Pop Color in Photoshop with LAB Mode {Plus a FREE Action!}

Hi there!  I was playing around with this photo in Photoshop again and could tell there was lots of hidden color in there.  I thought I’d do a tutorial on popping color in Photoshop with LAB mode.  It’s really simple, and there is a FREE action at the end of the tutorial.  :)

Here is the Before photo.  Notice how monochromatic it is:



The first thing we are going to do is to convert the image to LAB mode.  Go to Image -> Mode -> Lab Color.



The image doesn’t look any different at this point, but LAB mode allows us to do some unique things.

Next we are going to create a new Curves adustment layer.  In LAB mode, instead of Red, Green, and Blue channels, we have Lightness, A, and B channels.  We are going to make the following adjustments to each channel:

(Note:  You can select the different channels from the dropdown:)


Lightness channel – make a slight ‘S’ curve to add a little contrast

‘A’ channel – make the curve steeper by the same amount on both sides.  I moved each end over by 2 ‘boxes’ as shown below:

‘B’ channel – do the same thing as we did with the ‘A’ channel.  Make the curve steeper by the same amount on both sides.  Move each end over by 2 ‘boxes’:


Now our image looks like this, you can see some of the hidden color that was pulled out:


It’s a good start, but for this particular image I wanted to pull out even more color. I simply duplicated that curves layer.  It’s amazing how many colors we were able to pull out by duplicating the effect!  Notice all the reds, blues, and greens!


Now we need to convert the image back to RGB mode, so just go to Image -> Mode -> RGB Color.  That’s it!  Pretty easy, no?!


You can download a copy of my FREE Polished Picture LAB Color Pop action.  Once run, the color needs to be painted in with a soft white brush (to reveal the color pop effect).  If you want to double up on the effect like I did in this example, simply run the action again, painting in the effect again with a white brush.

*Select ‘Don’t Merge’ when prompted to keep all your layers intact*


PLEASE NOTE: Popping color using LAB mode can cause your colors to go nuclear fast!  Don’t let that happen – use masking and reduce opacity to prevent over-saturated colors.  I know it is exciting to bring out so much color, but don’t make the mistake of overdoing it.  Have fun!!


This method works great on backgrounds that need a little oomph – think fall leaves, brick buildings, old cars.  It does not work well on skin or hair.  I can’t wait to see what you come up with.  :)


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!!  Thanks for stopping by!

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