Do you know how Homer Simpson lost his hair? He was once such a handsome man with head-full of nice hair. Every time Marge broke the news to him about her being pregnant, Homer pulled out his hair a bit at a time until he was left with only four pieces of hairs. You can check out the nice little video below :) (sorry it’s a link to the video, the embed code for the video from ebaumsworld.com doesn’t seem to work.)
Well sometimes there are certain things that make me want to pull out my hair as well and no, it’s not because my wife is pregnant, I obviously don’t have a fear of having children like Homer. My problem is with colors. There are all sorts of color problems that you come across. Colors look one way on-screen and it looks totally different when you print and it’s because of the conversion from RGB to CMYK. And let me tell you, colors will never look exactly the same when printed and what’s on your screen. So save yourself from pulling out your hair. Of course with higher-end printers you can get as close as possible but it’s still not as beautiful as what you see on your monitor.
That’s one problem and the other is when you upload your photos to the web. Sometimes you get a dramatic color shift, sometimes you don’t and it’s a science I still haven’t figured out why it happens. The problem is inconsistent too and what I mean by that is, when you upload to Facebook it’s one color and when you upload the same photo to another website, it’s different. As far as my knowledge Google, Flickr, Facebook, 500px and so on, they all have their own coding behind what’s happening while you are uploading, so along the way something happens. The problem occurs mostly when you take your large JPEG (my least favorite format) file and let the website handle the reduction in size while uploading. So best practice is to reduce to the size you want first and use Save for Web option then upload. Also it is important what method you are using while reducing your image like Bicubic, Bicubic Smoother and Bicubic Sharper. For colors that gradually changes from one shade to another kind of like a gradient, it’s best to use Bicubic. For enlarging your image, Bicubic Smoother is best and for reduction Bicubic Sharper.
Finally, the problem that was driving me insane and reminded me of Homer Simpson pulling out his hair; Color banding also known as gradient banding.
What is gradient or color banding?
I am sure you have seen it and very familiar with the problem. It’s usually when you see steps of colors in your image going from one shade to another. You get a visible line where one color ends and the next starts. Instead of a smooth transition from one color to the next you get bands of colors. You see this mostly in photos with sunset, clear blue skies or a gradient. Like the example on the right.
While the color banding problem is a lot easier to fix when printing, it’s not so easy when you are uploading to the web. For printing, this may be hard to believe but you actually add noise to your image about 2 to 3% to get rid of the color banding. You might be wondering why in the world would you add noise to your image when printing, don’t worry it actually helps and the noise doesn’t appear when you print. The inkjet printer just does its magic and blends the color together. The way to do it is, in Photoshop you add a layer on top of your photo and fill that layer with 50% gray (#808080). Then go under Filter > Noise > Add Noise. In the Add Noise dialog box, for amount you add about 2 or 3% noise, for Distribution set it to Uniform and leave the Monochromatic unchecked. Finally change the Layer Blending Mode for the 50% gray layer to Overlay. On your screen you will see little bit of noise but it will be gone when you print. Voila!
Now to the actually problem. The image below drove me absolutely insane and I pulled out
almost about every trick in the hat to solve the color banding problem but nothing seemed to work. When I uploaded the photo to Facebook I was getting this horrible color banding but the high-resolution file was fine and had a smooth transition between the colors.
Adding noise method wasn’t much helpful because on-screen it clearly shows the noise and the color banding problem didn’t go away when I uploaded the photo to Facebook. Sometimes we overlook the most simplest method and the solution to my problem was the old fashion “blur”. So to solve the problem I duplicated the image and under Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur I added about radius of 2 pixels blur. Then added a layer mask and painted back in the sharpness of the silhouette and the tiny Rim-Light. Problem solved :)
Hope this was helpful and many of you may already know this or even a better method. If you know of an easier way to solve the color banding problem you are more than welcome to share and chime in on the subject. Last but not list, please visit and Like my Facebook Page