Achieving great skintones while color grading is an essential part of the process. Without them, images can look lifeless and digital, creating an unflattering look on your talent.
The good news is, it’s possible to achieve great skintones in post-production under most circumstances, so long as you:
- Adjust the color palette to enhance natural skin colors.
- Soften midtones to remove harsh digital artifacts from the skin.
When most people think about color grading skintones, they only think about #1.
They may be working with an image that has a magenta tint for example, and want to push their colors around to fix that issue. That’s an important step, but often not the only one needed.
That’s where step #2 comes in.
Depending on the lighting used and the appearance of your talent’s skin on camera, your shot may need some degree of skin smoothing. There are many ways to achieve this.
One method is to use a color picker to pull a key on your skintone, and then apply a subtle blur effect just to the keyed out color. This is a very common approach, but tends to look a bit synthetic.
Another option is to very carefully adjust your contrast ratios and pivot point, specifically in the midtone range.
Done right, that type of very specific, purposeful adjustment can reduce enough micro-contrast and artificting from the skin to give it a more natural final look. Especially compared to simply blurring the skin - a technique really only needed for blemish removal.
That said, achieving strong results with this approach is easier said than done. It can take a ton of trial and error and tends to slow down your process...
This is ultimately why I decided to create the Skintone LUT Pack: to simplify the skintone correction process.
The goal was to embed the entirety my color workflow for skintones into each of the 10 LUTs in this pack.
Every single included LUT adjusts both color balance and midtone softness for the highest quality final product.
Here is a before and after example:
Notice how the skin not only looks brighter and healthier in the second image, but softer too.
This softness was achieved 100% using the LUT, with no additional blurring or custom tools - Those settings could be added after for a stronger effect, if desired.
For best results, audition several different LUTs from the Skintone Pack on your shot. Each LUT will yield a different result, as they individually engineered to address different lighting/color combinations that degrade skintone quality.
Once you select a LUT that solves your issue, simply apply it to any other shots in your sequence as needed. This should be done at an early stage in your color process, before you apply any other creative look.
Be sure to pick up the Skintone LUT Pack today by clicking here!
- Noam Kroll / CINECOLOR