Design Tip: Color Matching Your Photos Using Photoshop

By Scott Prindle

Keeping your advertising materials at a high caliber of professionalism can be a difficult thing to accomplish, especially when it comes to presenting new content to customers that haven’t been created/proofed by a marketer. We’ll be sharing a quick tip to help your content look more professional through the technique of color matching your photos using Adobe Photoshop.

A Trip to Share

So, let us say that we’ve had a company hike over on Mt. Baker, and wanted to share a set of photos from the adventure with our co-workers (these are taken from my own stash). Here we have our set of images for an article explaining our escapades. Not too bad since they’re all of similar landscapes, but the colors/tone are different because they were taken from different angles, locations, and time of day.
Four Photos from Skyline Divide of the Mt. Baker area.

Let’s Get Editing

The photos themselves don’t look bad, but you can definitely tell that they aren’t matching one another in tone and color. We can fix that with some simple changes in Photoshop, though. Why don’t you go ahead and open the four images in Photoshop.

Choosing a source image

Now that we’ve got the images loaded into Photoshop, you’ll want to look through them all and choose the photo that you want all the other photos to be matched to in color and tone. I went ahead and selected one of the full shots of Mt. Baker, as it has a variety of colors and with a solid balance of contrast and lightness.

The Chosen Source Image

Photoshop Match Color Tool

You’ve got your image set loaded in Photoshop, and you’ve chosen in your mind the photo that you want to match the rest of the set to. Great. Now let’s go ahead and start manipulating the photos to match the source image. Go ahead and navigate to the image you want to edit in Photoshop, and go to Image >> Adjustments >> Match Colors.

Match Color Menu Item

This will bring up a dialogue window that at first seems a little innocuous at first, but you’ll want to look for a dropdown menu labelled “Source” near the bottom of the window, and select the source image’s filename that you’ve opened from Photoshop. This will cause the image you are editing to adjust its color to the source image’s colors.

The Match Color dialogue

You’ll want to adjust the sliders according to your tastes, as settings for one photo may not work for another. There is no golden setting that will make things right, so a little play will be necessary. Anyway, after you’ve found the sweet spot, go ahead and click okay, and voila, you’ll have an edited photo that matches the color of the source image thanks to your efforts.

A single image editted to match the source

I should disclaim here that adjusting the images like this does not guarantee a great print result. You should note that the way your monitor displays an image doesn’t necessarily represent how the image will look like on paper.

After you’ve found settings to your liking, go ahead and confirm the changes, and you’ll have an image that matches the source image’s colors. Repeat this process for all the other images in the set, and you’ll have a presentation that has a level of polish that shows professionalism in your work.

Before and After comparison of editted image set


And there you have it, the overall effect creates an effect of cohesion between the set of images that would not have otherwise been there before. And while with the majority of this article I discuss matching these photos together, you can use it for any number of projects, whether you use it on a set of images on a brochure, your website, a technical manual for your products or a large advertisement poster. One thing I did not mention is that while this process is useful for matching images together, you’ll still want to make sure that the set of images match in some way to the color scheme of what you’ll be presenting them in.

For example, if you have a bunch of orange tinted photos, they’ll starkly contrast on a blue pallete. Basically, color theory is still ever present, but you can use this as just another tool in your toolbox to make a coherent and well designed marketing piece.


Let me know if this article was helpful down in the comments below or by firing me off an email at scott@printcopyfactory.com

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