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RGB values and SKIN TONES

Oistein Thomassen , May 08, 2004; 12:11 p.m.

I have tried to find any good advices for how to edit skin tones in Photoshop. From my understanding the approximate RGB values for caucasian/white skin is approx R=Bx1.5 and G=Bx1.15 - however there are of course differences due to the texture of the skin, variations in lighting etc.

Does anyone have a good strategy for how to edit skin tones? Highly appreciated - thanx!



Paul Rumohr , May 08, 2004; 12:25 p.m.

What do you mean by "edit" skintones? Copy and paste them? Please be more specific about what you want to do.

Who gave you this formula and how could this remotely be useful to you in anyway?

R=Bx1.5 and G=Bx1.15

Emre Safak , May 08, 2004; 12:29 p.m.

I think there is far too much variation in taste to boil down to a one-size-fits-all prescription. Draw your own conclusions by finding pictures you like and using the color sampler (not forgetting to set it to 5x5 average.)

Andrew Rodney , May 08, 2004; 01:59 p.m.

Impossible recipe to provide. RGB is a device dependent color space. A recipe for a color (solid let alone skintone) in Adobe RGB will be different in sRGB or ColorMatch RGB. You can't even begin to discuss a recipe for RGB or CMYK numbers to give you a specific color appearance until you tell us what working space or output space you are dealing with.

Far easier. Calibrate your display with good hardware, setup Photoshop's color settings correctly, open tagged files and just view the skintones.

Emre Safak , May 08, 2004; 02:13 p.m.

The question might need some clarification. Oistein is simply asking how to retouch a given image to make the skin tones look pleasing.

Cliff Rames , May 09, 2004; 02:23 a.m.

As Andrew said, different color spaces give different RGB numbers for the same color. However the Lab value of the color will be the same regardless of color space.

If you set the second color readout in the Info Palette to display Lab values, you can see the Lab value while editing in RGB colorspaces.

Skin colors that look good to me usually have Lab values where a is equal or close to b. For example a = b = 17. Higher ab numbers are more saturated. If a and b are way different, it could indicate an overall imbalance of the white point. Adjusting a and b closer together will often fix the imbalance for the whole picture.

Avoid specular reflections on the skin. Often the middle of the chin or forehead are good places to measure. Adjust the R and B channels to achieve your target (or convert to Lab mode).

Hope this helps.

Oistein Thomassen , May 12, 2004; 05:56 a.m.

Thanks for your answers! Sorry, forgot to mention that I'm working in AdobeRGB(1998) colour space. Although there are no definite receipt of the RGB combinations of skin colours, I would think that there are some rough numbers that might be kept in mind as it comes to skin colour editing/retouching.

The best thing is probably to have an "ideal" photo/reference opened together with the photo to be corrected? I mean, it is quite easy to be tricked to think that your result looks good..until you open a photo which is how it should be (or at least give you an indication of it). Then you suddenly realise that the first one looks flat and gray and dull...

Any comments on that? I would guess that those of you that work with portraits/skin tones every day have a lot of experience when it comes to producing the best skin rendition. Just those advices I'm looking for.

Thanks for your time!


Howard Leigh , Jan 12, 2005; 12:24 p.m.

Sorry my response is so late! Rough guide I've found useful...

Ensure monitor is set up correctly and your prints agree with the screen colour.

Select 1 to 4 critical points on skin using colour picker tool at 5*5 Convert each to CMYK reading Adjust colours to C = 1/2 to 1/4 M Y = M + anything from 0 to 5

Actual values depend on darkness of tone required, how sun-tanned - or burned - the model is, and the ethnic origin. These values are for the standard european / caucasian skin.

Note Get the skin lightness/darkness correct first. Then adjust the tones. You can do this using: Curves (may be easier to change image to CMYK and go back to RGB to print) Selective colour Colour balance Also the eye colour can then change quite dramatically, if necessary control this using a mask in PS.

As someone who is colour blind, I get no complaints about the results.


Steve Hovland , Mar 22, 2009; 01:34 p.m.

I like to have the yellow 5-10 points above magenta because of the fat under our skin. I like to have a skin highlight area at around 200 Red.

Ernest Futar , Apr 17, 2009; 11:46 a.m.

Actually Thomassen was right, regarding the values. The X-rite Colour Checker gives us exactly the same relations under the name of light skin.

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