I have not always used the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer. Now I am using them a lot in my workflow to give images a little extra color boost or feeling that is often lacking in digitized images. The image above used one as a last step – it brought back the warm beach feel I wanted – I had gotten a little off-track while creating the image. (See Image 1 at end of blog for additional steps and credits.)
Up front, I want to say, do not worry about all the details that even I have presented below. If you do not want to make a Lookup Table (LUT) file, just enjoy the large selection of files Photoshop provides in the drop-down menus and enjoy – that is mainly what I do. But if you like a combination of adjustment layer settings, go ahead and create a LUT file so this effect can quickly be applied on another image. When you click on the Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, there are three different categories (3DLUT File, Abstract, and Device Link) each with drop-downs that contain many different LUT files. Most people use the 3DLUT file drop-downs, but all three categories can be used. I use them all. Check out the links towards the end of blog to find more info on this very complicated subject.
What is a Lookup Table file?
This gets a little techie here. Basically LUT files act like filters placed on a camera lens or an image. Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost states they are a combination of adjustments that are gathered into a single Look Up Table which replaces all of the colors of your image with another set of colors. They are also used with Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects for video productions to get the moody feel as seen in movies. LUTS can save a lot of time if a file gives a nice effect on an image – by creating a LUT file, it can be applied quickly to another image. The down side is that LUT files are fairly rigid – the individual adjustment layers contained in the LUT when created cannot each be changed to suit a different image. Need to set up an action to do this.
Places to Download Other LUT Files
Many vendors are now selling these files, and they are fairly inexpensive. The ones listed below are still free. Note that these files can have various extensions on them: .cube, .look, .3DL, and .icc – all will work fine in PS as far as I can tell but there is some discussion regarding color space requirements associated with each.
Orange and Teal LUTS and Photoshop Actions by Denny Tang at Photoshop Tutorials (check the website as it has lots of other good info). The top image used his Berlin by SparkleStock.cube file at 30% layer opacity.
There is a nice LUT called Arapaho from Behind the Scenes which is an autumn look. There are a few more that look good in the Utility folder also.
One of the best ways to get some nice LUTs is to watch videos and create the ones they are demonstrating. Try using the one created in my video for starters. Also Glyn Dewis has two great videos on this topic and creates two nice LUT files – check out The Power of Photoshop Colour Look Up Tables and How to Use and Create Photoshop Look Up Tables. PiXimperfect creates a very reddish effect in How to Create Look-Up Tables (LUTs) in Photoshop – just be sure to lower the opacity and change the blend mode to get good results. See Image 2 below for more post-processing info on this white mum image.
Creating a LUT File
To create a color effect for saving down as a new table, any combination of Adjustment Layers, Opacity and/or Fill effects, Blend Modes, and Blend If sliders (to apply effect in just the shadows or highlights) can be used. Try stacking several LUT adjustment layers to get your effect or combine them with other types of Adjustment Layers. Note that LUT files cannot be exported in CS6, but ones created in CC software can be copied into the CS6 files as shown below. Here is a quick workflow of how to Export them down as a LUT file:
1. Open image and add as many different adjustment layers as needed.
2. All that is needed is a locked bottom layer (can be a solid color locked layer) and the adjustment layers to create the LUT file. Be sure the bottom layer is locked – it does not have to say Background, but it must be a locked layer. If there are clean up and filter layers before the adjustment layers were added, turn off all these layers and get rid of smart objects. To lock the bottom layer, go to Layers -> New -> Layer from Background.
3. Go to File -> Export -> Color Lookup Table. A dialog appears – can change Description and Copyright if you want, Quality either 64 and High or 32 and Medium (to make file smaller), and Formats – can choose one or all. I usually select CUBE for a couple extra options discussed below. Then OK.
4. Name and Save somewhere on your computer.
Now when you go into Photoshop’s Color Lookup Adjustment Layer, click on the Load 3D LUT (for all but the .icc extension files which will appear in the Abstract or Load Device Link categories), and click on the newly saved file (check at bottom to see what file format is being shown if the file is not listed – probably need to change the file format), the effect will be applied. Pretty easy. If the LUT was saved as a .cube extension, the adjustment layer will show a couple other options – Data Order and Table Order. Try clicking on each of the radial buttons – all give different looks. A BGR is a color space like RGB, it just changes the order of the significance of the colors in the color space. BGR has a dominant Blue channel while RGB has a dominant Red Channel. Just experiment with these buttons to get some really interesting results.
The video below demonstrates how to create a simple LUT file as described above. If the link does not show up in the RSS feed, please go to my blog.
Where to Save Downloaded or New LUT files so They Appear in the Drop-down Lists
There are two places the LUTs can be loaded into PS so they appear in the drop-down lists and do not have to be loaded each time:
- If the files have these extensions: .cube, .look, or .3DL, then copy newly created files to: C Drive -> Program Files -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 (or CS6) -> Presets -> 3DLUTs – PS default files will already be loaded here.
- If the files end in .icc, need to place them in this folder: C Drive -> Windows -> System 32 -> spool -> drivers -> color – there will be other files in this folder also.
To learn more technical information about Color Lookup Tables, check out a couple of John Paul Caponigro’s (one of the best Photoshop experts out there) articles, Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy and Photoshop’s Color Lookup Makes Complex Color Effects Easy. Here is Adobe’s manual link called Export color lookup tables for more information.
I hope everyone did not get overwhelmed by this topic – the bottom line is just try using them. I find that by adding just a low opacity Color Lookup Adjustment Layer to an image can really add that special feel to it and many favorites will be discovered. I really like the Foggy Night file but it really depends on the image being used. And it is an excellent way to get the ever-popular Instagram look. In the meantime, stay warm and have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd
Image 1: I started out this image by creating the text on a layer – was trying out a new template created using a technique by Chris Spooner called How to Create a Watercolor Text Effect in Adobe Photoshop. Then added my favorite White Heron from Design Fairy. Added in a background of mine created in Corel Painter – no detail had been added to the water so Grut-FX IL Romato and CH Debs Kettle brushes were used for the white wave effect. Used several PS brushes in Brush Grass Set2 by Frostbo to create the foreground Sea Oats. Shadowhouse Creations Birds Brush Set 4 Birds 8 brush for the flying birds set to 82% layer opacity. A Soft Light layer was added to lighten the right side of the image where the sun was coming from. Then a Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. On top a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using the Berlin by SparklesStock LUT file downloaded from Denny Tang (from link above) was added and set to 30% layer opacity.
Image 2: Did the basic adjustments in Lightroom. In Photoshop a little clean up on the flowers had to be done with the spot-healing brush. Then three Lookup Tables were added to the image: My SJ Darkly Bright cube LUT was applied first at 64% layer opacity1 – this is the file created in my You Tube video linked above; next the Photoshop LUT called Foggy Night was applied at 20% layer opacity; and the last one was Berlin from Denny Tang at his link above and set to 42% layer opacity. A Gradient Fill vignette was created using a teal color instead of a black color (see my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog). A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created and turned into a Smart Object. Nik Viveza was opened and the foreground flower was lightened up just a little. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 55% layer opacity. Only wanted the effect on the middle unopened blooms, so add a black layer mask and painted back the blooms.