There are a trio of controls known as the RGB Primary Saturation sliders within the realm of color enhancement tools inside of Adobe Lightroom Classic. These sliders, which you can find inside of Classic’s Calibration Panel, are a unique way to boost up the intensity of color in your image. In this blog post, we will explore the power of these three sliders and offer some practical advice on the best way to use them.
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The Legacy of Calibration Panel Controls
Before Adobe made Camera Profiles a central feature of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic, the Calibration Panel played a vital role in refining color adjustments. In the early years of digital photography, all of the Calibration Panel tools were needed to address the differences in color rendition when working with raw files from a range of camera models.
Although the tools in this panel were designed for a bygone era, the RGB Primary Saturation controls remain useful today for advanced color photographers.
Understanding the RGB Primary Saturation Sliders
Moving the Red, Green, or Blue sliders up will impact all of the colors in your image but the effects of the Primary Saturation sliders will be most noticeable on the color that you selected and on that color’s opposite across the RGB color wheel.
Changing the Blue Primary Saturation level only, for example, will produce a strong increase in the intensity of the blue and yellow pixels in your image. Increasing the Green Primary Saturation, on the other hand, will produce a noticeable shift in the green and magenta parts of your image plus some change to all of the other colors in your image. Unlike some of Classic’s other color controls, these are blunt instruments with wide ranging effects.
Practical Advice for Using the Calibration Panel
Here are some practical tips to consider when working with the Calibration Panel:
- Focus on the RGB Primary Saturation Controls:
While you can use the Calibration Panel in many different ways, I urge you to leave the Hue and the Shadow Tint sliders alone. Changing those controls will create unnatural colors on most images. Stick to the Primary Saturation sliders unless creating surreal colors is your goal.
- Select Colors Mindfully:
Before making any adjustments, carefully consider which color relationship—-the Red-Cyan, the Green-Magenta, or the Blue—Yellow–you want to emphasize. Once you have decided which color combo interests you the most then move that slider only and see if you like the results.
- Limit the Use of Multiple Sliders:
If your image needs an even stronger color boost then you can try moving one of the other Primary Saturation sliders. On some images, I find that changing two of these three controls is helpful but I rarely find that moving all three of them produces significant improvements. If you want additional precision then consider switching over to the HSL panel or using a Color Range Mask.
- Gradual Adjustments for Multiple Sliders:
If I must use more than one Primary Saturation slider then I try to limit the amount that I will change the second slider to no more than two-thirds of the strength that I set for the first one. If I increase the Blue Primary Saturation slider to +30, for example, then I try not to move either of the other Primary Saturation sliders beyond +20. Using this 3:2 ratio as a rough guideline as a cap on your strongest color changes will help to maintain a balanced realistic appearance.
The Primary Saturation sliders can be enigmatic at times. It can be difficult to predict what will happen with these Primary Saturation controls, so the best approach is simply to try each slider and undo bad results.
Expect to be puzzled by the changes that you see from these color enhancement tools on some images and pleased with your work on others. Over time, these strange tools might become an essential part of your color image processing workflow.