Saturday, November 1, 2003

Punch up your image with saturation


By David Gewirtz

For many folks, tools like Photoshop are daunting with all their options. So it's nice when you can find a quick and easy trick that'll give you a lot of results from a single command. A quick saturation adjustment is just such a trick.

First, let me show you an example. The image in Figure A was taken from our clip art collection.


A little saturation (on the right) can go a long way. (click for larger image)

I chose this image because the color in it was so "flat." You can see how the grass on the left side of the image appears almost grayed out and lackluster. By contrast (or rather, by saturation -- bad photographer's joke), the greens on the right side of the image are far more punchy and vivid.

Saturation, by definition, means "Vividness of hue; degree of difference from a gray of the same lightness or brightness." We're going to use that; we're going to make the picture more vivid.

I accomplished the improvement on the right side of the image by using a single command. If you're using Photoshop, go to Image->Adjustments and select the Hue/Saturation menu item. If you're using another tool, you'll want to look for the image adjustment options and find the saturation adjustment. You'll see a dialog box like that shown in Figure B.


Just a slight tweak of the saturation slider can make all the difference (click for larger image)

All I did was move the saturation slide up a little less than half way. That's it. Just click OK, and the image looks a lot more vibrant.

You need to use some restraint with saturation, as with all adjustments of this nature. Adjust the least you possibly can to get the effect you want. If you oversaturate, your image will look like a bad blob. That's just as bad as having an overly dull image.

Here's a short extra-credit tip. Play with the hue (meaning color) and lightness sliders as well, to see how your image changes. Again, use restraint.

Oh, and make sure you do this on a copy of your image. Keep a backup of your original image somewhere safe.