Beautiful Color Grade In Photoshop – “Homecoming” Poster – Copycat #6


In today’s Copycat Wednesday, you learn how to recreate Homecoming’s beautiful color grade in Photoshop from its own poster!

Tutorial Images

Apply a Green Color Grade to the Background Using a Gradient Map

Starting with the Background layer, turn it into green by clicking the New Adjustment Layer icon > Gradient Map.

The Gradient Map allows you to apply colors onto your image based on its luminance value.

Click on the bar to bring out the Gradient Editor window where you can change the Color Stops.

First, click on the Color stop at the 0% Location.

Then, double-click on the Color swatch to bring out the Color Picker window and select a dark green color for the shadows. Then, press OK to apply.

Next, click on the Color stop at the 100% location.

Then, double-click on the Color swatch to bring out the Color Picker window and select a muted green color for the shadows. Then, press OK to apply.

You may add Color stops by clicking anywhere on the Gradient bar to add more color range to your image.

WE NEED TO SHOW HOW THE IMAGE IS AFFECTED

Use a Levels Adjustment to Control Gradient Over the Background

How the Gradient Map is applied is based on the light on the image, and you can control the light using the Levels adjustment layer. Go to the Layers panel > New Adjustment Layer icon > Levels.

On the Levels’ Properties panel, you can adjust the brightness of the image and determine how dark are your shadows and how bright are your highlights. 

Create a Highlight

Select the Brush tool from the Toolbar and set the Foreground color to white(#ffffff)

Set the Brush Hardness to 0% for a smoother paintbrush.

Create a New Layer, name it “Highlight,” and use the Brush tool to paint in your highlights.

Blur the Background

Select the Background layer > right-click > Convert to Smart Object.  With a Smart Object, you can apply editable adjustments, distortions, filters, and transformation.

Choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Adjust the Radius value until you achieve a realistic-looking blurry background. 

Group the Background Layers

Select the Background layer > hold the Shift key > select the Gradient Map layer > press Ctrl G (Windows) or Command G (macOS) to place them in one group.

Rename the new Group to “Background.”

For more straightforward distinction, right-click on the Group and set the color Green or any color you want.

Mask the Model Layer

Proceed to work on the image subject and start to mask it from its current background. The fastest way you can achieve that is by going to the Properties panel > Quick Actions > Remove Background.

If you cannot the Quick Actions, choose Window > select Properties.

If you’re working with an older Photoshop version, you can also use the Quick Selection tool to create a selection of your subject and click on the Layer Mask icon to apply a layer mask.

Fine-tune the Mask with the Select and Mask Workspace

Apply a temporary background layer by clicking on the New Adjustment Layer icon > Solid Color to properly see the applied mask.

Pick a color that safe color that can easily distinguish the subject from the background. For example, grey.

Select the Layer Mask thumbnail, go to the Properties panel, and click the Select and Mask button.

Set the View option as Black & White.

Under Global Refinements, adjust the Smooth, Contrast sliders, and Shift Edge sliders to refine the edges of your mask.

Remove the Fringing with the Minimum Filter

If you can still see fringing or a faint hint of the subject’s original background, choose Filter > Other > Maximum or Minimum.

Select Maximum if you need expand the mask edge

Select Minimum if you need to contract the mask edge.

On the Maximum/Minimum window, make sure the Preview is enabled to see the Filter being applied in real-time. Then, adjust the Radius value to the requirement of the image. 

You can also set the Preserve as Roundness(for humans/animals) or Squareness(for inanimate objects).

Fine-Tune the Hair Selection

Refining the mask for the hair has an entirely different process. Start by going back to Select and Mask, select the Refine Edge Brush tool or press the R key on your keyboard. 

Use the tool to click-and-drag along the edges of the hair to retrieve the hair strands. Then, press OK to save the changes.

If the results aren’t perfect, you can easily adjust by holding the Shift key on your keyboard as you click on the Layer Mask icon to disable the layer mask.

Next, go to the Channels panel and see which channel has a starker contrast between the subject and the background and then duplicate it.

With the duplicated channel selected, press Ctrl I (Windows) or Command I (macOS) to Invert the color.

Choose Image > Adjustments > Levels. On Input Levels, click-and-drag the black point to the right to make the darker pixels turn into solid black, and click-and-drag the white point to make the light grey pixels to solid white.

Press OK to apply the changes. 

With the duplicated channel adjusted, hold Ctrl (Windows) or Command (macOS) as you click on the channel thumbnail to load the bright pixels as a selection. 

Click on the RGB channel to enable all the channels.

Go back to the Layers panel > New Adjustment Layer icon > Solid Color.

On the Color Picker window, select a dark color and press OK.

After that, place the Solid Color layer below the subject layer.

 Hold the Shift key as you select the Layer Mask thumbnail to retrieve it. 

With the Layer Mask thumbnail selected, select the Brush tool, and set the Foreground color to black(#000000). Use the tool to paint along the edges of the hair to hide those pixels in the current layer.

Create a Group

Create another Group and place the Color Fill layer inside it.

Click on the New Layer Mask with the Group selected to apply a layer mask to the group.

Again, use the Brush tool to paint along the subject’s edges to hide the dark pixels.

Change the color of the Color Fill layer to a shade that matches the hair so it blends seamlessly. Press OK to apply.

Move the Model Layer Into the Background Document

Now, merge both the subject and the Color Fill layer, then convert it into a Smart Object

Note: A Smart Object is a container that can hold one or more layers. It allows you to apply editable adjustments, distortions, filters, and transformations.

Click-and-drag your subject over to the Background’s tab and adjust the scale of the layer as needed.

Apply a brown color grade to the model layer with a Gradient Map

Create another Gradient Map adjustment layer and clip it to the layer below by going to the Properties panel and clicking on the Clipping Mask icon. This step ensures that it only applies the adjustments to the layer directly below it. 

At 100% Location, change the Color stop to a dark brown color.

Switch to 50% Location, change the Color stop to a brown color.

At 0% Location, change the Color stop to a light brown color.

Then, press OK to save the changes.

Hide the Color Grade Effect with a Layer Mask 

Since the Gradient Map has also been applied to the eyes, use a layer mask to hide the effect.

Select the Brush tool and set the Foreground color to black(#000000), and paint around the eyes to remove the Gradient Map effect.

Use a Levels Adjustment to Control Gradient Over the Model

Select the subject layer and create another Levels adjustment layer to tweak its luminosity. Add a dramatic effect by increasing the contrast and making sure nothing in the photo is completely white.

Adjust the Image as a Whole with the Camera Raw Filter

Select the Gradient Map, Levels, and subject layers then press Ctrl G (Windows) or Command G (macOS) to place them in a single group. 

Then, rename the group to “Model.

Now, select both groups > right-click > Convert to Smart Object so you can work on the image as a single photo.

To start editing, double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail and it opens in another tab. 

Choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter. From here, you can start adjusting the colors, details, effects, to enhance the entire image.

Once you’re done setting adjustments, press Ctrl S (Windows) or Command S (macOS) to save the changes and automatically apply them to the working document.


Movies and TV shows have some of the best color gradings that you can look up to as an inspiration for your next project. Be sure to subscribe to PTC’s YouTube channel for more tutorials on how to color grade in Photoshop!

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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