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The Difference Between Vibrance and Saturation


To the untrained eye, the difference between the vibrance and saturation sliders is not immediately obvious. Jesús Ramirez of Photoshop Training Channel explains the subtle difference between these two useful tools in this 5-minute video.

As Ramirez demonstrates, both tools work to increase or decrease the intensity of colors in an image but affect the overall image in different ways. Also, the saturation slider in the Hue/Saturation panel behaves differently to the saturation slider in the Vibrance panel.

The original image without saturation or vibrance applied

The saturation slider is generally more aggressive than the vibrance slider in that it affects all colors in the image, regardless of how saturated they already are. When using the Hue/Saturation panel this is even more obvious – pushing the slider to 100 creates ugly posterization. The saturation slider in the Vibrance panel has a more subtle effect, but it still affects all colors in the image.

Saturation at full, showing posterization

The vibrance slider, on the other hand, only affects muted colors and leaves skin tones and already-saturated colors alone. This creates a much more natural-looking image.

Vibrance at full, showing a more natural boost in color without skin tone adjustments

If you’d like to boost the muted colors and the skin tones in an image, you can juggle the two sliders until you achieve the look you’re after.

Both saturation and vibrance applied to boost skin tones, reds, as well as the overall image

It’s a short video, but if you want to skip ahead, here are the different sections:

00:40 – How the Hue Saturation and Adjustment Layer works

01:20 – How Saturation Works in the Vibrance Adjustment Layer

01:50 – How Vibrance Works in the Vibrance Adjustment Layer

02:23 – How Vibrance and Saturation affect saturation values

04:55 – How To Use Vibrance to color enhance your photos.

(via Photoshop Training Channel via Fstoppers)