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Author Topic: Can you print good color on a B&W monitor only? Maybe.  (Read 17071 times)
Mack
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« on: January 11, 2011, 07:25:41 PM »

I'm going out on a limb here, but after reading and looking at a lot of Lee Varis's Lynda.com videos and books (i.e. "Skin") it seems that one may be able to get some pretty good color prints just using just a B&W monitor.

He uses Photoshop a lot.  He seems to set the black and white points by searching out the thresholds in the print using Photoshop's Threshold Adjustment Layer which is strictly B&W.  He pinpoints the max. black value and the max. white value with the Photoshop Color Picker Tool to get the RGB values for black and white (something like 5,5,5 and 245,245,245 he seems to like) and then he sets them all (RGB independently, and RGB combined) in the Curves Adjustment Layer inside Photoshop.  Don't need a color monitor to do that.

Then he picks a skin value normally between the brow or forehead.  That value he sets with the Color Picker Tool to the CMYK channels and puts the Yellow at the same value as the Magenta or a point or two higher than the magenta.  The Cyan is about 25% that of the other two or lower.  Again, you don't need a color monitor to do that either.

Results are pretty spectacular when viewed in color when he combines the layers.  He tosses out the Threshold layer as it's strictly for the contrast control and just keeps the Curves layer.

Seems all this "You must have a calibrated monitor" is really not as much of an issue if one examines the print using the Color Picker in Photoshop and setting up the curves properly.  Probably even better than eyeballing on a calibrated monitor as the printer is getting the RGB/CMYK values maximized in Photoshop and not necessarily with a color monitor either.


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« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2011, 09:24:25 PM »

Sorry.  Gonna be the first to call BS on this one!  This falls in the category of "even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while".  This does not work on SO many levels!  Just think about the logic of this.  You're flying "blind", making adjustments, yet you still evaluate the final print in color?  You say the final print is so great and it probably beats a calibrated monitor: if you can make the judgment about how good the final print looks (in color), what is preventing you from making the same evaluation on the monitor?  Plus, what color space is he doing this in?  And what happens when he runs into people with ruddy complexion or an African American: does he turn them into white people with his little yellow/magenta color picker?   Grin  Sorry, but the whole thing sounds preposterous to me.  Do you have a link for this hogwash?  Cause that's what it has to be unless there is a LOT more to it than you typed above.

Mike
« Last Edit: January 11, 2011, 09:27:09 PM by Mike Chaney » Logged
Mack
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2011, 10:24:01 PM »

Mike, he uses those methods in the Lydia.com video and it's in his two "Skin" books.  You could watch the entire video in black and white on the TV and turn the color on only when he gets to the end and then go "Wow!"

True, there are differences in skin color and that is what he concentrates on as being "the most important color in a photograph with a person in it."  You can have a little more cyan in the sky or blue or red in the trees and no one notices.  Do the same thing with skin color and they will go nuts!

Just that if you watch his videos on skin color and correction, he also digs any color imbalances out of the shadows in the color photographs with skin too using the CSx Color Picker Tool  (He also corrects for some shadows are too red or too blue, but he takes it out using CMYK adjustments and probably a lot better than most people accept on the web as "That's a good skin color when some yell it's too yellow, too blue, to red, etc."  He nails to skin color far more accurately that most can visually and what he does with the Photoshop CSx's Curve Tools on his daughter's portrait where he alters the color curves for shadow color casts (no painting allowed) is pretty remarkable and does not require one to look at any color, only the RGB and CMYK colors that are what the printer is using in the final print.  Almost like the color monitor be damned.

Yes, it's nice to see an accurate monitor and accurate matching printer work together, just that most people view the print as the final say and what he does using the Threshold and Curve Tool (for the color channel) does not require that accurate a color monitor, if at all, and could be done on a black and white one as the Threshold and Curves (RGB/CMYK) Tools don't really need the color monitor to the degree most espouse.

You need to see him work in the Lydia.com video (i.e. "Beyond Skin: Going Deeper With Photoshop CS3 With Lee Varis" from Lynda.com) and then pass judgment on how one must have a "better than" color monitor.  He uses it as a reference, but favors the numbers and curves far more if you watch and I have no doubt he could do it on a black and white monitor and let the printer do it's color work using the values he picks and get a good print from it.   And yes, he does use other CMYK values for other races and skin colors, but he still does better than a lot on the web do without setting the curves to the both the skin's well-lit color and shadow color cast as well.

I've been using his method more and more lately and that's why I feel the color monitor stuff is pretty overstated for post-processing compared to what "Really needs to be done inside the photo" and the only way to get there may be by evaluating the colors in that photo's select skin area.  I probably could get the better color for skin on a black and white LCD (if one exists?) now if I had too.  I've been watching the color bickering on one photo forum and they all disagree on the subject's skin color, but probably because they all are looking at some wacked color monitor too.  Opening it in CSx and examining the skin color shows who is right and who is wrong, even if they say their monitor is some $1,000 job and recently calibrated.  You can even pull out the color-crossover numbers (e.g. shadow to highlight) too regardless of the color of the subject's skin color.  It's more objective than subjective.

That's why I brought it up.  Food for thought for those who have tried his methods.



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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2011, 10:42:42 PM »

I did find a link but he wants $25/mo just to find out what he's talking about.  No thanks.  Since I can't really discern what this guy is saying/promoting without paying him, I hope that you are just reading too much into his methods.  No one with any real experience in photography would argue that you should adjust for skin tones looking at a B/W monitor IF what you want is an accurate reproduction of the original.  Sure, anybody can "morph in" a pleasing skin tone on top of one that (in real life) is not so pleasing.  But to me, that's not photography.  I'm not sure what this guy is after: maybe it has nothing to do with accuracy and everything to do with "art".  But if you are picking skin tones using a B/W image and a color picker, you might as well get out your colored pencils or your palette and paint what you want.  I put that in the same category as these photos showing purple skies, iridescent wood grain, and fluorescent green rust spots...  it's creative but to me that's not photography.

Mike
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2011, 11:24:13 PM »

Did a little searching.  If you Google "Beyond Skin: Going Deeper With Photoshop" and then click "Videos", this is the second item on the search that comes up:

http://rutube.ru/tracks/1832663.html?v=02af9a9f0c6c723dcfd50d404b21e4f8

Is that what you are talking about... or something similar?  This really amounts to some sort of "skin replacement therapy" where people are just making their own skin tones.  That is: skin tones they like and not skin tones that are an accurate reproduction of the original.  Might be okay for a magazine where you want to grab someone's attention but did you look at the final result (before/after)?  The modification (after result) looks horrendous!  It would not stand up as a photograph and the original looks much better.  Maybe I just don't have an "artistic" mind to appreciate all that fluff.  Wink

Mike
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2011, 12:57:48 AM »

That video (#7) is past what I was looking at.  That one is some illustrator thing.  I believe his is "Tones and Color Adjustments" and maybe video #3?

I found a link that pretty much explains the method I was commenting on.

http://www.lynda.com/home/Player.aspx?lpk4=35148

More like a "Paint by numbers" approach and you really wouldn't need a well balanced/calibrated color monitor to do it.  There's no painting involved or skin replacements or morphs.  There are others on other skin colors too in the Lynda.com series.  One that Lee Varis shows in his is his daughter sitting and all the color casts in it that he takes out using the CMYK adjustments.  The curves get rather camel-humped like with all the adjustments to balance it out.


Mack

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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2011, 02:38:49 PM »

Thanks for the video.  That definitely helps!  Now I can see what he's doing and it does have its place BUT to say you can treat all skin tones this way and even use a B/W monitor for editing color is taking the concept way too far IMO.  Here are my thoughts:

  • This really is just skin replacement at its most basic level!  You are taking a photo and creating a skin tone that you've deemed pleasing to your eyes with no regard to the persons actual skin tone.
  • I can see this technique being marginally useful IF you have either a botched photo where you don't have any reference for the correct skin tone or you just want to change the skin tone on someone to make them look more to your liking.
  • Most of the poor tonality in his original is caused by bad WB.  Correct the WB and you automatically get good skin tone without messing up the other colors/shades in the photo.
  • By "warping" the tone curve as he does, he's creating a pleasing skin tone but at the same time adversely affecting other colors in the image.  This problem would show more if there were a wide range of colors in the photo like if the model was holding a bouquet of flowers.  In this case, it has made the whites of the eyes, the teeth, and the lipstick look a little "odd".  The whites of the eyes, for example, have taken on a skin tone.  Again, this can be avoided by correcting the actual problem (WB) in the photo rather than trying to "eyeball" what skin tone looks good to you.

I'd never recommend to anyone using this technique either: (a) on all images or (b) using a B/W monitor.  The bottom line here should be (and this is good advise for any photography): take care in getting good photographs up front.  Shoot raw, use a good raw developing tool (preferably one with camera profiles to ensure accurate color), and take care to get a good white balance.  Those things alone will take care of most skin tone problems.  THEN if you want to diddle with the skin to make someone with fair complexion look like they have a healthy tan (that's what you'll be doing if you follow the video), then that's part of the creative process.  I won't argue that it's hogwash because it isn't: beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if you listen to his words toward the end, he mentions the immense variety of skin tones that exist out there and that what he is doing is only one possible solution.  So I think it's an interesting topic... just don't get carried away and trade in your color managed monitor for an amber terminal.   Grin

Mike
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