Easy Neutral Colors

Oftentimes it might be a bit tricky to achieve the right White Balance, especially when shooting jpg. I usually shoot RAW and try to get the color temperature as close as possible in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom.

For this tutorial I purposely introduced a slight yellow-ish warm cast to the image. Oftentimes, it’s hard to find a neutral spot for using the mid-gray picker in the curves or levels… the goal is to make this image as neutral as possible with the least amount of work.

First we make a duplicate via “duplicate layer”:

which should look like this:

now, select the top layer and run the Filter>blur>average filter, which gives us some ugly looking brown mess like this:

now we make a curve adjustment layer:

take the neutral color picker (the middle one) and click anywhere in the brownish area
(marked with the X) – voila, your brown shows as neutral gray:

here how this simple move applies to the RGB channels without me (or you) touching a single curve:

now you can simply deactivate (or toss) the middle layer to see the final result – pretty cool, huh:

The easy way out: If you go into the curves “options” dialog you’ll find a “Snap Midtones” option which works almost (but only almost, depending on the image) as good:

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13 thoughts on “Easy Neutral Colors”

  1. dear sir,your guidence is very simple and easy to understand,I believe every one will be helped.thanking you.tapanC

  2. This doesn’t work right for me. Did everything as said and does what you said but I get a massive green cast to final image. There is a large red flag in the image though – so I gather this only works when the image is pretty much neutral on average to start with? Or maybe I’m missing something?
    BTW Found some cool tips on your site. Thanks!

  3. Hi,
    i discovered your fantastic site while i’m looking for leica’s info on google. Your an a great street photographer, your photos are full of meaning…so intense. I like very much your work.

  4. Thank you so much for this Markus. Reading through this before trying it, I didn’t think it was going to work; it just seemed too simple, espescially condsidering the amount of grief this issue has caused me. However, it works fantastically,
    BTW, I’ve been a big fan of your work for a while now.
    Thanks again.

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