Professional Photoshop Training with Dan Margulis

Applied Color Theory in Photoshop I

An intensive, small group, hands-on, four day color correction class

This is a demanding and sharply-focused seminar for those who are serious about improving the way their color images appear on the printed page. The class is image enhancement/color correction only. There is no coverage of special effects. This is a class that many professional Photoshop instructors take.

The majority of students are not from the geographic locale of the classes but fly in from out-of-state or from other countries. Sessions begin early (9 a.m. on the first day only, earlier thereafter) and continue well into the evening.

Each student is assigned a fully-equipped workstation. Lecture/discussions are followed by sessions in which each member of the class works on improving the same images. The results are compared against one another and critiqued. The images--around 28 in all--are typical of those encountered in professional work and represent a variety of requirements. In addition to professional retouchers, this class appeals to photographers, art directors, and anyone involved with image manipulation.

Familiarity with Photoshop is a prerequisite, but, as this is a concept-based course, expertise in the program is not. The class is not version-specific. For those who are looking for more foundational Photoshop training, it is recommended that you attend some of the other Photoshop training at Sterling Ledet & Associates first.

Historically the class has been taught over three long days since its inception in September 1994. With the advances of knowledge and technique, significant content has been added. We now offer the course over four days, and emphasize the Picture Postcard Workflow that Dan introduced in 2007 and has been improving ever since.

The Picture Postcard Workflow

The original goal of the PPW was speed. The objective was something good in five minutes or less. The theory was that certain pictures are simply not important enough to spend more time, yet quality is at a premium.

Dan's proposal was a three-step approach that always treats color and contrast separately. First, color inaccuracies are eliminated in RGB. Second, contrast is enhanced with a variety of methods, but the base color does not change. Finally, the file moves into LAB for the introduction of more pleasing color.

It turned out that the PPW was not just faster, but also produced higher quality results, than traditional workflows, including those advocated in Dan's earlier books. For this reason, it has been widely adopted. Dan's book Modern Photoshop Color Workflow, explores it in great detail.

Much of the workflow can be automated. It uses actions, some quite complex. These have changed regularly as improvements were found, and have been made available for free. It was, however, somewhat difficult for a user to keep track of which versions of which actions were current.

In 2011 Dan released a major productivity enhancement, a panel that allows one-click access to all PPW actions. Extensive PDF documentation for every action is accessible from within the panel, as is a full description of the PPW and a product manual. A single installer takes care of everything: panel, actions, and documentation. Panel version 4.0 was released in October 2014 and has been regularly updated to assure capability with new versions of Photoshop.

The panel is free. It requires Photoshop CS5, CS6, or the two most recent versions of Photoshop CC. Although the panel will run on previous versions of Photoshop CC it is not supported due to the small number of users. Photoshop versions prior to CS5 are incompatible with the panel, but can still use the actions through Photoshop's Actions palette. The current action set and documentation is therefore downloadable separately for users of older versions.

To move to the Picture Postcard Workflow Panel page and download what you need, click here


ACT Four-Day Class Schedule

The scheduled topics are as follows:


DAY 1: Concepts and Curves

  • Objectives of color correction
  • How humans perceive color
  • Differences between human perception and that of a camera

Curves defined

  • The importance of choosing proper endpoints (highlights and shadows)
  • Enhancing contrast in local areas
  • Finding areas of colorspace that are not used efficiently
  • Influence of curve shape on reproduction
  • Using LAB to evaluate color defects, even when working in RGB or CMYK
  • The known colors: skies, greenery, fleshtones
  • Evaluating neutrals and near-neutrals.
  • The close relation between RGB and CMY channels
  • Color "by the numbers"

Introduction to channel blending

  • Photoshop method of unsharp masking and its variables
  • Application of USM in selected channels, or locally
  • Three models of USM: conventional, hiraloam, and Shadow/Highlight

DAY 2: Colorspaces in depth

  • Theory behind use of CMY as colorants
  • How the transition from RGB to CMYK is made.
  • Role of black ink and GCR
  • GCR and UCR differentiated
  • When is GCR appropriate?
  • Anticipating press problems
  • Working with on-demand printerss
  • Limitations of the printing process
  • Luminosity and Color modes and their uses
  • The Picture Postcard Workflow defined
  • Basic LAB curves
  • Retouching advantages of LAB
  • Creation of masks with LAB
  • The original Man from Mars Method

DAY 3: The PPW Explored

  • The function of the PPW panel
  • The Color-Contrast-Color approach
  • Automation and its implications
  • Blending multiple quickly-produced versions as opposed to loving a single version to death
  • Going for color overkill and backing off as opposed to trying to force appropriate color into a dull image.
  • The complex actions: MMM and Sharpening
  • Relation to raw modules.
  • Experiences of those who have adopted the PPW

DAY 4: Putting it All Together

The majority of the day is spent working on images that illustrate the points covered by the course. The lecture/presentation portion of the day is programmed by the class: each student submits one topic or question, and these topics will form the core of a two-hour presentation by the instructor. Additionally, classes choose from a variety of exercise sets, including the ability to ask others to work on images that they themselves have had problems with.


For more information, download our PDF Outline.


About the instructor:

Design Tools Monthly calls Dan Margulis "the expert's expert on the logical and effective ways to make any image look its best." He is author of Professional Photoshop Fifth Edition (Peachpit Press, 2006) the leading book on professional color correction. His book Photoshop LAB Color (second edition, Peachpit Press, 2015) is an international bestseller. In March 2013, his book Modern Photoshop Color Workflow was released. His column, "Makeready," focusing on production issues, appeared in both Electronic Publishing and Photoshop User magazines, the only such column ever to appear regularly in two American periodicals simultaneously. He is one of the most popular imaging instructors worldwide; in Europe he has taught courses in four different languages.

In 2001, he was one of the first three persons, and the only writer, inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame created by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals. In its citation, the NAPP said, "Dan's ability to reduce complicated concepts to words that users can understand and his insistence on dealing with real-world relevance have made him today's most influential voice in professional color reproduction."

In 2020, he released a landmark in the history of the visual arts: a completely reworked edition of M.E. Chevreul's 1839 classic On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors. In addition to a newly translated and edited version of Chevreul's text, Dan added six chapters of his own, and hundreds of the color graphics that Chevreul would have wanted but could not have due to the limitations of nineteenth-century technology.

We have several of Dan's articles and chapters from his books available on-line as PDFs, including a complete listing of all the Makeready column titles with links to several of them. We have also archived a large number of edited threads from the Applied Color Theory newsgroup list on various color production-related topics.

Dan has been training with Sterling Ledet & Associates for more than 25 years.



The investment for Applied Color Theory training is $1995 per student. Class size is limited to eight students. Classes typically fill one to three months in advance. Each student receives a copy of Dan's book Modern Photoshop Color Workflow, and a copy of the course materials on CD. Students love this class. We have a page of comments from students.


Sterling Ledet & Associates, Atlanta, GA (30 minutes from Atlanta airport)
Sterling Ledet & Associates, Park Ridge, IL (10 minutes from O'Hare airport)
Sterling Ledet & Associates, Washington, DC (three blocks from White House)
Tuscany, Italy (Italian-language classes), information here.


The hours are not fixed but depend on the speed of the class. The approximate normal hours are: First Day 9 am.-8 p.m.; Second Day 8 a.m.-8 p.m; Third Day 8 a.m.-7 p.m; Fourth Day 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Lunch breaks are taken at around 2 p.m. on the first three days. Normally pizza or sandwiches are brought in on the final day.


  • Please call for custom class inquiry 1-877-819-2665.

To register online, or by e-mail, fax, or telephone, click here. This link can also be used to register for any other Ledet Training courses.

Student Cancellations:

Due to the limited availability of his classes, Dan Margulis's training classes are subject to cancellation/rescheduling fees of $200 if notice is given at least 2 weeks prior to class. No refunds for cancellation or rescheduling made with less than 2 weeks notice.