In early August 2003 PictoColor
released an update to iCorrect EditLab 4. As
its name suggests iCorrect EditLab 4
Stand-Alone doesn't require Photoshop or any other image editing
application. Unfortunately an oversight on my part meant that my review of
the version 4 Plug-in never appeared as such. It continued to
read as version 3. I've therefore corrected my error and revised the
review to reflect both products.
iCorrect EditLab 4.0
Like all previous versions of the iCorrect
product family PictoColor have designed this new version to provide the user with a
intuitive method of colour correction. By simply clicking on certain reference
or memory colours within an image, iCorrect
EditLab will perform a global colour correction. This review is based upon the Mac OS X version but iCorrect
also available for Mac OS9 and Windows including XP. At this point I think its important
to mention that iCorrect EditLab
is only compatible with the Adobe range of image editing
products (e.g. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop LE). The
Stand-Alone version can be used independently of other image editing
iCorrect EditLab 4.0
Whilst the main interface "appears" to have
changed little from earlier versions it does have a few hidden
secrets and optimisation tricks. The process of
editing the image is a mixture of Automatic and Manual correction.
If the user prefers not to use Automatic (SmartColor mode)
then it can easily be disabled and only manual
edits will be applied. There are four simple steps to editing an
image and each is described below:
When you first launch iCorrect EditLab
it will use SmartColor to automatically analyse and adjust
the image tone, colour and saturation.
The user can also configure iCorrect EditLab
so that SmartColor correction is disabled, although this to some
extent defeats the purpose. Nevertheless, the ability to override
auto correction is welcome.
The initial settings dialog is also the location of the
global colour cast removal tool (neutrals eyedropper). Simply
choose "Neutrals" from the pop-up menu and then
click (using the eyedropper tool) an area of the image that you
know to be neutral and all equally coloured pixels will be
neutralised. The user can, if they wish, use a simple Slider
to balance the Red, Green and Blue channels. Typical neutrals
will include such items as: snow, paper, clouds, teeth, car
tyres, asphalt, cement, tree bark, and ice.
Global Colour Balance
By applying a few mouse clicks on various
neutral areas within the image, such as the clouds in my example
Colour Balance tool removes any remaining colour cast.
The accuracy of the correction is dependent upon
the size of the sampled area. Sometimes we will want a small
sample and sometimes larger sample areas. By clicking on the eyedropper tool it can be set for 1 pixel, 3
pixel average or 5 pixel average resolution.
The user also has the choice of displaying colour values in
either RGB, HSB (Hue, Saturation and Brightness feedback) or
Simply clicking the letters to the side of the Eyedropper tool
changes the mode back and forth and the display for both gives
before and after readings. The Undo button will undo the
last edit. If the overall adjustment is not to your liking it's simply a matter of
clicking the Reset button and beginning again.
Before and after display of the edits can be achieved very
simply by unchecking the Preview tick box and then rechecking it
again. Since the Preview facility is active in all four
tabs it provides a very quick means of determining the extent of
Since the Stand-Alone version of iCorrect EditLab doesn't have the
benefit of Photoshop's internal colour management system
PictoColor have developed their own
along with all the components required for correctly handling ICC
profiles. The Preferences are a menu option rather than a button
within the preview panel. In addition to configuring the how iCorrect EditLab handles images with
and without embedded ICC profiles we can preset the JPEG
quality/compression value. A further pop-up menu allows the user to
refine the degree of global saturation applied to the image by
SmartColor. The default value is 80; values less than 80 will
desaturate the image and values greater than 80 will increase the overall
Preferences - EditLab Stand-Alone
The Quality setting determines the quality of the
preview image and has NO bearing on the quality of the final
image. It is provided so that the time needed to screen updates is kept
to a minimum on less powerful computers.
The folder and image format in which the edited images
are to be saved is user definable. iCorrect
EditLab Stand-Alone can save images as either JPEG, BMP
Live Slider Preview and Show Sampled Region
are a mixture of old and new. They are a tad less useful than Largest
Possible Window. If selected in the Preferences dialog we will
get live feedback within the preview window. If you notice that your
computer is slow at updating the screen image after an adjustment then
simply deselect Live Slider Preview. Of course you will loose the
ability to see your edits in real-time but at least they'll not bring
your computer to a crawl. This problem will only occur with very large
images (hundreds of megabytes) or on really old computers with slow
processors or small amounts of memory. When Show Sampled Region is
activated you can click on an area of the image and it will produce a
brief "blue flash" over the sample area. Adjacent pixels with similar RGB
values will also flash blue for a few seconds.
With the Plug-in version the facility exists to
maximise the editing window (Use Largest Possible Window). This
feature enables the user to fill the full desktop within Photoshop. When
coupled with the Zoom (1:1 pixel ratio) and Scroll (Ctrl+Left
mouse drag) tools we can now get much more accurate. Activating the
feature requires that you check the little tick box, close iCorrect
EditLab and reopen.
Preferences - EditLab
Black and White Point
The Black and White point tool is designed to
optimise the lightness range (tonal range) of the image by pushing the
darker colours closer to black and the lighter colours closer to white.
The user can use any one of three methods to set the
black and white points. The firsts and easiest is simply letting
EditLab automatically find the
brightest and darkest points within the whole image. The second requires
the user manually drag the black/white triangle of the histogram to their
preferred values. The last and probably most effective is were the user
defines an area within the image and then clicks this area with the
eyedropper tool. To get in really close it is necessary to use the
Zoom tool - Hold down the Alt/Option key and click the desired
area of the image.
Global Brightness, Contrast and
The Brightness/Contrast/Saturation slider tool
handles the global distribution of tones and then gives the colours an
added boost via a saturation. Generally the automatic adjustments get
quite close to the desired result, but manual fine-tuning is provided via
Selective Hue Edits
The final step involves the user making selective
corrections to specific colours. After correcting the colour balance,
setting new black and white points, adjusting the
brightness/contrast/saturation, the user can fine-tune specific colours.
This step is broadly similar in operation to
iCorrect Professional and is without question the most
powerful and useful tool.
Selective Hue Adjustments
Remember, that these adjustments are done without
effecting any of the previous adjustments. Choosing the sky (B)
from the image and clicking on the Memory Colour button for Sky
causes iCorrect EditLab to
automatically correct the sky. As with the earlier tools the user can
override this feature, and manually adjust the saturation/brightness
slider or the specific hue (colour) on the Hue Wheel. Describing
this step in detail is beyond the scope of this review but it is well
documented in the user manual.
Skin (S) tone and Foliage (F)
are the other two memory colour within iCorrect
EditLab. I've found Skin tone to be very effective with
many portrait images, especially those taken with flash and under mixed
lighting. Once the overall colour balance has been corrected we can
home-in on editing the skin tones, and remember, this is done without
affecting any of our previous edits.
All of the editing tools work with a preview image that
is fully synchronised with the Photoshop working space. So assuming the
user has an accurately calibrated monitor then the final images should
appear in Photoshop as they do iCorrect EditLab.
EditLab (Plug-in) Editing
EditLab Plug-in also
includes the ability to edit ICC Input profiles. The process of editing a
profile isn't too difficult and uses a conventional image as the basis
for your edits. Ideally the image will have been captured at the same
time or lighting conditions as the actual profiling target. If you can
edit an image using EditLab then you'll have little problem editing your
own ICC input profiles.
Help is always available from within the plug-in
have included an on-line user guide which is fairly comprehensive.
Virtual tours of iCorrect EditLab 4.0
Plug-in and Stand-Alone are available from the
When I first reviewed iCorrect
EditLab 2.0 I was impressed by
the ease of use and quality of results but not so with the overall
appearance of the application interface. Nevertheless, I did think the
4-step approach to colour correction was useful and worthy of further
development. Version 3 improved things further and now that we have
reached version 4 most of my dislikes have been eliminated. That said I'm
a bit confused as to why the Stand-Alone version doesn't offer a print
Although designed for all types of image I have found
iCorrect EditLab seems to work
particularly well with images captured on digital cameras. I was also
very pleased to see that PictoColor
have continued to include full 16-bit per channel editing within iCorrect EditLab as this is my
preferred way of working. This means that 16-bit images imported directly
from a digital camera can be opened and colour corrected with ease.
Actually, iCorrect EditLab 4.0 can
handle Linear images from digital cameras, albeit the final results tend
to require some additional increase in saturation.
PictoColor "tabbed" editing tools
are specifically designed to be used in a left-to-right order and in
following this order we can be assured that tools to the right do not
adversely affect the adjustments of the previous tool. This method goes
an long way to reducing the frustration of correcting for one edit while
throwing off another. If we were to ignore this feature we could be
forgiven for thinking that iCorrect EditLab doesn't really offer
intermediate and advanced users anything that Photoshop can't already do.
In a sense this is true, but I've received many emails from professional
and amateur photographers who feel the speed and ease of operation
provided by iCorrect EditLab makes it
a worthwhile addition to Photoshop. However, and come to think about it,
does Photoshop provide a facility to edit ICC Input profiles? EditLab Plug-in does!