Color grading is a science, and it can take professionals years to perfect. With so many variables in the mix, is this something that you would want to try for yourself? What if there was a plugin that could take out the time involved in the matching of colors over a series of images using a reference image, and in doing so, allow you to get the results you are seeking without as many hoops to jump through?
In fact, by simply adjusting four sliders, you can get the results you are seeking in next to no time and apply them to a whole host of images. This is what the new AI plugin from Retouch4Me, Color Match, will allow you to do, not only for images but also for video as well, and I can't stress how quickly and effectively it does it.
In no way does this detract from the professional color grading that goes on behind the scenes, and I wouldn't even say that it comes close to what professionals can achieve, but it does bring the entire process of superfast color matching to us end users and allows you to achieve in a matter of minutes what would normally take some considerable time.
The User Interface
The results you are looking for with this plugin can be easily achieved thanks to the simple approach of the UI, and each one does exactly what you need it to quickly and efficiently. The panel is launched via a shortcut on the desktop for me, as I'm running Photoshop Beta, and provides very clear instructions. Once the image is selected, it's time to load your reference image, and that is it. If you are happy with the results at this stage, simply Save As, but in all honesty, how often does that happen?
The interface is uncluttered, which is a benefit, as you are simply looking to focus on the edited color grade instead of faffing around trying to get a finished result. The left-hand side of the window consists of four tools.
- Pan and Zoom: once engaged, it allows you to zoom into your image with the roll of a mouse wheel and move around your image without the need for a hotkey.
- Masking Brush: allows you to mask in or out certain areas of your image, depending on which mouse button you are pressing. The right mouse button removes the applied colors from the reference image, while the left mouse button applies them.
- Mask Eraser: removes areas of the mask.
- Invert Mask: does exactly that.
At the top of the plugin window is the Blend option, ranging from 0-200 in terms of the adjustments you have made to the Luminance, Color, and Smoothing on the right panel. Each of these sliders will apply your chosen adjustment amount from the reference image to your image. Smoothing allows for a better transition between adjustments made. It's at this point, if you are happy with the final results, you can hit the Save As button. There is also a Save button beside this, which I never used due to the fact that I knew after a couple of days I would go back and adjust things slightly anyway.
Using the masking brush and eraser brush perform the tasks that you expect them to: apply a mask to a particular area and remove the mask from a particular area. Doing this allows you to edit each individual image to your own particular taste, or you can opt not to use them and simply apply your Color Match edit to the entire image.
This is another simple yet great feature that will allow you to add your adjustments via a LUT to all your sequences of images. If you prefer, you can take a still from one of your created videos, edit it in Color Match using perhaps a graded reference image from a film, save it as a LUT, and then apply it to your entire video in a matter of minutes. Doing this would also allow you to build a library of LUTs for yourself.
Within the LUT options window, there is a LUT manager which will open an online Library of LUTs for you to download and use, some of which are free and others at a low cost. You can save your own LUTs to a folder on your HDD as .cube files, and there's also the option to share your own LUTs for other users to download and use. I would definitely spend some time here browsing, as there are many more options here than I could show in the article. There may be the exact LUT here that you are after.
Simple to Use
The Retouch 4 Me Color Match plugin is really easy to use. Simply open the plugin and load your image plus your reference image. Using AI to analyze the color scheme, it will then apply it to your working image, matching the colors. You can then fine-tune the results to your own preferences. It is as simple as that.
Retouch4Me has created a whole host of plugins for Photoshop, and you can watch a recent review of another one by Fstoppers' Lee Morris here. All of the plugins have a free trial, so you can give them a go to see if it's for you before spending your cash.
Color Match does exactly what you expect quickly and simply, and it's then just for you to fine-tune to get the final effect you are seeking. For the examples above, I used various screengrabs of movie stills as reference images and was surprised at how quickly I could fine-tune them to the desired look. Yes, they are not exact, as a whole host of variables, lighting, etc., and the professional skill set of the colorists come into play. And yet, if you want great results in a fraction of the time for your images and videos, I don't think you would go wrong with Color Match. It's not color grading per se, but it will allow you to match colors over a series of images or videos to create a particular look or mood.
This is a great option for photographers, creative professionals, and videographers who want to match the colors in their images or create LUTs for their videos. At $124 for a single-user license, it isn't a steep cost at all considering what it does. You can download a trial here to see for yourself.