Color Range Window
Photo Processing

How to use Photoshop to Selectively Edit Colors in Your Photos

There are several tools in Adobe Photoshop like the Hue / Saturation and Color Balance Adjustment Layers that allow you to do selective color adjustment.  The problem is that these adjustments layers will affect the color across the entire image. 

What if you only want to modify a specific color in only a certain portion of the image?  You could use a layer mask and paint in those areas you want to affect.  But there is an easier way.

Use the Color Range Selection Tool

Under the Select Menu in Photoshop, there is a selection tool called Color Range that will give you a lot more flexibility and precision in editing colors in your images.

Using the Hue / Saturation Layer with a Layer Mask Created with Color Range
Using the Hue / Saturation Layer with a Layer Mask Created with Color Range

In this blog, I’ll explain how to use the Color Range and Select and Mask tools and give you step by step instructions on how to use them.

If you want the Color Range selection tool to automatically create a mask on a layer, create a new layer with a layer mask and select that layer.  If you do this, you won’t be able to use the Select and Mask tool on this selection as this tool uses the selection from Color Range. 

You can create a layer mask from this selection by creating an adjustment layer either from the Adjustments Panel or through the Layer Menu.

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Here are the Steps to use the Color Range and Select and Mask tools.

How to Use the Color Range Selection Tool

Select Menu Color Range
Select Menu Color Range

1. Under the Select Menu, Click on Color Range and a window will pop up.

2. There is a drop down menu at the top of the window with the title Select.  This gives you several ways to create the selection.  I like to use Sampled Colors. I’ll discuss the other methods late on in the blog post.  In this method, you click on the color that you want to edit in the image.  A black and white image in the Color Range window will show you which area of the photo will be selected.

Color Range Window
Color Range Window

3. Use the Fuziness slider to determine the tolerance for how similar you want the selection to be to the color you selected.  Moving the slider to the right increases the tolerance and moving it to the left decreases the tolerance.

4. Use the Range slider to indicate how much of the image (from the point you selected) will be included in the selection.

By using the Fuziness and Range sliders you can dial in a very specific area of the image / color that you want to edit.

You can also use the + and – eye droppers to add and subtract from the selection.

5. When you are done with your selection, click the OK button.  If you have a Layer with a Layer Mask selected, Photoshop will automatically create a Layer Mask from the selection.

Using the Select and Mask Tool

Select and Mask Tool
Select and Mask Tool

1. Click on Select and Mask from the Select Menu.  It will use the selection from the Color Range tool.

2. Select and Mask has several sliders to let you further adjust your selection.  Here you can smooth out the selection and feather the selection so the edges are blurred / softened.  You can also move the edge of the selection in or out.

Select and Mask Window
Select and Mask Window

3. In the Output Drop Down, choose how you want the selection to be output.  You can choose several methods to output your selection – as a selection, layer with layer mask, new document, etc.

4. Click on OK to output your selection.

Other Methods to Create Selections using the Color Range Selection Tool

In the example above, we used the Sampled Colors method to create our selection.  This is the one I use the most and is the most flexible.

Color Range Selection Method
Color Range Selection Method

You can also choose one of the Colors (Reds, Yellows, Cyans, etc.). The same ones you get in the Hue / Saturation adjustment layer.  However, the Fuziness and Range sliders are greyed out so you can’t further refine this selection.

Color Range Highlight Selection
Color Range Highlight Selection

The Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows selections can be useful.  They will create a selection based on the luminosity in the image.  They do have Fuziness and Range sliders to further adjust the selection.

The Color Range and Select and Mask tools provide a lot of flexibility to create selections and masks to allow you to very selectively edit your images.

Written by Martin Belan

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