The color look up adjustment layer unlocks the power of LUTS, or look up tables. This is a powerful operation that allows you to transfer color information between applications, or to assign preset recipes to simulate film stocks or do advanced color effects. Let me show you how they work. To apply a look up table is pretty easy. Lets start with the built in look up tables. I’ll click on the adjustments tab here, and then choose look up table. It looks like a grid here, and the label is ‘color lookup’.

Using the Color Lookup adjustment layer from Photoshop: Advanced Adjustment Layer and Blend Modes by Richard Harrington

Now, you’ll see the ability to apply different type of LUTS. They’re organized into your standard 3D LUT, which is more of a color, toning LUT. We have abstract, or device link. Now lets work up from the bottom here. Device link is designed to allow you to choose a LUT that is going to simulate another device. That typically, this is gonna be for a particular type of output. But as you can see here they also have a handful of built in ones here that you can play with that are a little bit different.

Under the abstract category, these are designed to be a little bit more over the top. As you can see they’re pretty heavily stylized, and will change, for the most part, how things look within the image. And then there are our 3D LUTS. Now these different categories really are all quite similar. In this case you’ll see looks and cubes. A look format is Adobe’s format. That supports a few additional options. But a cube file is a very standard look. So if I try something here like ‘late sunset’, you’ll see that it really changes the color in the scene and makes it look much later in the day.

Now the key with a look up table is to adjust it’s opacity as well as consider changing its blending mode. Sometimes something a little bit gentler like soft light does a really nice job of allowing it to change the mood or the feeling. So now this late sunset really looks more like a late sunset in my opinion. Let’s set that back to normal and try a few other options here, such as ‘bleach bypass’. And you see it gives it a strong look. Remember, besides standard blending modes you can also click on the layer and play with options for blending.

I like to sometimes pull this apart here. And remember you can push the option or alt key you can split these for some smoother transitions. And this can be useful to really target how the layer blends if you want to make that a little bit smoother. So in this case, some of that clipping is blended into the wall, and it really gives it a subtle but still strong bleach bypass. Remember though, all of these options are ultimately up to you. Let’s go ahead and delete that and apply a fresh color lookup table.

There are a lot of great choices in here. Some of them that are just simple, like ‘film stock’, or the different Kodak of Fuji film stocks do an excellent job of taking an image and giving it the look of classic film. You’ll see that the black point and white point shift in a nice depth to the color. And these are some of the more subtle but attractive options available.