Tutorial: How to Reduce the Color Intensity of an Image

You want to remove some of the colors from an image. Sometimes, you don’t like how specific colors look in a snap. Maybe you want to change the brightness or contrast. Or perhaps you want to remove some pesky colors that make your eyes bleed.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to use the Curves tool to adjust the color balance of an original photo. You can quickly and easily remove unwanted colors from an image by changing the curves. We’ll also show you how to use other methods to desaturate the colors to be more pleasing to the eye.

How to Use the Curves Tool to Desaturate the Colors of an Image

Steps for using the Curves tool to change the saturation of a photo:

How to Use the Curves Tool to Desaturate the Colors of an Image
  1. Open your image in Adobe Photoshop CS6 or later by double-clicking its thumbnail. You will see it open as a new document with default settings. The background is white because you are working in “RGB mode.” This means that your original file was saved as RGB Image information.
  2. Click the Curves icon at the bottom left corner of the Layers panel. A small box appears around the curve control. Drag up or down until you get the desired effect. If you drag too far, you may change the brightness instead of the saturation.
  3. Save your work when done!

Choose JPEG format and save the file somewhere safe.

How to Use the Hue/Saturation Tool to Desaturate the Colors of an Entire Image

  1. Please open the file in Photoshop, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, and place it above the original layer. Go to the bottom right of the screen and click the Effects button (the circular one). Once you click on that, the Hue/Saturation panel will come up.
  2. Click on the Saturation slider and move the slider to the left until you reach the -30 to -50 level.
  3. You can also reduce the lightness level to further desaturate the image. Move the slider to -8 and see how it looks. Adjust as necessary.

Desaturating Individual Colors Using the Color Range Tool

Let’s say you have found a photo of a palm frond that you want to use for a design project. You love the colors of the fronds and the background colors. The only thing you don’t like is the stem. It has a glaring yellow/green color that is too bright. You can use Adobe Photoshop to tone down the glare. Here’s what you do.

Desaturating Individual Colors Using the Color Color Range Tool
  1. Select the area where you would like to recolor. Then select the Color Range. The Color Range dialog box opens.
  2. Choose one of three options depending on which part of the image you want to modify. For example, if you’re going to make all green plants look less vibrant, choose Green Leaves Only. Or maybe you want to darken the stems without affecting the leaves. In that case, choose Stems Only. Finally, some areas of the image might need no adjustment. These could include sky, water, etc. Choose None.
  3. Now click OK twice to close both windows. Your selection should now appear highlighted.
  4. Make sure the foreground color is set to black.
  5. Click inside the fill window and type 50% gray—press Enter. The selected portion of the picture should turn grey.
  6. Double-click anywhere outside the selection to exit out of the Fill Window.
  7. To bring back the original colors, press Ctrl+Z.

You’ve successfully changed the hue of the plant. But did you notice something else? The other colors became brighter when you reduced the amount of yellow/green in the leaf stem. That’s because the Green channel is being used as the base value. So any changes made to this channel affect everything.

Make sure the G channel is not checked. Click on the Saturation tab. Set the Saturation setting to 0%. This way, the values from each channel remain separate.

If you’re having trouble getting the right results, try playing around with different levels of adjustments. Experimenting with these tools allows you to fine-tune your final product.

Use the Desaturation Presets to Get More Creative with Images

The following preset controls will help you create more interesting effects than those offered by the standard desaturation tool:

How to Reduce the Color Intensity of an Image
  • Black & White Creates monochromatic grayscale versions of your photos.
  • Sepia Tone: Adds a warm sepia tint to your pictures.
  • Harmful Exposure: Makes your photographs darker.
  • Posterize: Turns your images into posterized designs.
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These preset offer a quick and clean way to tone down the colors of your images. They are great when working quickly or creating multiple variations of a single image. If you use these tools often, consider adding them to your custom settings panel so they’ll always be available.

From here, you can browse through existing presets and download additional ones. Just search for “Photoshop” under the Filter menu.

The next time you want to change an image’s overall appearance, consider trying one of these techniques. They are easy to learn and will give you great results every time.

I hope this helps!

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