Colour Grading Photos: Creating the Teal & Orange look from Transformers

Continuing our series of using colour grading techniques “borrowed” from the film industry with Photoshop to enhance our photos. We previously covered using, huesaturation and exposuresimulating the time of day and creating the bleach bypass look. This week we look at how we can create the high energy (perhaps overused in the cinema) Teal and Orange look, popularised by Transformers. Biker 101: Teal and Orange Look

The look is basically made up of adding orange in the highlights to warm the image and then pushing orange's contrasting colour, Teal, into the shadows to create a colour contrast. The original image is shown below for comparison.

Biker 101

The Teal and Orange look can be created using many different approaches, such as the Curves or Color Balance adjustment. We have covered using the Color Balance tool previously so this week I wanted to share with you how we can use curves to achieve the same thing but with more precision.

Without going into too much theory on the Curves tool, you can basically think of it as a way of adjusting/changing the colour, targeted a specific tonal range within the image. The mechanics of curves are beyond this blog post but you can find out more here. Basically they allow us to adjust a particular colour channel (Red, Green or Blue) or all three at once (RGB) by either adding or subtracting the amount of the selected colour, to a specific tonal point in the image. If you adjust all three colours (when RGB selected), their values are changed equally, so the colour stays the same but instead you change the luminance (brightness), making a specific tonal range lighter or darker.

To make a colour adjustment with curves, we have three channels that we can work with: Red, Green or Blue. To get the other colours in the spectrum, we have to mix these by either adding or subtracting various amounts of red, green or blue.

Luminance Curves Adjustment for Teal & Orange Look

Red Curves Adjustment for Teal & Orange Look

Green Curves Adjustment for Teal & Orange Look

Blue Curves Adjustment for Teal & Orange Look

To apply the Teal and Orange look, we want to add Teal to the shadows. We can do this by adding subtracting red (to get cyan) and adding blue to the darker tonal range of the image. To get orange into the highlights we can then subtracting blue (to get yellow) from the highlights and add some red. In the image above I got a slight magenta cast in the highlights so I added a little of it's complement, green, here to compensate (Note you can get yellow by either subtracting blue, or adding red and green).

If you are not comfortable with curves you can use the Color Balance tool do roughly do the same thing. It is worth playing/experimenting with the curves tool as it gives you more precision, allowing you target particular tones within the image.

Next week, we will look at another look that can be created easily with a simple adjustment layer.