Working with colors can be one of the most difficult aspects of post-processing. It might be tempting to simply increase the saturation and move on but this is rarely the best approach. In fact, there’s a lot more to it.
The good part is that there is no lack of tools to enhance colors in Luminar 4. You certainly don’t need to apply all at once but having a basic understanding of what they do and when to use them can be a huge benefit.
When used correctly, these tools give you full control over individual colors, their intensity and how they affect the various parts of the image.
Through this article we’re going to use this image as our starting point and see how the various tools affect it.
So, let’s hope straight into it and look at the best tools to enhance colors in Luminar 4:
#1 The Color Tool
The most obvious place to start when working on the colors in your image is with The Color Tool (found in the Essentials Category). This is where you find well-known tools such as Saturation and Vibrance but also the Remove Color Cast tool and the HSL sliders.
Saturation affects all the pixels in an image. That means that pixels with a high saturation are treated the same as pixels with low saturation. The problem with this is that you often end up over-saturating some of the already saturated colors.
Vibrance only adjusts the least saturated colors in the image. Colors and pixels that already are saturated are adjusted less, which means that it’s less likely to blow out any colors.
In general, I recommend using these sliders with some caution as they tend to quickly oversaturate the image. However, I have noticed that the Saturation and Vibrance sliders in Luminar 4 are more forgiving than in other software such as Lightroom. In other words, you can pull more aggressively in the sliders before the colors become overdone.
Remove Color Cast is found directly beneath the Saturation and Vibrance sliders and yes, it does exactly as the name indicates; by increasing the intensity, we effectively remove the color cast. Be aware that it also slightly darkens the shot, which means you might need to compensate by increasing the exposure.
This tool doesn’t directly enhance the colors but it helps correct them. I also find that it tends to darken the brighter colors, which often results in a slight increase of saturation.
The final method of enhancing colors with the Color Tool is by using the HSL slider. This tool is revealed by clicking the Advanced Settings button.
Yes, the HSL tool is more advanced but it’s one that I highly recommend that you learn as it gives you can adjust the Hue, Saturation and Luminance of each individual color. You can use this for either color corrections or creating a unique creative look.
In fact, I consider the HSL tool to be the most important tool to learn when working with colors.
#2 The Golden Hour Tool
The Landscape Enhancer Tool contains of three adjustments that are specifically made for landscape photographers, two of which are directly affecting the colors of your image. However, it’s only one of them that interests me when talking about enhancing colors: the Golden Hour Tool.
By using this tool you introduce a warm, soft and golden glow to your photos. Its purpose is to replicate and enhance the feeling of photographing when the sun is low on the horizon. The further to the right you move the slider, the warmer the image becomes.
I’ve tested this tool on various types of images and have found that it works best when used for images that are photographed during the Golden Hour. It can add a nice effect for other images too but it does a better job enhancing already warm landscape than replicating it.
Note: images with lots of foliage can also benefit from using the Foliage Enhancer slider that’s located directly beneath the Golden Hour slider.
#3 The Color Enhancer Tool
There are several tools that impact the colors in your photos but none of them are quite as advanced as the Color Enhancer Tool. Here you get several options that give you precise control over both the global and local colors. Be aware, though, it doesn’t take much before your image becomes over-saturated, so this tool is best used with some caution.
Let’s take a quick look at what each of the adjustments within this tool do:
Brilliance is used to create a rich color in the photo. This slider is in particular one that can make your image look a little ‘too much’, so use it with care.
Warmth controls the overall color temperature in the image. Move the slider towards the left to create a cooler look and to the right for a warmer look.
Color Contrast is a useful tool that can make dull images pop as it applies contrast to a specific color range, meaning you can brighten certain colors while darkening the rest. Use the Amounts slider to control the contrast between the difference in colors and the Hue slider to set the target hue.
The Split Color Warmth adjustment controls the cold and warm tones in your image. You can increase the color contrast by for example further cooling the cold tones and warming the warmer ones. Use the Warm slider to control the warm tones of the image and Cool slider to control the cold tones of the image.
The Color Balance adjustment is found under Advanced Settings and is used to control the different tonal regions of an image.
You can target Shadows, Midtones and Highlights individually by selecting them from the Range Selector buttons. Note that the sliders below are linked to the individual tonal region, allowing you to make adjustments to each of them.
Use the sliders to adjust the balance of the Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green and Yellow-Blue colors. You can use these to, for example, correct the colors in your image or to give a creative look to it.
#4 The Photo Filter Tool
The Photo Filter is used to add an overall cold or warm feeling to an image by simulating a color filter that can be placed in front of a camera. You can use this tool to make a sunset sky pop a little extra, or to give your image an artistic look; it all depends on how you choose to use it.
Use the Amount slider to control the overall intensity of the adjustment, Hue to set the color value that’s applied through the filter and Saturation to determine the intensity of the color.
There’s also a checkbox next to Preserve Luminosity that prevents the overall exposure from being affected by the adjustment. I strongly recommend to always keep this box checked.
I find that this tool is better applied selectively rather than globally. In other words, I recommend that you use this tool in combination with a Layer Mask and introduce it to only specific areas of an image. If not, the colors tend to become a little washed out.
#5 The Split Toning Tool
The final tool to enhance colors in Luminar 4 is the Split Toning Tool. This is a powerful tool that can be used to either introduce color toning to Black & White images or to add a color cast to the shadows and highlights individually.
Truth be told, this is one of my favorite tools to work with when altering the colors in my photos. It can look a little complicated at first and the results can be horrible if not used correctly but combining this adjustment with others can make a big difference to the overall feel in an image.
Use the Amount slider to control the overall intensity of the applied color toning, the Highlights Hue and Highlights Saturation lets you adjust the colors and their intensity in the bright areas while the Shadows Hue and Shadows Saturation do the same for the darker areas.
Balance is used to shift the balance between highlights and shadows and how they’re affected.
I tend to use introduce a cold color cast to the shadows and a warmer one to the highlights. This definitely doesn’t work for every image but it can do a nice job in enhancing colors.
There are many tools to enhance colors in Luminar 4 and, quite honestly, there’s no one correct way of approaching it. You’ll quickly learn that the different tools work best in different situations but I think they can work even better when used together.
I’m not saying that you should go and apply all these filters and tools at once but how about trying to combine a few of them?
For example, I use the HSL sliders to set the tonal contrast in 99% of my images but also use the Split Toning Tool to create a slight color cast in the bright and dark areas of the image. The Photo Filter Tool can then be used (with a Layer Mask) to further enhance the colors by applying a warm filter to a colorful sunset.
At the end of the day, each image should be treated individually and may benefit from a slightly different approach. The key is to play and explore, and you’ll start noticing a trend of when certain tools work better than others.
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