Using Color Balance and Color Burn in Photoshop to Create an Illustration

By Ben Fishman

Dateline: March 2, 2006
Version: Photoshop CS

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Ben Fishman intensified his collage depicting the bombing of Hiroshima using Photoshop’s Color Balance and Color Burn blending mode.
The illustration was created from scanned World War II-era photos and pieces from Fishman’s personal collection. “I was inspired by an old Japanese book that had drawings of Japan’s first contact with Europeans; some of the imagery was very violent, and it was the clash of these two very different cultures that ultimately led up to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Fishman explains.
First, Fishman took the scanned image of the American soldier and changed its Mode to CMYK. Using Color Balance to shift the lights, midtones, and shadows, he gave the image more of a sepiatone look. He then used Curves to increase the image contrast and to even out the tones. To create a clean silhouette around the man’s shoulders and head, Fishman drew a path with the Pen tool, made it a selection in the Paths palette menu, and deleted the background to eliminate stains. He then duplicated the layer and set the blending mode to Multiply so the whites of the image would become transparent on top of a cream colored Background layer.
Other scanned images were then layered over the soldier image with various layer effects applied to achieve transparency and color intensity. At the top right, Fishman placed a pair of praying hands and used Color Balance to bring out bright yellow and red, then set the blending mode to Hard Light to increase the image contrast. As a background along the top of the collage, he used a Grayscale image of an old city map converted to CMYK mode and used Hue/Saturation to add red and pink. First, he clicked on Colorize, then adjusted Hue to 345, Saturation to 100, and Lightness to -21.
Over the map, he placed a Grayscale bomb blast image, converted it to CMYK mode, and colorized it with Color Balance adjustments. Directly under the map layer, he created a fill layer of light yellow, selected the map layer, and set its blending mode to Multiply. He merged the two layers and set the blending mode to Darken to reveal the map image underneath. He also placed a scan of a 1,000 Yen note at the left edge and used a Curves adjustment to heighten the darks and lights. He set the layer to Hard Light, which made the bill slightly transparent and highlighted its watermarks.
Using Japanese writing from images of ancient Japanese scrolls and letters, Fishman cut and copied them to separate layers that he felt contrasted nicely with the soldier. He used the Hard Light blending mode on some of the writing images to combine them with the underlying layers, and the Color Burn blending mode to get an aged yellowing effect on the writing. Just below the Pagoda layer and the burning village layer at the lower left, he placed a scan of a piece of red glycerin soap with interesting color gradations to get a bright red fire effect.
The buddha at the bottom was from a snapshot Fishman took of a statue at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. He used Hue/ Saturation for a blue-green color, Curves to heighten the contrast, and Hard Light as the blending mode. He placed a tiny skull image scanned from a plastic skeleton trinket along the bottom right. He adjusted the image with Curves, colorized it with Hue/Saturation, and set the layer blending mode to Multiply.
For a last touch, he created a circle with the Elliptical Marquee tool over the soldier’s head and filled it with yellow, then used Color Burn to better blend the soldier with the background. The final image is shown at left.
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Ben Fishman is an illustrator and designer based in Platz, New York.