Four Ways to Create the ‘Orange and Teal’ or ‘Sam Kolder’ Look in Lightroom
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If you look at the RGB color wheel, you can see that orange is directly across from teal – so the two colors contrast and compliment each other.
And human skin-tones usually fall in the midtones and highlights. So, to create the orange and teal look, you need to boost your blues in the shadows, and boost your oranges in the midtones and highlights.
And in Lightroom, there are four ways you can do this: color calibration, split toning, the tone curve, or the HSL and Color tools. This video will explain all four, using color theory to help you understand how it actually works.
Let’s start with the first and the easiest option: the color calibration tools.
Just make two adjustments: move the hue slider for the blue primaries toward teal, and add a bit of saturation. Done.
When you change one of your three primary colors, you change how all of the colors are being mixed. When your blue is actually teal, you’re not mixing red, green, and blue to create color – you’re mixing red, green, and teal. And if we look at the color wheel, that heavily stacks the available range of color toward one side.
But when I do the same thing without any camera calibration adjustments, you can see a slight change in the saturation of the shirt.
This technique will usually work if your background is a consistent color and your subject is properly exposed.
But if it doesn’t, your second option is to use the tone curve.
The tone curve allows you to make more specific adjustments to the luminance of your colors, which mixes them differently.
Switch over to the point curve, and apply a reverse ‘S’-Curve to the blues. You want to increase the luminance of your blues in the shadows, and decrease them in the highlights.
You’re essentially increasing the brightness of blue in the shadows – so when blue is mixed with any other colors in the shadows, it becomes more likely to show up. And in the highlights, you’re doing the opposite – you’re making it less likely that blue will show up, which emphasizes the orange skin tones.
Which brings us to option number three: the HSL and Color tools.
Here, you want to flip over to the ‘hue’ panel, then use the color picker to select any color in the highlights and push them toward orange.
Do the exact same thing with colors in the shadows by pushing them toward teal.
You’re basically telling Lightroom you want to shift specific colors in your image along the color wheel. For example – making your purples closer to blue, or your reds closer to orange.
Warning though: if you start pushing all of your hues toward -100 or +100, the picture is probably going to look artificial.
If you have to do this, you might be better off trying the fourth and final option: use the split toning tools.
Split toning is completely different from any of the other three colors – it works by adding new color, instead of just mixing it.
This is your best option when you don’t have no orange or teal in the shot to work with.
All you have to do is add a little bit of blue to the shadows, add a little bit of orange to the highlights, and bring up your saturation very slightly. Something like +25 should work well.
The toughest part is finding the right balance between your shadows and highlights. You need to adjust the balance slider until your skin tones look natural.
In other words, you probably want your balance set to the same point where the exposure of your skin tones begin.