Color Grading in Photoshop is my favorite task when it comes to create a specific mood on photos. If you are a Photoshop beginner, using solid color adjustment layers is really a fast and easy option to choose.
Color Grading With Solid Color Adjustment Layers
Create two solid color adjustment layers. Rename them to “highlights” and “shadows”. You’ll be in more control if you separate these channels.
Choose complementary colors such as blue-orange, red-green or purple-yellow.
After creating the layers, put them on Soft Light Blending Mode.
Use Blend If To Limit The Range Of The Color
Color Grading is about inserting color in shadows and highlights. To see exactly what you’re doing, make the visibility is available only for one solid color layer at a time.
Right click on the layer and enter “blending options”.
Photoshop has a very powerful tool called Blend If which can be used to limit the range of the applied color. As you can see in the Photoshop video tutorial below, you can use the sliders to protect the highlights or the shadows. However, the result may look too harsh for your eyes. To make the transition much softer, hold down ALT or OPTION and split those markers.
Use this method on both solid color adjustment layers and then group the layers together.
Opacity Is The Key
To avoid overdoing the effect of your color grading, bring back the opacity of the group to zero and then raise the value slowly until you’re pleased with the result.
If you want to test different color toning versions on a single image, duplicate the group, rename it, and change the colors in a different way. Don’t forget to make the first group invisible so you won’t overlap them.
You can check out my other color grading tutorial for Lightroom here.