Balancing Skin Tones

Balancing Skin Tones

When photographing humans, no matter what you do in the retouching process, the skin tones are the most important colors. While Canon tends to give warm skin tones, Sony's color math leads to cooler images. What is right and what is wrong? I recently heard about the secret skin tone formula.


A secret formula to get skin tones right? Sounds like a complete joke at first. But then, I discovered this video by Sean Tucker.

And it all seems to make sense. At least, it looks highly interesting and worth checking out.


There are formulas that describe naturally pleasing skin tone values. They are expressed as relative proportions of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. First find the cyan value. The magenta value should be double of cyan. Yellow should be one-fifth to one-third higher than magenta. Don't convert your image to CMYK and ignore black values.

Even the best formula will only work as a starting place (so much for the secret formula) as skin tones vary widely among individuals. But still, I consider it useful to have learned the CMYK 20 / 40 / 50 / - rule.