You might be familiar with the terms saturation and vibrance. Know more about the differences between the two and use them correctly in your images.

A common dilemma that happens during image editing is whether to use saturation or vibrance. Both enhance the appeal of an image by increasing or decreasing the intensity of colours and are identical in many ways. However, the two tools work in different ways and there is a difference in the final results as well.

This article helps provides a detailed insight into the differences between saturation and vibrance and guides you in choosing the right tool for your image editing project.

What is saturation?

To put it simply, saturation is the intensity of colour. If saturation is higher, it moves closer to grey and will appear more vibrant or vivid. If saturation is low, the colours will appear muted. When you adjust the saturation, it modifies the pixels in the image. Most photos editing tools have a Saturation slider to adjust the colours easily. Dragging the slider to the right will increase the saturation, and dragging it to the left will reduce the saturation. One needs to be careful while increasing the saturation because dragging the slider to the extreme right might impact the details of already saturated images.

What is vibrance?

Vibrance is a term coined by Adobe. It allows the image editing professional to increase the colours that are muted and do not alter the saturated colours. This will make the images appear more even and natural. The vibrance slider adjusts only the least saturated colours. Vibrance is always more constrained and controllable than saturation.

Difference between saturation and vibrance

Before choosing to apply saturation or vibrance, there are several significant differences between the two that you should be aware of.

  • Vibrance is not a concrete concept in photography. You can easily calculate saturation using mathematical formulas, but cannot measure vibrance.
  • Vibrance prevents the over-saturation of colours. Compared to this the if you increase the saturation beyond a range it might damage the photo by making it appear unnatural.
  • Saturation and vibrance also produce different effects while you reduce it. When you reduce saturation, it will show gray tones predominantly resulting in monochrome photos. However, if you reduce vibrancy it will impact only a few colours in the image so that the final result also displays muted tones.

When should you use saturation or vibrance?

The choice of using saturation or vibrance depends on the needs of the image. We recommend that you use both in sync so that you can control the saturation intensity while simultaneously pushing the dull tones.

For small edits, you must determine whether to use vibrance or saturation from the raw look of the photo. If the colours are dull, you can choose saturation and increase the vividness of the image. But photos that have different colour intensities or specific sections that are sensitive to saturation you can go for vibrance.

If you are editing portraits, it is best to use vibrance since saturation could create a negative effect on the skin tone. You can also use the saturation and vibrance sliders together and increase the overall colour of the image. This allows you to preserve the natural balance of the image.


Adjusting the intensity of colours can transform your photos. However, saturation is not an easy tool to master and might make the image look unnatural in many situations. Vibrance offers a subtle method of adjusting colours. It does this without impacting the natural skin tones and offers a toned-down look.

We hope the above tips were helpful to understand the usage of saturation and vibrance. The image editing division of SBL can help you edit your photos perfectly by balancing all intricate details. Give us a call to know more.