Color Balance Pro

Color balance / White balance / Black and White / Skin tone

The Color Balance tool enables you to fine-tune color easily, and offers individual control over the shadow, mid-tone and highlight areas of the image.


The Color Balance tool enables precise control of colors, hue and saturation within an image, and like many of the adjustment tools in Capture One, it can also be used when making localized adjustments in conjunction with the Layers tool. The tool includes a Master color wheel that replicates Capture One's original tool in functionality and then options with separate color wheels for Shadow, Mid-tone and Highlight areas.

The 3-Way option displays all three Shadow, Mid-tone and Highlight color wheels for convenience, while separate, larger color wheels may be displayed independently. If space allows, the individual larger color wheels can be displayed simultaneously by triplicating the tool in the inspector, and each can be removed to float anywhere within the workspace, or even on a second monitor. When floating, the tool can be resized and can even retain a slightly enlarged size when replaced in the inspector.

Adjustments using these tools are highly specific. For example, adjustments made to highlight areas will affect mid-tones slightly but will not alter the shadows. In addition, the three new wheels have adjustment sliders for saturation and lightness. The latter slider is used for tinting (lightening) and shading (darkening) hues in the selected color range. Adjustment of lightness maintains both hue and saturation, while lightening the highlights maintains fine gradations with a gentle roll-off.

Although the saturation slider duplicates one of the functions of the color wheel, it has been provided so that it can be adjusted independently of the hue. This allows greater precision and prevents inadvertent hue changes during adjustment.

An accurate white balance should be set before you get started. Then color adjustments can be applied to create the desired mood for an image. Like other settings in Capture One, these changes can be saved as a Preset and applied to additional images.

Adjust the color balance globally

In this mode, the tool replicates the previous color balance tool and is compatible with settings made in Capture One 5.0 and later. Note, as a result the lightness slider is deliberately disabled.

  1. Go to the Color Tool Tab and locate the Color Balance tool.
  2. Click on the Master tab and drag the pointer (the circular orange icon located in the center by default) around Master Color Wheel to set the desired color hue. Moving the pointer away from the center increases saturation.
  3. Fine-tune the hue by clicking and dragging the tab on the wheel, and click and drag the slider tab to the left of the wheel to adjust the saturation (the color wheel pointer will be updated automatically).

Adjust color balance in the shadow, mid-tone or highlight areas

Setting the color balance separately in the shadows, mid-tones and highlights can be achieved using either the individual color wheels in the 3-Way tool or the single wheels displayed separately under their respective tabs. Functionally, they’re the same tools, and adjusting the color wheels in the 3-Way tool will update the other wheels. The smaller 3-Way color wheels are offered for convenience, however the much larger individual color wheels enable greater precision.

Although there’s no set routine for adjusting the color wheels, it’s a good idea to start with the shadows, then highlights or mid-tones, and as an optional step fine-tune the overall balance with the Master setting. Some zooming in and out of the image will be of benefit for precise adjustment, especially with highlights where subtle use of the color balance tool is recommended.

First, select the hue you want to add first either by clicking in the color wheel, or by clicking and dragging the tab to the chosen hue. Then adjust Saturation using the slider to maintain the hue selection, followed by the density by using the Lightness slider to suit. Note all sliders can adjusted using a mouse’s scroll wheel. The tool ships with a number of presets, so you can use one of these as an initial setting, and then fine-tune to taste. See below for more information.

  1. Navigate to the Color inspector and go to the Color Balance tool.
  2. Click on the 3-Way tab to display all three color wheels, or the separate Shadow, Mid-tone or High tab to display the individual, larger color wheels.
  3. Set the desired Hue by clicking and dragging the tab around the circumference, or if you prefer, simply click and drag the circular orange pointer (located in the center by default) within the appropriate wheel. Moving the pointer away from the center towards the perimeter increases saturation.
  4. Fine-tune the Hue, if desired, by clicking on the wheel's tab and dragging towards the chosen hue, while observing the image in the Viewer.
  5. Adjust the Saturation using the slider to maintain the chosen hue (the color wheel’s pointer will be updated automatically).
  6. Click and drag the tab on Lightness slider to adjust the density to taste.
  7. Optional. After individual tonal adjustments, adjust the Master color wheel slightly to fine-tune the overall color balance

Customizing the Color Balance tool

When making adjustments with the Color Balance tool you can enlarge the panel, so that it's a little easier to make ultra-fine adjustments. You can pull the tool from the inspector by clicking in the tool's title-bar and dragging to leave it to float in the Viewer.

If you use the tool frequently, consider adding a dedicated Inspector for color grading. If you triplicate the tool in the new Inspector, you can display individual panels for Highlights, Mid-tones and Shadow. With separate panels for each you can avoid moving between tabs for the larger color wheels.

For more information, see the section on Adding a Custom Tool-Tab.

Creating localized split tones

As the Color Balance tool can be used to make localized adjustments, it’s ideal to tone highlights, mid-tones and shadows when working in monochrome conversions. Note that, only the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow color wheels can be used for producing split-toned images. When adjusting the Master color wheel in a monochrome conversion, the color balance adjustment is in-effect applied before conversion.

Note also, when adjustments have already been made (i.e., prior to mono conversion), it is advisable first to make a clone of your color image (ctrl/right-click > clone variant) and optimize the Levels and Curves adjustment after the conversion.

  1. Select an image in the browser.
  2. Optional. Create a clone (ctrl/right-click > clone variant).
  3. Go to the Black and White tool and from either tab, select enable Black & White with a checkmark. The color image will be converted to monochrome.
  4. Optional. Optimize Levels and Curves for the conversion.
  5. Create an adjustment layer using the Layers tool. For example, select the Gradient mask (G) and apply to the area to be adjusted on the image.
  6. With the layer selected, go to the Color Balance tool and adjust the highlight, mid-tone and shadow wheels as required. The mono image will be updated with the adjusted color-tones.

Resetting the color wheels

When you want to reset the Color Balance tool, Capture One has a couple of options to enable you to select the appropriate color wheel, as simply resetting the tool will reset each one regardless of the tab selected. You can also switch temporarily between the adjusted color and unmodified setting, to view the applied effect.

  1. To reset the adjustments across all four color wheels simultaneously, click on the local reset button (curved arrow icon) in the tool's title-bar. A warning dialog will be displayed when two or more variants are selected.
  2. To reset the selected tab only, press the cmd/ctrl key then click-on the local reset button. When the 3-Way tab is selected, all three color wheels will be simultaneously reset. This option will prevent the Master adjustment from being reset. 
  3. To temporarily switch between the adjusted color and the unmodified setting, press the opt/alt key and click on the reset button.

Save as a preset

  1. Move the pointer around the Color Wheel to alter the color balance of an image. Fine-tune the Color Wheel selection using the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders (as detailed above).
  2. Go to the Manage Presets icon to save a Color Balance for later use.

Find out more about Presets.

Changing the color wheel layout

Capture One’s color wheels used in the Color Balance tool can be displayed with the chroma hue reference phase rotated 90-degrees to imitate a Vectorscope layout, as found on high-end video-editing software. Experience with this layout, with red near to the top, should be of benefit to anyone working with video-editing software. Note also that the lightness and saturation adjustment sliders are exchanged in position.

  1. Go to Capture One > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (Windows). The Preferences dialog box opens.
  2. Click on the Color tool tab.
  3. Go to Color Wheels section and select the layout from the two options. Red to the right is the default. Red close to the top imitates a typical Vectorscope layout. The selection is made without the need to restart Capture One.
  4. To return to the default selection, repeat from step 1.