Color Range has always been one of the easiest ways to create an intricate mask in Photoshop. Adobe began improving it with Photoshop CS4, and PS CC now offers more control than ever. Masks are essential for affecting only selected regions, whether youíre correcting an image or being creative. If you donít already use Color Range, I think youíll want to try it once you see how easy it is to use. Start by choosing Select > Color Range to open the dialog box.
Using Sampled Colors†
Probably the most common approach is to use the default Sampled Colors option in the Select drop down to target a range of colors in order to change their hue, saturation, or luminance. With the addition of Localized Color Clusters in CS4, masks created this way are much more targeted and accurate than they used to be.
Channels can help make detailed selections, but even after applying a steep Curve to the Red channel, too much of this flower remains selected.In CS6, Color Range added the option of selecting by Skin Tones. I wonít go into detail on selecting skin tones since there really arenít many options. Click on Skin Tones in the Select list, and if too much of the image gets selected, try enabling Detect Faces, which becomes available when Localized Color Clusters is checked. Use the Fuzziness slider to restrict the selection even more, if possible. Frankly, I have more luck selecting skin with other methods than I have choosing Skin Tones, even when using Detect Faces, but itís quick to try, and sometimes it works well.
††In the top image, Skin Tones selected all pinks, but not the red hair. Enabling Detect Faces deselected many pinks, but selected the red hair. In the next image, success was reversed, patchily capturing the face with Skin Tones, but then selecting the hat with Detect Faces. In the bottom images, using Detect Faces with Sampled Color still didnít guarantee success.†Using Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows
While selecting regions based on their color often yields good results, selecting based on tonal values has never been customizableóuntil Photoshop CC. Now you can specify a range of values when you select Shadows, Midtones, or Highlights, and the familiar Fuzziness slider lets you soften the transition between values. The added control will increase your productivity and enhance creative results.
The more high- or low-key an image is, the more youíll want to be able to influence the values Color Range selects. CS6 canít help you select only the very deepest shadows, or include a wider range in the highlights, but selections are adjusted easily in CC, as shown in the first two screenshot comparisons below. In the third, more extreme example, Color Range in CS6 isnít even able to select a desired portion of the image along with other Midtones, but in CC, it can easily reconsider what a midtone should be.
†In these examples, the CS6 version is on the left. Top to bottom, selections are for Shadows, Highlights, and Midtones, respectively. When images donít have an ďaverageĒ tonal range, Color Range in CC demonstrates a distinct advantage over earlier versions.When you want to take creative control over your image, being able to select your tonal range can make a significant difference. In the B&W image below, I adjusted the ranges in PS CC for each value so there would be very little overlap. I then used Hue/Saturation with Colorize enabled to split tone the image based on the masks Color Range created, which left the highlights uncolored. I decided to warm up the highlights slightly with a Photo Filter Adjustment layer and the adjusted Highlights mask. I repeated the process with identical adjustments in CS6, except those masks were auto-created by the program.
†The new Color Range in CC (left) lets you adjust your selections to better separate shadows from midtones, and midtones from highlights than the automatic selection in CS6 (right).Using Camera Raw Instead of Color Range
For the third attempt, I didnít use Color Range at all, but ran the Camera Raw filter in order to use Split Tone. Split Tone only divides the image into two values, and while it's possible to adjust where the overlap occurs along the tonal range, you canít isolate one range from another. Although I tried to match the results Iíd produced using Color Range with Adjustment layers, split-toning in Camera Raw blended the colors together, tending towards a brownish tint with little color contrast.
Camera Rawís Split-Tone feature divides the image into shadows and highlights based on user input, and comes closer to creating an overall tint, rather than toning with distinctly separate colors.Thereís no correct or incorrect method to adjust color and tone, but some methods offer you more control than others. Photoshopís enhancements to Color Range have come a long way towards giving you the kind of control that will reduce your frustration making selections, and increase the amount of time you spend being creative and producing the results you want.
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