I recently heard a photographer mention that they:

...adjusted the white balance using the CMYK method

I did a bit of searching on this and found different resources claiming to use formulas such as C+M+Y = 5 * K or that you need to have a certain percentage of each to have proper skin tones.

I'm more familiar with simply adjusting the white balance in Adobe Lightroom using the dropper tool on a grey or neutral part of the image. How would I adjust the white balance by the CMYK method properly in Photoshop(I am assuming you can't use this method in Lightroom)?


1 Answer 1


The guide I've always used is below. It differs by ethnicity, but is a good starting point. You can't use a dropper tool directly on skin because it's obviously not grey. Not if your subject is healthy

How to get pleasing skin tone

Highlights of the article:

  • % of yellow should at least equal the % of magenta.
  • Light skinned subjects should have between 5-20% more yellow than magenta
  • Dark skinned subjects should have yellow and magenta very close
  • Cyan should be between 30% and 50% of the magenta value

The article also describes how to use curves to sample and correct the color balance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That appears to be a very useful and complete guide. Thank you Mike! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 0:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you maybe summarize the link a little bit? I don't have high confidence that an article with a URL in the form ".../customer/portal/articles/93363" will be located at that location after the next site redesign. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good idea. I've been using it for 2-3 years I'd guess, but point taken. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 0:33

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