Infinite Color: Color Grading Photoshop Tool with Infinite Options

June 13, 2024

By Pratik Naik

© Pratik Naik

Creating a color mood that captures a client's vision is one of the most challenging aspects of retouching. There are infinite possibilities in color and color grading that can make this a truly daunting experience both to communicate and create. Pratik Naik's Photoshop Plug-in, Infinite Color provides a solution to that issue by generating color grading avenues to explore.

Working as a retoucher, one of the hardest parts of my job wasn’t even the clean up work that an image typically requires, it was the color grading. Applying a specific look to an image to really enhance or create a mood that meets the client’s vision was either doable or really hard. There was never a time when it was completely easy, even for me.

When the client has appropriate references in similarly lit situations to the job at hand, it’s a bit easier to dissect. If a client has no particular idea of what they want, this became impossible. Think about how many potential options there can be? It’s hard to live up to. What if there was a way to communicate in color that could assist you in color grading?

People always know what they don’t want, but figuring out what they like is the hard part. With the sheer amount of possible color variations that an image could lead to, the choices are almost infinite! And in that moment of realization, I came the idea for Infinite Color. It was born out of necessity for me. I was curious to see what a color grading tool like this could do for my life and for others.

© Leire Cavia

What if there was something that allowed you to see an infinite amount of ways you could do color grading for an image? It almost sounded like a superpower in Infinity War. However, that might be the worst superpower ever in a fight! But for a photographer or a retoucher, it’s a good power to have!

This would open up a level of color communication with yourself and your client. For instance, it would give you an idea of the possible direction you might want to go in without doing a lot of work when you see the color potential of your work. Then, you could easily navigate it towards the final destination.

© Vladislav Nahorny

In relation to clients, I had someone who told me that they used it on set when the client wanted something “edgy” and had no other references. He told them to give Infinite Color a spin and then suddenly the client found something they liked within a few tries. It was a done deal and the process of communication was much easier.

Even within your own personal work, if you’re curious to see which color grading path an image could go on, this opens up an opportunity to explore that. I’ve opened up old work just to see what it could look like and if I had missed any potential paths with color. Maybe you don’t want to use what it provides, but you like the idea of what it created, this gives you that clarity of direction and the ability to modify it to suite your taste.

Suddenly, I realized I solved a huge part of my frustration as a retoucher. I initially developed this for myself but wanted to make it available to everyone to try.

© Oleg Ivanov

How It Works

Here’s a video I made about what Infinite Color is (within the first two minutes) to how it actually works. There’s even a way to save all your layers at the end of the video that allows you to make your own “presets” and apply it to a series of images for consistency! Every feature is explained in this video.

© Natalia Blauth

The Best Features

The video goes over everything on how the color grading panel itself works and the features. There are a few key features which are my favorite that I see people really liking. Be sure to check out the video so these points make more sense.

1. Harmonize
We decided to keep harmonize a feature that picks the highlight color of the image, and then creates a triadic color scheme from that base color. You can then override the colors to your choosing. This tool was originally not going to be included but we decided to do so as a bonus. We also tried to have it so anyone could pick which color they wanted as the primary color but surprisingly the results weren’t as pleasing. Doing it in the way that it is structured in now gave a good recommendation as a starting point, and allows for complete flexibility for adjustment. Since the regions and layers are set up for you, you can modify it on your own. This became the most optimal layout for the feature based on how it starts off and a level of customization.

2. Flexibility of layers
Some people want to only randomize a certain set of adjustment layers rather than all five, so you can turn on only the ones you want. Also, it was important that we built in the ability to shuffle individual layers without altering the rest of the layer stack once it was generated. You can then tweak the settings of each layer as well.

© Kateryna Hliznitsova

3. Intensity
What made this panel possible was the functionality of intensities. Images with a lot more shadows require more subtle adjustments, so adding three levels of control from light to intense really helped keep the same balance across a wide range of images. The intense feature works better with brighter images with a lot more highlights, and the light setting works best with darker images like the one in the video.

4. Scripted by referencing actual high-end layer stacks
When we had first started out building the panel, it started out really bad! The colors were all over the place because reality didn’t match theory. Truly randomizing layers produced bad results. I had to sit down and dissect what made beautiful color toning so beautiful. So I took 100’s of my old PSD files and referenced what I had done for certain editorials in different lighting conditions. I saw patterns in how far or restrained my settings were for each adjustment layer. With that in mind, we scripted it so it was within those parameters in each intensity setting. Suddenly, the way it all interacted together was like magic and we finally found something we loved.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on Pratik Naik’s blog.

Pratik Naik is a high-end retoucher specializing in commercial and editorial work. His work can be seen in magazines ranging from Marie Claire, Elle, Zink and more. Get his Infinite Color plug-in here. And explore his new course Ai for Photographers.

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