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10. RGB Numbers in Lightroom, the Old-Fashioned Way

How many of you correct skin tones “by the numbers”?  Those of you who’ve watched Ready, Set, Color! probably do.

The theory is that skin tones are represented by RGB numbers that follow a certain pattern.  You can use that pattern to decide how to correct white balance or color casts in your image, and to decide when skin looks great and needs no more edits.

Elements users are accustomed to seeing RGB (Red, Green and Blue) measured on a scale of 1-255.  So good skin tone might be represented by:

R: 203

G: 163

B: 146

Or, it might be represented by:

R: 174

G: 156

B: 142

Even though the numbers are different, both measurements represent well-toned skin with no funky color casts.  The numbers tell us how many units of each color channel contribute to a specific color.  White is created when all 3 numbers reach 255.  Black is the complete absence of any colors, or 0 for each.

So we get used to that crazy 1-255 scale in Elements, then we start using Lightroom 4.  Lightroom 4 has great new tools for color correcting.  But the RGB numbers are different!  In LR, RGB is measured as percents (on a scale of 0-100).  Annoyed, anyone?  This means that a given color is made of 65% of the maximum red, for instance, and 57% of maximum green and 45% of the maximum blue.

If you wanted to bring out your calculator, you could say that 65% of 255 is 166 and work up your equivalents that way.  Or you could just get used to the new numbers and re-acquaint yourself with the new patterns for good skin tone in Lightroom.

Or,  you can “trick” Lightroom into showing RGB measurements the old-fashioned way, on the 255 scale!  It only works in LR 4, however.

Turn on the Soft Proofing option by checking the box at the bottom of the Develop workspace in LR.  If you don’t see it, type T to unhide it.  Click “Make This a Proof” if asked about creating a Proof Copy.

Now, look under the histogram.  That’s more like it, right?  Make sure your color profile is set to the space you need – that’s sRGB for most of us.

You can edit skin just like in Elements know using Curves instead of Levels.  Hmmm.  I’ve never done a tutorial on that, have I?  I suppose that’s what’s next on the agenda!  Come back this week to learn how to use Color Curves in Lightroom 4 to improve skin tone.


The Soft Proofing feature in Lightroom 4 gives you a preview of what a photo will look like when printed.  While you’re in Soft Proofing, you can edit as you normally would.  You can turn off the Soft Proof checkbox to return to the normal editing mode whenever you want.

Don’t you just love finding tricks like this for Lightroom?  RGB numbers the old-fashioned way are yours now, whether you edit in Elements or Lightroom!

10. RGB Numbers in Lightroom, the Old-Fashioned Way was last modified: June 20th, 2015 by Erin Peloquin

One Comment

  1. tara
    Posted on June 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

    thank you. This makes it easier to understand…now I just need to figure out what my values need to be for correct skin tone.

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