Pastel tones can add a beautiful look to your photos when done correctly. This probably explains why pastel effects are so popular in photography and design.
These soft, almost faded colors give a unique tone to your images and help to convey a certain style.
1. Open Your Image
Like most photo editing tutorials, you’ll need to start by importing the image of your choice. For this example, I’ll be using a photo from New York Fashion Week.
2. Add a Curves Filter
The first adjustment to add is ‘Curves’. Click the ‘+ ADD FILTER’ button to open the various filters (like adjustments in Photoshop) and select the Curves filter.
Once added to your workspace, adjust the actual curve to emulate the image below. Essentially you are dragging the top right point down part of the way in the upper right quadrant, lifting the middle right point, and dropping the middle left point. You can leave the bottom left point in the same position.
This curve will help to fade the light. If you’d like to reduce the whites even more for an exaggerated fade, drop the top right point even more.
3. Adjust Brightness/Contrast
Next, adjust the brightness and contrast. Set the brightness to +7 and set the contrast to -3.
This doesn’t make a huge difference, but helps bring out the faded light in your pastel effect.
4. Add Color
There are a few ways you can add color to complete your pastel look in Luminar. I typically use one of these three adjustments:
- Photo Filter
- Split Toning
- Cross Processing
For the ‘Photo Filter’ adjustment it works very much like the ‘Split Toning’ tool in Lightroom, but with a single bar. Start by choosing the Amount or Intensity. I usually set it to 30 at first so I can choose my color. Then after adjusting the amount, select your Hue or Color. Finally, once you have the desired color, adjust the saturation to lower the impact of the effect.
For this pastel look tutorial, I went with these settings:
- Amount: 9
- Hue: 346
- Saturation: 93
Keep reading below to see alternate explanations for using the ‘Split Toning’ and ‘Cross Processing’ filters.
5. Highlights / Shadows
After adding some color to your image, you might notice the highlights are too light and the shadows are too dark. This is a good adjustment to make for enhancing that ‘faded effect’ in your pastel look even more.
By bringing the highlights and shadows up, you will increase the white light and reveal more details.
I set the Highlights to ‘4’ and the Shadows to ’35’ for this image, but I recommend playing with both of these sliders to see what looks best for your project.
6. Add Soft Focus
Now getting to the good stuff. One of the absolute coolest adjustments in Luminar for creating faded pastel effects is the ‘Soft Focus’ filter.
This adjustment will blur the brightest whites in your image and add a vintage blown out film look. Paired with the right colors, it helps to create the full pastel and retro look.
Here are the settings:
- Type: Soft Focus #1
- Amount: 22
- Brightness: 5
. . . And that completes the steps required to create a pastel look in Luminar. Here is a before/after comparison:
As promised above, here are some alternate ways to add color to your images in Luminar. For these steps, I simply deleted the ‘Photo Filter’ adjustment and replaced it with the alternate adjustment to show you how it would differ.
4a. Add Color with Split Toning
Using the Split Toning feature, you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to getting the right colors for your photo. Using a ‘Photo Filter’ adjustment limits you to 1 color which is essentially overlaid on top of the entire image.
With Split Toning, you are able to specify the Hue and Saturation for both the Highlights and Shadows separately for a blend of colors.
Here are the settings I went with:
- Amount: 100% (No Adjustment)
- Highlights Hue: 82
- Highlights Saturation: 46
- Shadows Hue: 346
- Shadows Saturation: 46
- Balance: 0% (No Adjustment)
Here is a before/after comparison with Split Toning applied:
4b. Add Color with Cross Processing
Cross Processing works differently than the ‘Photo Filter’ and ‘Split Toning’ adjustments do. With cross processing, you don’t have the ability to choose the colors. Instead, you select an effect based on film types. There are 10 unique film effects to choose from and they are all named after major cities around the world.
Even though you cannot choose the specific colors, the ‘Cross Processing’ filter is a great way to add color to your photos in Luminar. The 10 choices feature a wide variety of cool/warm tones making it easy to find something that fits your project.
Here are the settings I went with:
- Type: Monterey
- Amount: 43
Here is a before/after comparison with Cross Processing applied:
Similar to many of the other steps in this tutorial, I recommend playing with the settings for all of the ‘Filters’ you add to your image. It will help you get a better effect that is more fitting to your preferences.
You can also lower the Amount and adjust the Balance on many of the filters in Luminar to get a more unique effect. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to experiment and see what you can come up with!
Below I’ve linked to some additional freebies, tutorials, and premium resources to help you out.
- How to Install and Use Luminar Presets →
- Download Free Luminar Presets →
- View all Premium Luminar Presets →
- How to Create a Natural Pastel Photo Effect in Photoshop →
If you have any questions or need further explanation for any steps, feel free to leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to help you out. Learn more about Luminar’s features here.