Colour correction with Picture Instruments’ Color Cone

Colour correction is usually high up on your list of image adjustments. Color Cone is a new app that enables you to do so with an innovative interface. The Color Cone app is a great concept, but I think its design could be better. However, the developer told me that: “For many of your criticism aspects we will have a solution in a future version of Color Cone…you can be excited, but it will take a while because first we have started to code plug-ins to integrate Color Cone into different hosts.” (sic).

Color Cone is developed by Picture Instruments in Germany. It consists of one window with four segments. The preview window shows your image and the adjustments made to it, while the three other segments deal with the adjustments themselves. The eye catcher is the colour cone (a dual cone, actually) in the centre of the right panel. This colour cone represents colours in HCL notation. There are no layers, but colour samples to work with. Eyedroppers enable you to select colours in your image.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Color Cone has a bit of a clumsy, old-fashioned interface. In addition, the colour cone cannot be rotated or otherwise manipulated. You can manipulate the colour samples in real time, but as you can’t handle the cone itself, it quickly becomes unwieldy to try and grab samples and position them where you want them to end up.

color cone colour correction

In addition, the colour cone cannot be resized. If you enlarge the interface, only your image becomes larger. However, the workflow is simple. You select a colour you want to adjust in your image using the original-image eye dropper. Then fine tune the selection with the associated sliders and finally adjust the colour in the resulting-image settings segment.

You can adjust colours either by explicitly selecting them, or by using the resulting-image eye dropper to pick the right colour from the image. You can open a reference image, but it is unclear to me what you do with it, given that I could not find a way to sample colours from that image. It should allow you to use the eyedropper tool and pick colours from it, but on my system, that didn’t work. A mask optionally shows so you can view the boundaries of your selection. When you’re done, you can either save the adjustments as a preset, or — a far better export capability offered by Color Cone — as a 3D LUT in any of half a dozen LUT file formats for use in other apps such as Photoshop and Affinity Photo.

Colour correction made powerful but not necessarily easy

The 3D LUT functionality could potentially make Color Cone the preferred method for colour correcting video. That would be easy: just save a frame to a JPEG in your NLE and colour correct in Color Cone. Then export the adjustments to a LUT and apply the LUT to all clips in the same take/shot/footage.

Unfortunately, there’s much to be said against it. For starters, only correcting images with easily discernible colours is straightforward. That’s because these only require two or three sample points. When colours bleed through to the background, you’ll need more samples. Using a lot of samples makes working with Color Cone harder. You can’t easily select them on the colour cone when they’re close together. Having to cycle through all sample points isn’t very efficient either, as there are no layers nor even a list to pick them from.

In addition, Color Cone doesn’t support RAW images. If it would, you could for example use Color Cone to easily colour profile your camera for each different lighting setup. That’s not going to work, unless you own Affinity Photo, which has the ability to render RAW with no tone curve applied.

Most other RAW converters will apply a tone curve immediately after importing from your memory card. This makes it impossible to profile a camera with Color Cone, despite its LUT export capability. The work-around suggested by the developer — take a screenshot of a RAW image — doesn’t work because you normally don’t get to view the unprocessed file.

Color Cone is a brilliant idea, a great concept, but in its current state it leaves much to be desired. Still, you can give it a try and see for yourself. A demo is available at the Picture Instruments website.