Vibrant Color Saturation in Your Photos With Photoshop LAB Mode

Final Image

Like everything in Photoshop, there are more than one way to saturate the colors in your image. There’s always an easy way around it and a more complex way of doing it with a lot more control. Let’s say you want to really saturate your colors as if they were cross-processed without adding a wild color cast and increasing contrast in your image. Well, in that case, there’s only one way to do that!
In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to improve color saturation and vibrance in your photos using the Lab Color space.

Original Image

Perhaps the easiest way of improving color saturation is using the Hue & Saturation Adjustment Layer. Go and open that up at the bottom of your layers palette. Layers Adjustment
There you’ll notice you can select the different colors you want to saturate (default value is set to "Master") and the amount of saturation. I usually don’t add more than 20%. Once you go past that value, the colors start to block up. In order to avoid this we need more color variety and that is why Lab Color is useful. Lab Color Space includes all perceivable colors which means that its gamut exceeds those of the RGB and CMYK color models allowing us to really crank up that saturation


Go on and close that window and delete that adjustment layer. Now, let’s head on to the Lab Color Space. At the top menu, go to Image > Mode > Lab Color. Once in lab color mode we’re going to open our Curves Adjustment Layer. You’ll notice that instead of the usual Red channel, Green channel and Blue channel, we’re going to have a Lightness channel, an "a" channel, and a "b" channel. Now, the trick here is to drag our curve away from the center counter clockwise and in the same amount on both sides. Your midpoint should remain in the same place. Holding down the ALT key click and on the curves window for a more detailed grid if necessary. This is what your channels should look like:


As you can see, this technique not only adds color intensity but also color variety. This will make most colorful images really pop out! Now, if you find that the intensity is a little too harsh. You can dial it back using the opacity level of that layer. Once you’ve got the color depth you were looking for, head back to RGB color by going to the top menu and selecting Image > Mode > RGB color. You will be prompted to discard the Curves Adjustment Layer you just created. Unfortunately, Photoshop loses the adjustment layers when you switch from different color modes. Instead going ahead by selecting "OK", choose "Flatten". This will keep the color adjustment we previously made in the image but we will no longer have the Curves Adjustment Layer to go back and adjust so make sure you got it just the way you want it!


The last saturation trick I want to show you is to saturate the luminous values of the image without effecting the overall image. Let’s say I want to I want to deepen the reds a little bit on this image. Go to your Curves Adjustment layer at the bottom of your layers palette. You’ll notice that now in RGB mode you have your Red channel, Green channel and Blue are channel back. Select your red channel and drop the curve down a bit. While you’re at it, go to the RGB channel and create a small "S" curve to add a little contrast.


Next, we’re going to give this curves adjustment layer a Blend Mode of "Luminosity". This will make the curves adjustment blend into the image affecting the luminous values of your image. It’s still really strong for my taste so I brought it down a notch by setting the opacity to 60%.


The last thing I want to do to this image is a really quick and subtle vignette around the corner edges just to direct the attention towards the center of the image. To do this merge your background layer with your curves adjustment layer onto a new layer by pressing SHIFT + CTRL + ALT + E. With this new layer selected go to your top menu and select Filters > Lens Correction. In the Custom tab, you’ll see the vignette setting in the middle. I gave my image an amount of -60% and moved the midpoint to +70. You can give your image a little more intensity and then use the opacity of that layer to dial it down to the exact amount.


There you have it! I saturated image with greater control and no color block ups. I hope you found this tutorial useful. Check the results comparison.

Original image

Original Image

Hue & Saturation command (+35, check the color distortion)

Original Image

LAB mode Technique

Final Image

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