A review of ColorPerfect, AKA you should use this

For the past year I’ve been obsessed with getting the best color out of my images. I’ve slowly been altering the way I process the film to see if the results get better or worse. First it was the temperature bath, and things got better. Then it was the developer, changing from Tetanal to Digibase, and things got a little bit better. Then I tried to hone my VueScan skills, and that’s where I went insane. I don’t think I’m the only one to think this, but VueScan is the most difficult program to get accurate color from scans. Sure, it might be a great scanning program, but when it comes to color, it’s awful.

No matter what I did I could never get the color to match what I got back when I had it done professionally. Finally, one Saturday I got frustrated to the point that I spent a few hours searching opinions online, and found ColorPerfect. Life will never be the same. 

Vuescan (mouse over for ColorPerfect)

Take the image above as an example. I picked it because of how difficult it was for me to correct the color in VueScan. I thought I did everything right. I locked the exposure and sampled the film base, then went in and meticulously adjusted the channels until finally, after a long arduous journey, I gave up and got the image above.

From scan to jpeg, the ColorPerfect version took me less than 5 minutes. I didn’t have to screw with it, and tell it what the grey point was, somehow it figured things out. And this isn’t unique to this one image, it does it all the time. I don’t know how. Wizardry probably. Regardless, here’s my steps:

  1. Save the raw scan of your negative. This is key.  ColorPerfect only accepts the raw scan of a negative. VueScan can save the raw scan, and that’s what I use.
    Don’t worry about the color options or dust removal, since none of that will matter. The raw scan just outputs the raw data from the scanner.
  2. Once the raw scan is complete, load it into photoshop and start the ColorPerfect plugin.
  3. When ColorPerfect starts, it’s confusing. There’s a lot of boxes, and it seems the creator didn’t follow standard UI rules. Oh well.
    Change the boxes underneath the image to match the film brand and film type you used. You shouldn’t have a problem finding the film, they seem to have everything.
    set film brand and type
  4. After selecting the brand and type, the color should almost be right. The next thing I do is go to the color ring by clicking the box next to “Ring CC”. On the screen you’ll see your image in a 3×3 grid with different hues. Here you can easily see what color cast you need to correct, select it, and keep going.  The top-right and bottom-left is for brightness, while the rest are for colors.
    colorperfect's ring cc
  5. If the color is still off, you can adjust the tones using the “Film Type” field.  Click the field, and slowly move the vertical slider unti you find the right hues.
  6. That’s where I normally stop. You could adjust the black and white levels, saturation or gamma, but normally I wait to do those things in Lightroom. Once you hit OK, you can denoise, unsharp mask etc in Photoshop.
  7. You’re done!

The price for ColorPerfect is $67.  That might sound like a lot for a Photoshop plugin, but it’s a powerful plugin. Once you consider the time savings this provides, $67 is not that much. It’s made my life easier, and I imagine it will do the same for yours.

If you need a more in-depth tutorial on how to use Color-Perfect, visit this guide. It’s thorough and has a good walkthrough on the UI.

5 thoughts on “A review of ColorPerfect, AKA you should use this”

  1. Thanks a lot for your info. I will try colorperfect, I have the same problem with vuescan and now flexcolor. When i used nikonscan i was very satisfied with negative result, and i’ve been on the border of downgrading my scanner in order to get good colors again (but partial soft scans since it’s impossible to keep 120 film completely flat).

  2. Thanks for this information. I know you use a scanner, but I’m planning on scanning via my 5D and macro lens. Would you know if i have to record the file as a TIFF or a canon Raw file?
    Thanks again.

    1. Man, that’s a good question. I’ve thought about using a DSLR + macro to scan, but I’ve never tried it. I’m guessing you’ll be using the flash and shoebox method that I’ve seen around? Let me know how it goes.

      If you have a newer version of photoshop, like CS4+, I’d say you can definitely just use a Canon raw file. Just import the CR2, don’t do any processing with ACR, then try using color perfect. I can’t guarantee it will work though, I’m guessing the colors will need some serious tweaking but you might get something acceptable. Like I said though, let me know how it goes.

  3. Decided to try. So far, it seems to take a process that can feel never ending and reduce it down to a few minutes. very handy.

    1. I’m glad that you’re finding the same results as I did. It makes scanning a simple process instead of an endless chore.

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