The hsl tool and complementary colors
Last updated on 2018/9/7

In today's tutorial, we're going to be using the HSL tool and a few others to recolor a photo. We'll be following a few rules surrounding complementary colors for this particular recoloring. Need a quick refresher on how complementary colors work? Then check out our article on Pixel Magazine on color theory for photography.

Images rendered with complementary colors will have more contrast and be more interesting. Let's look at some examples of this in action! In the photos below, notice how the edited image has red and cyan tones throughout. Those two colors are complementary and it gives the image an overall more pleasing aesthetic.

Original image

Edited image

Original image

Edited image


Open your photo inside Polarr Photo Editor.

Let's start by increasing the contrast of the image since the original looks flat.

We'll then go into the HSL tool and select yellow. The color yellow is mainly visible in the grass. We lower the yellow hue to change the color of the grass from yellow to orange. Increasing the yellow saturation can make the color of the grass a little more vivid.

Then we select green in the HSL tool and lower the hue. This converts the green in the image to a more yellow color. The result is that the grass in the image now looks more uniform and natural.

In the HSL tool, we'll now select orange and lower its hue. This will take the oranges of the image and make them red. Increase the saturation to make these areas more vivid.

Now we'll go to the local adjustment panel.

Create a new color mask and place the center point at the rear of the car. This creates a mask of similar colors in the image to where the center of the circle is located. We'll then add cyan to these areas to contrast with the reds of the image.

We're going to add another local adjustment. This will be a new gradient adjustment. Focus the area of this mask on the sky and increase the color temperature value. This adds warmth to the colors in the sky.

And that's it! We've brought the photo back to life by adding two complementary colors to the image: red and cyan.