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Photoshop Tutorial - Color Lookup Adjustment Layers

The new Color Lookup Adjustment Layer in Photoshop CS 6 has several options (3DLUT File, Abstract, and Device Link) that are used to load different “looks”. These looks are achieved by remapping every color in the image to a different one using a lookup table (LUT). I think that many photographers and designers will find their resulting color shifts quite interesting.

Note: historically, LUTs have been used primarily by the film industry as they’re an excellent way to apply  color adjustments from one application in another application that may not share the same math. For instance, a film workflow may involve 6 different compositing and rendering applications — some with good color adjustments and some without. If they create one 3DLUT that contains all of their adjustments, then they can use that LUT in all the applications to get their desired look. In the film and video industry, they may have LUTs for source normalization, scene color correction, creative color appearance and output simulation.

Here are some examples of the LUTs that Chris Cox included in Photoshop CS6. You can think of these tables as a sort of meta-adjustment, a way to apply pre-packaged adjustments (sometimes lots of adjustments together) in one step.

Of course there are more “looks” than appear in the illustration above, so we've created a downloadable file (LUTimage_replace.psd or here is the Mac file) that you can use to quickly see your own image with each look applied:

To replace the Venice image with your own:

• Open your own image and crop it to 1500 x 1000 pixels at 150 ppi (it can be either horizontal or vertical).

• Choose FILE...Save As to save your cropped version of the file with a new name (please don’t save over your original).

• Open the “LUTimage_replace.psd” file and in the Layers panel, select the “JKOST_original” layer.

• Choose LAYER...Smart Objects...Replace Contents, navigate to your cropped image, and choose Place.

• Voila! All copies of the original image are updated and are displayed with the appropriate LUT (through the magic of Smart Objects).

Note: The Mac operating system includes 6 Abstract profiles  (Black & White, Blue Tone, Gray Tone, Lightness Decrease, Lightness Increase, and Sepia).  The last row of images in the “LUTimage_replace.psd” image (Abstract Mac) show these  profiles. Windows users will be able to see the LUT in this file, and the profiles will display in the Abstract list for this file, but the 6 profiles will not be available in the Abstract list to apply to other images.

If you have your own LUTs, you can copy them here to have them appear in Photoshop’s Color Lookup adjustment layer’s options:

• Abstract and Device Link profiles are stored in LIBRARY...Application Support...Adobe...Color Profiles.

• The 3DLUTs are stored in APPLICATIONS...Photoshop CS6...Presets...3DLUTs.

Because this feature was designed for the film and video industry that have their own LUT files, there currently is no way to create LUT files in Photoshop. You can currently create LUTs in products such as Adobe SpeedGrade CS6.