Light Interface, Dark Interface, does it matter?

I have been doing quite a bit of experimentation on this Photoshop interface topic lately.  It seems most companies have evolved from a light interface to a dark interface.  If you remember back to Photoshop CS 5 the interface was a light grey and there were no options to change it.

CS 5 Interface

Photoshop CS 5 Interface… brings back memories for some of us!

In Photoshop CS 6 the interface received a makeover.  It was quite a shock to me.  I can remember thinking to myself, “I love this new look to Photoshop, but will it have an effect on how I edit my images?”  

CS 6 Interface

Photoshop CS 6 Interface… not so far off from CC, with the same interface options as CC now.

I was drawing this theory from my days in College where we focused on Color Theory, similar to the paintings of the great Mark Rothko.  While many think his paintings were ridiculous Rothko was onto something with his approach to color theory.  He would create huge canvases, some more than 15′ tall of a solid swatch of color and he’d apply a smaller swatch within it of a different color.  He made many of these.  If you have ever seen one in a museum you know just how powerful they can be.

What does this have to do with Photoshop? 

Everything!  Similar to Rothko, I too was onto something with my thoughts on the Ps Interface and photo editing.  I made a comment about it on my “What’s new in CS 6 video” and while I thought it was great I received this comment.

Expletives have been replaced with *&^&*

What a pretentious *&^&*stick…. ooohhh the 80 percent grey might interfere with my processing capabilities. Too soon to tell though. We’ll just have to wait and see. Do you even listen to yourself after you do a video dude? You sound like a *&^&*. Suck it the *&^&*up and *&^&*‘. Somebody loves the sound of their own voice.”

While I try not to let comments bother me too much, that one struck a chord with me.  Maybe I was a bit pretentious to some, I was being honest in my approach to the introduction to the new interface.  I did let that comment affect me, as a matter of fact of all the comments I have received that is the only one I can quote verbatim.  It took the wind out of my sails.  That was 3 years ago.

Fast Forward to today.

I decided to finally drop that *&^&*sticks comment and test my theory from so long ago.

The Hypothesis:  Will the interface chosen in Photoshop affect the Tone and or Color choices during the editing process?

The Test:  

  1. Make color swatches of the two Photoshop Interfaces side by side.
  2. Apply a color in the center of the swatch and see how it is affected.
  3. Edit the exact same image on both interfaces to see how they are affected by the surrounding interface.
  4. Only modify Tone, Color, and Finishing Color Grade

The Result:

  1. Each image looked significantly different dependent upon the Interface in Photoshop
  2. The Light Interface seemed to produce subtle images, slightly washed out and desaturated in nature.
  3. The Dark Interface produced images rich in Saturation and Tone.

Feel free to download the PDF of my tests below and watch the video to see how the whole test panned out.  I highly suggest trying this on your own to see how the interface can and will effect your editing practices.


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Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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