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How to Use LUTS in Photoshop

Published: 09/06/2021

One of the most trusted ways of transforming images is to use Look-Up Tables. They help you retouch your photos and change their entire look. In Photoshop, you can easily boost the quality of your images with this amazing feature. So, let’s learn how to use LUTS in Photoshop to create stunning pictures.

How To Use LUTS in Photoshop

Photoshop comes with various LUTS loaded into its system. Moreover, besides these preset files, you can also add external LUTS files, or even create your own. This tutorial will explain different methods of using LUTS in Photoshop - default, external, and customized.

Before proceeding with the guideline on using them, you must know what LUTS is and how it can help you while using Photoshop. So, first, let’s understand the basics of a Look-Up Table, LUT, and why it is such a useful tool.

Introduction to LUTS

A Look-Up Table, also known as LUTS, is a color grading method for images, graphics, and videos. Even though it has been used in video editing for quite a long time, not many people know that it is a great technique for retouching images in Photoshop.

Basically, LUTS are instruction files. They tell how to map colors onto other colors in an image or video. With LUTS, you can easily apply a whole color grading process with just one click. Using this remarkable feature in Photoshop helps you create amazing colors in any image.

Now, let’s look at different types of LUTS that you can use in Photoshop. We will look at how to add each of these types to Photoshop, and then how to use them.

Using Preset LUTS in Photoshop

Photoshop comes loaded with several remarkable default LUTS. To use them on your image, follow the steps below:

  1. Open up your image in Photoshop. 
  2. You will now have to create an adjustment layer for a new color look-up. To do this, find the menu bar at the top of your Photoshop interface and click on ‘Layer.’ This will open up a drop-down menu. From the drop-down menu, navigate to ‘New Adjustment Layer’ and select ‘Color Lookup’ from the cascading menu.
  3. You can also click on the ‘Create Adjustment Layer’ icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This icon looks like a half-filled circle.
  4. Now, a dialog box will appear. Click the ‘3DLUTFile’ and then select the LUTthat you want to apply to your image.
Using Preset LUTS in Photoshop

5. By default, you will find just under 30 predefined LUTS over here.

Under 30 predefined LUTS

Using External LUTS in Photoshop

Although you will find various great default LUTS in Photoshop, there is also a huge variety of LUTS available online. Photoshop also allows you to use these external LUTS on your image within Photoshop.

In order to use external LUTS in your Photoshop, the first thing to do is to get some external LUTS. You can easily find and download many free and paid options online. All you need to do is search the internet to look for the ones that meet your requirements.

Once you have access to LUTS, follow the steps below to add them to any specific project on Photoshop.

  1. Firstly, you would have to unzip your downloaded LUTS folder. You can either use a dedicated unzipping software for this purpose or simply use the built-in unzipping tool in your operating system.
  2. Before proceeding any further, make sure that Photoshop is closed.
  3. Then, go to the particular folder of LUTS that you want to install into your Photoshop.
  4. Select all the files present in the folder by pressing CTRL+A (for windows) and Cmd/A (for Mac).
  5. Now, copy the entire selected set of LUTS by pressing CTRL+C (for windows) and Cmd/C (for Mac)
  6. Go to the 3DLUTS folder for Photoshop. If you are using Windows, then this folder should exist in the following path:

C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop *version*\Presets\3DLUTS

If you are using Mac, you will find the LUTS folder at:

Applications/Adobe Photoshop *version*/Presets/3DLUTS'

  1. Paste the files that you previously copied from your desired LUTS folder. You can do this by pressing CTRL + V (for windows) and Cmd/V (for Mac). This will add your required LUTS into your Photoshop software.
  2. Now, open Photoshop and follow the steps below:
  1. Go to the menu bar present at the top of your Photoshop interface and click on ’Layers.’
  2. You will then see a drop-down menu. Go to New Adjustment Layer > Color Lookup.
Using External LUTS in Photoshop
  1. This will produce a dialog box for you. Here, in the Load 3D LUTdrop-down menu, the newly added external LUTS will also be visible along with the default ones that you could see previously.

Using Your Own Customized LUTS in Photoshop

Photoshop does provide various options of LUTS, allowing you to create highly impressive and unique images and graphics. Yet, what could be better than creating your own LUTS customized according to your unique requirements? Thankfully,  you can do that too in Photoshop.  

You can easily convert a collection of adjustment layers into a LUTfile. Customize this file as per your own needs and then use it with just one click in the future. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open up your required image in Photoshop. At this instant, make sure that there is only one layer for the image. Plus, this layer must be the locked background layer so that your image remains unchanged. If your image is not in the background layer, then go to Layer > New >> Layer from Background.
Using a customized LUTS in Photoshop
  1. Now, create your adjustment layer and do the editing as you would do during any other regular Photoshop editing procedure.
  2. Now, go to the menu bar present at the top of your Photoshop interface. From the menu bar, select ‘File.’ This will open up a drop-down menu for you.
  3. Navigate to Export > Color Lookup Tables. 
Color Lookup Tables option in Photoshop
  1. This will open a dialog box. Enter the description, name, and other required details, and then click OK.
Entering the description, name, and other required details in Color Lookup Table
  1. Simply decide where you want to keep the LUTfile. Now, you have a customized LUTfile that you can add manually to Photoshop or add to the list of existing LUTfiles within Photoshop. You can use this LUTfile any time you want in the future.

Conclusion

Using LUTS is a highly effective method of photo retouching. We have explained various methods of using LUTS in Photoshop. So, either you want to customize your own gradient, use the preset versions, or get hold of other LUTS created by experts, you can do it all in Photoshop.

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