How to Use and Export Color Lookup Tables in Photoshop CC 2014

Why and How to Use and Export Color Lookup Tables in Photoshop CC 2014

Ability to export color lookup tables is new and very useful option added in Photoshop CC 2014. This feature can save your time in Photoshop, but also and to help you achieve the desired look in other programs like Premiere Pro or After Effects.

What is all about

It is all about adjustments which you can find on the Adjustments panel (Window > Adjustments) or from Layer > New Adjustment Layer > choose. You can export multiple, stacked adjustment layers or in other words effect/look achieved using adjustments. Exported file can be loaded in Photoshop and other programs and you have same look using only one adjustment layer (Color Lookup).

What is the benefit

One of benefits is that you can achieve the desired look created in Photoshop in some other Adobe programs. Another benefit is to export Color Lookup Tables and reuse them or to share them. I have heard from many Photoshop users that they cannot remember how they have achieved some look or results so they keep PSD files to copy/paste Adjustment layers. Well, you do not have to any more, you can export and load Color Lookup Table.

Another efficient way to use exported Color Lookup Tables is when using Variables in Photoshop and I will cover that in the next, 4th part of our journey with Variables and Data Sets. In particular, we will use Visibility variables to show/hide only one adjustment layer instead of a couple of them with the same result. The benefit is that you do not need to change visibility for 4 or 5 layers but instead only for one. Efficient, isn't it? If you have 6 Color Lookup layers in Layers panel they are substituting 25-30 or more Adjustment layers like Gradient Map, Levels, Curves... stacked one on top of another.

When to use Color Lookup

You can use Color Lookup Tables basically for every effect/look that can be achieved using Adjustment layers. In fact, you have suggestion through default color lookup presets which ships with Photoshop. Apply Color Lookup adjustment from Adjustments panel and play around with available presets. Basically, I see color lookups most useful for let's call them: special effects or looks like vintage, retro, old photo, cross process, bleach bypass...

How to export Color Lookup Tables from Photoshop CC 2014

To get started, I must give you information that you must have Background layer in your document in order to export Color Lookup Table. So open any photo, ensure that you have a Background layer or convert layer to Background from Layer > New > Background from Layer. Ensure that your document is in RGB color mode so you can follow along. Start adding Adjustments layers to achieve the look you like.

If you do not have idea what effect or look to create, I will suggest you to download sample files for my product Old Photo/BW Actions. Visit Adobe add-ons, sign in and click on Try button. You can also directly download free sample files from Photoshop Plus . Just click on Try button and choose where to save file if you do not have specified default download location.
Try Old Photo Actions

Whatever option you choose to download my actions you must load them in Photoshop and easiest way is from File > Open. Actions are inside Old Photo and B&W Test folder which is on your Desktop if you choose to get actions from Adobe Add-ons. After loading actions open Actions panel (Window > Actions). You must have a photo open in Photoshop and I will suggest you to use file which is not layered for simplicity purpose. Run Old Photo Effects (All Effects) action.

Run Old Photo Effects action

Photoshop will do its job, and you will have two (2) old photo effects created. At the bottom of Layers stack, you will see Smart Object layer. Select Smart Object layer and got to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
Create Background from Layer in Photoshop CC 2014

To export effect and to save it for reuse go to File > Export > Color Lookup Tables. Next what you will see is Export Color Lookup Tables dialog. Here is what to do:

Leave at the top Description and Copyright for now as they are but pay attention at the Quality option. Leave it at default: Grid Points 32 (Medium). Number of Grid Points will affect file size. If you change this option to 256, for example (Maximum from the drop-down list), then file size can be really, really huge. Check only CUBE in Formats: section because we are going to use Color Lookup Table in Photoshop only and again in RGB color mode. Here is official info which can be useful for some users: If you start with a document in the RGB color mode, you can export the color lookup table only in 3DLUT (3DL, CUBE, and CSP) and RGB device link formats.
Export Color Lookup Tables in Photoshop CC 2014

Click OK and navigate to the folder where to save the Color Lookup Table. Give it a name and click Save button. That's it. Now you can load exported file and to have same the effect using only one: Color Lookup layer. If you expand the layer group in Layers panel then you will see that more than one Adjustment layer is used for the effect.
Save Color Lookup table

If you want to export and second Old Photo effect, then go to History panel (Window > History), scroll up, if needed and click on Old Photo 1 snapshot to activate it. Repeat entire process. To remind you: first convert Smart Object to Background layer.
Select Old Photo 1 snapshot from History panel

How to load exported Color Lookup tables

It is very easy and simple to load exported CUBE files. Note: image/file must be in RGB color mode. First add Color Lookup adjustment from Adjustments panel and with Color Lookup 1 layer selected, go to Properties panel (Window > Properties). Click on Load 3D LUT and navigate to CUBE file previously exported.
Load exported Color Lookup table in Photoshop CC 2014

Images used in this tutorial are downloaded from depositphotos.

Some questions you may have

Some of you will have question if loaded Color Lookup table depends on the source. No, it does not depend on the source file and you can move source file anywhere you want. In case you loose a source file you can re-export Color Lookup and save it as new CUBE file. To be precise: with Color Lookup adjustment layer in Layers panel go to File > Export > Color Lookup Tables and save CUBE file which will give you exact same look when loaded.

Some of you will have question: how to have exported Color Lookup Table listed and available from Properties panel so you do not have to load it over and over again when you want to use it. The only way is to copy and paste exported CUBE file into Adobe Photoshop CC 2014/Presets/3DLUTs folder. You must restart Photoshop if it's running.

Another question you may have is to tweak Color Lookup adjustment and to export it. Something like: works fine, but shadows are too strong. Go and add a Curves adjustment, for example to tweak shadows, then export color lookup table as explained above.

Product used in this tutorial;
Adobe Photoshop CC 2014

Photoshop Help / Export color lookup tables


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