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Look Up!

Originally designed for color-grading film and video, Photoshop’s Color Lookup feature offers novel ways to adjust color that quickly will reveal new possibilities in your images. Capable of performing extremely complex calculations extraordinarily efficiently, color lookup tables (LUTs) work by looking up a source color in a table and using the replacement color specified in the grid to transform it for the final destination.

Like Match Color and Gradient Map adjustments (go to to see my recent articles on Match Color and Gradient Map), the color effects Color Lookup generates are so complex, they’re not easy to previsualize. Like anything new, this takes practice. And these are new! Experiment, and you’ll find many rich possibilities. Unlike Match Color, Color Lookup is loaded with presets that will allow you to quickly explore many different effects, ones that are far more sophisticated than Gradient Map presets. In this way, using them can be as easy as using many smartphone app effects.

Color Lookup offers three types of LUTs, each with its own drop-down menu, which contains multiple presets: 3DLUT File (27 presets); Abstract (15 presets); and Device Link (5 presets) for a combined total of 47 presets. While you can only apply one Color Lookup with a single adjustment layer, you can use multiple adjustment layers to successively apply as many Color Lookups as you like. Perhaps not infinite, the possibilities are many.

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