How to Use Color Range in Photoshop CC

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In this Photoshop CC tutorial, we’ll take a look at the power of the Color Range tool in Photoshop. We will look at selecting entire swatches of color, specific tones, how to refine a color range selection, how to make a difficult selection and use it as a mask for an Adjustment Layer, and much more! If you use Photoshop and you ever create selections, this tutorial might be just for you.

1. Selecting a Range of Colors

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Color Range is very useful for quickly selecting a portion of your image based on color, tone, or custom areas. Let’s begin by selecting a color range within our image. To select the yellow portion of the photo Go Select>Color Range and from the drop down menu choose “Yellows”. Hit OK and you will have a selection that may be hard to see, but Photoshop has tried to select all of the yellow colors it could find within your image.

2. Change the Leaves From Yellow to…

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Now that we have a selection, go Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue Saturation and drag the Hue slider to the left a little to make the leaves a little more orange and maybe also pump up the saturation a little bit. NOTE: The Adjustment Layer will automatically convert your selection to a layer mask so the adjustment will only attack the yellow colors in this image.

3. Change the Color of the Smoke by Sampling Colors

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With this image of the guy with the smoke bomb, we’re again going to go Select>Color Range and this time, choose “Sampled Colors” from the drop down menu. Use the eyedropper icon to select the color that you wish to change. Notice that it appears in the little black/white preview. Let’s move on to the next step before we close the dialog box. TIP: Use the Fuzziness slider to expand/constrict your selected area.

4. Customize the Selection

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You can hold down your Shift key and click with the eyedropper tool to add additional colors to the selection, or hold down the Alt/Opt key and get rid of colors that you don’t want in the selection to really hone your selection and get just the areas that you would like to have selected. Here I am trying to get as much of the smoke selected, while selecting the least bits of background that I can (we’re going to have to adjust our mask when we create it no matter what, so don’t worry if your selection doesn’t look perfect here.)

5. Painting the Mask

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Once you have created that selection and added a Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer you will have a mask. Alt/Opt click on the mask to work directly on the mask and grab your Brush tool (B) and paint with black over the black areas that need to be cleaned up and do the same for the white areas.

6. Level Out the Mask

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Hit Cmd/Ctrl + L to open the Levels adjustment while editing this mask and drag the black and white input sliders inward to pump up the blacks and white and really clean up the mask and push away any semi-gray areas.

7. Final Touches

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Alt/Opt click the mask thumbnail again to get back to the regular image and look at the smoke and find little areas that need to be cleaned up and paint with black on your mask to hide the color effect or paint with white to show more color where needed.

Make sure you watch the video above to really get a good idea of what you can do with this tool and watch me create this and other effects with help from the Color Range tool. It’s a pretty awesome feature!

Nathaniel Dodson
I make videos about being creative with photography, design, and filmmaking. I'm a commercial photographer, a logo designer, a camera nerd, an artist, a wannabe thinker, and I like to read books. I arrived on planet earth in the year 1989.