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Photoshop Quick Tip: Tone Down Overly Saturated Colors

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Photoshop Quick Tip: Tone Down Overly Saturated Colors

Sometimes an image has colors that are too saturated, either from over-edited or even straight out of camera.  You’ve seen the images with pink so bright it hurts your eyes, or grass that is neon.  Sometimes the skin just looks like it baked too long. There are a number of sophisticated ways to fix these problems.  But there is one super quick “shortcut” way to try too. This will not always be your best bet, and sometimes may not even yield pleasing results.  But when it works, it is quick and easy.

To start, take your image and add a black and white adjustment layer or a black and white gradient map. This is found in the layers palette (that black and white circle icon) and then going to “black and white” or “gradient map.” In CS4 you can also get to either using the adjustment panel.

Next take the layer opacity down. How long depends on how much your image needs to be toned down.  You may find you are at 5-30% for most shots. A little goes a long way. If you go to a higher opacity, you will get a vintage look or eventually a black and white image.

Utilize the masks if only a small portion of the image needed to be toned down, by inverting the mask (Control/Command + “I”) and then paint with white to reveal this dimming effect.

Below is an example. You can see how the pink is glowing in the 1st image. It is overly saturated. There is also a bit too much color in her hair and even a little too much on her skin. 26% opacity on a black and white layer and masking back the background led to the 2nd shot.

too much

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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12 Comments

  1. January 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm —

    This is a GREAT tip! It worked wonders for my image as my son’s skin is quite orange from too may orange veggies! Thanks for another great photo saving tip!

  2. August 15, 2010 at 8:48 am —

    the useful advises you presented do help my research for my corporation, appreaciate that.

  3. July 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm —

    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  4. June 22, 2010 at 11:32 am —

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  5. January 21, 2010 at 11:36 am —

    Thank you so much for posting this! It was very timely for me and it worked perfectly!

  6. January 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm —

    Great tip, Jodi! Over-saturation can really ruin an image, so it’s nice to know it can be saved.

  7. January 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm —

    Nice tip! I hadn’t heard of this one before at all. Thanks 🙂

  8. Jennifer B
    January 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm —

    this came at a perfect time! Last night I finished editing photos of a little girl in a hot pink dress, and the dress was WAY TOO PINK right out of the camera! I tried a few different ways to fix it, but wasn’t completely happy. I’ll try this too, now. I’m glad I saw it before I ordered any! Thank you!

  9. January 18, 2010 at 1:31 pm —

    Good simple tip! I’m gonna have to give it a try when I get home. Thanks!

  10. January 18, 2010 at 10:07 am —

    Thanks for these great tips…what a big difference attention to details like this make!

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Photoshop Quick Tip: Tone Down Overly Saturated Colors