      But if you continue to see the problem, do not hesitate to contact our Supporters.

      Reply
  9. Robert Davis

    Now appears to be working. I notice a lot of these little niggles with C1. Sometimes certain functions don’t work as they’re supposed to and I have to switch between tabs or close down C1 to fix it.

    Reply
  10. Marcus

    I just tried to correct skin tones in the way it is described. But there seems to be a software bug. It is not possible to mask a layer and to selectively correct colors. Instead corrections are applied to the whole layer.

    So, to everyone who read this tutorial and face the same problem, it’s seems to be a software problem. I just opened a ticket on the website. Hopefully there will be an update soon.

    Reply
    1. Christian Grüner

      It sounds like you have been adding the correction to the Background layer instead of the adjustment layer.

      Be aware that, by default, only the Color Editor in the Layers Tool Tab will work layers (as well as the Background layer), while the Color Editor in the Color Tool Tab, by default, will only work on the Background Layer.

      You can change this behavior by clicking on the small triangle in the upper right corner of each tool and tick “Adjust selected layer”. This enable the tool to work on layers as well.

      Reply
  11. Bijutoha

    Really outstanding some photograph with decent tutorial. I’m using PS6. Now it is time to gain well another. Very helpful at all.

    Reply

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