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Digital Color Infrared

Digital Color Infrared - Takui Neko shows you how to recreate colour infrared results digital without needing to use specialist film or processing

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Category : Adobe Photoshop
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This tutorial will show you how to turn any image into a Digital Color Infrared achieving with your normal camera and no special film something that falls into the category of specialists. I wont go into the details of Infrared theory since this goes beyond the scope of this tutorial, however if you want to know the details of color shifting do a quick search on internet and I am sure you will have plenty of material to study.

Lets start with this image, feel free to copy it in order to follow this tutorial; of course you can choose your own image; just make sure that you use one with lots of green, and somehow over saturated. Other colour will, of course, still give you the infrared tonality but may be not so obvious.

If you wish, make your image go through a Digital Velvia process, more saturation will translate into more dramatic effects.

This one is straight from camera however.

1 We start by converting the image to CMYK mode. This is very important; this technique will not work properly on RGB mode.

2 Go to channels, make the Yellow channel active and then go to Select>All (Ctrl + A). Then go to Edit>Copy (Ctrl+C).


3 Now, make the Magenta channel active and go to Edit >Paste (Ctrl+V). Your image should look now something like this, the first step in the IR color shift. Compare the colors with the original image; it is good to learn how the color will change so you can compose your images in camera knowing what the Color IR result will be. (It is still fun to just play and see though)

Digital Color Infrared

4 Select main image, add a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer, with settings: Cyan: Yellow -40; Yellow: Magenta +50, Black +20.

5 Now you will see some real changes!!! Your image should look something like this, if you like your result merge layers.

6 As an optional tweak, you can add on Photoshop CS, a Deep Emerald filter, under Image>Adjustment>Photo Filter, if you want to tone down the reds.

Also, and instead of the above tweak, you can add a second layer, use the Paint Bucket with color: C=54; M=0; Y=49; B=0, and set the Blending Mode of the layer to Color Burn; this will give you another color shift with a Greenish tint, somehow like the Green Emerald, but more dramatic.


This tweak is what I used in this image, notice the difference?

(You might not want to do this if there is a lot of white in the image, as you can see a bluish tint on whites, but we will correct this a bit on the next step)

7 Now, merge layers and convert your image to the good old RGB mode. Using the same procedure as you did to change from RGB to CMYK.


8 Copy background (rename new layer B&W Infrared)

9 Apply a Channel Mixer to the active Infrared layer; set to Grayscale, with settings Red +200, Green -30, Blue -70, and set to Overlay Mode.

(You can vary the amounts of minus Green and Red to your taste, but try with this setting first to get an idea of what will happen)


You can then set the Opacity of the Infrared layer to taste, at 100% the sky will be more Blue and less will start shifting to Green. I used an Opacity of 50%

Now, just add your normal Curves to taste or Levels if you wish, I prefer Curves especially when dealing with colors.You can also add a Diffuse Glow under the Filter options. (But you will have to change the mode to 8-bit).

In any case, using this technique (without the Diffuse Glow), duplicating my background layer, setting it to Overlay and applying a big amount of “Gaussian Blur” to it, I ended up with this.

This technique might look complex but it is very straightforward and color aware, that means that if you can make an Action until Step 8, you can apply it to any kind of image, regardless of color and will always make a true color IR.

We hope you enjoyed the tutorial and we look forward to seeing your color infrared images. Words and Pictures© Takui Neko 2005

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