Color Range Mask
One thing that changed my workflow almost forever was using something called the color range selection. So I brought the color wheel up here very specifically because this is a PNG layer, and a PNG can be moved anywhere we want it to, we can move this because it has a transparent background, we can move this over on top of this image, and we can see exactly our color wheel on top of this photograph. The reason why I put this color wheel on top of this photograph is not because I want the color wheel to be a composite in the image, but I want to show you how we can use something like color range masks to find and select certain areas in the image based on a color that we select. We can use this with the color wheel on there or without it. Let's just go ahead and we'll keep the color wheel on there for now and we'll go to select and we'll go to color range. Again, lots of options, run, hide, get scared. Up here, what do we want it to select? Well, we have the option to select a sampled c...
olor that we tell Photoshop to select, or we have a drop-down menu here. We can very specifically tell Photoshop to grab the areas of red, grab the areas of yellow, grab the areas of green, cyan, blue, we can all read, magenta, and then highlights, midtones, shadows, and even skin tones. So you can separate these things very easily just by clicking on these individual areas. If I say reds, notice how Photoshop is selecting anything in this image that might be remotely red. If we look at the selection here we can change this to the image. The selection preview that we're seeing is actually what's happening in the background here, so if I change this to grayscale, we'll see in a grayscale what Photoshop is selecting, and that's exactly what the mask would look like. Exactly what the mask would look like. If we change this to a black matte, that doesn't help. White matte. What that's showing me is it's showing me all of the red that it's going to select on a white matte, the one before was on a black matte. A little bit easier to see on a white matte. That's showing me any of the colors that will be selected from this color range set to red, and then we also have the quick mask. Let's go ahead and change this to grayscale. Now that's if I use something and say, reds. If I say red it's gonna find any pixel value in this image that is remotely close to the color red. But notice how I don't get any other selections here. So if I change this to something like sampled color, and then if I were to go ahead and click on that red there, what you can do is you can either click somewhere on this image here on the image in the background to get the color that you want. So depending on what you have set up, if we have this set up to the selection and we have this set up to none, then we can click anywhere on this photograph and make our mask the same way. So with this set to sampled colors, I told it "select that color red," so it's selecting exactly that color red, but if I move this thing that says fuzziness, fuzziness I guess is a very technical term for "give me more," and I move this up it will give me more selection for wherever that color red is. However we don't have much outside of that 100 percent red. So let me click right here, now I'm selecting the red color bricks that look like that pixel. If I bring this fuzziness down to 40 it's basically saying, "This is the only area that I want you to select, is this very small selection." But as I bring this up it's allowing me to select anything that is within that color red that I selected, plus expand on those boundaries to give me more within that mask. And we can do that with any color. We can do that with even the blues. So notice how, if we wanted to replace the sky, I select the color blue, select that one area in the image that is the color blue, and now it's allowing me to make a mask specifically for that sky. So if I were to press shift here, I can select more than one color. I press shift and now I start to select more of those areas in the sky, it's allowing me to select those clouds too. Bring the fuzziness down, and now we have a great selection just for the sky. Very quickly, very easily, and we didn't even use something like the quick selection tool or the focus area tool, this is specifically saying exactly what you want Photoshop to select. So if I press OK on this, it's gonna go ahead and output that to a mask. Or to selection. I'm gonna go ahead and delete this color wheel at this point. I'll just turn the eyeball off on it for now. So what I can do with this, because I have a selection specifically just for that sky, I can go ahead and maybe make a curves adjustment layer. Just for that sky. And independently edit what's happening in the sky, independently from the rest of the photograph. So if I go ahead and just drop this down, make that a little bit darker, a little bit brighter, we're making the blues much more robust. And we're only doing it to that one area. Because we have this mask. Now if we look at that mask, we press alter option we look at that mask, we got a bunch of other stuff that's happening in there too, right? And we may not want that. So what do we do? Just paint with black. We're on the mask, we're looking at it. We press B for the brush tool, I've got that mask selected, get a larger brush, and I can start painting away any areas that I don't want to be affected in that selection. Much easier way to select the sky and get exactly what you want in there. Make that brush a little bit smaller, paint this away, and now those areas aren't being affected quite as much as they were before. Click away from it, now we've got that separated. Now the cool part about this is we already have that mask selected for the sky, right? What if we wanted to use that mask and invert it so we select the foreground. If I create a new curves adjustment layer here, we can steal that mask. We can press alt or option, click on that mask itself for the curves adjustment layer below, drag it up to this one, and it's gonna ask me, "Do you want to replace this blank layer mask with this layer mask?" Say yes, and then alter option click on that mask, command or control I, and now I've got a mask specifically for my foreground. Selecting my foreground from my background. So if we think about how we've been building this up now, we talked about layers, layers on their own, we talked about layers with opacity, we talked about layers with Blend If, we talked about layers with masking, now we're talking about layers with masking with selections, put all of this stuff together and you can do so much in one simple layer. So if I look at this layer, make this a little bit darker, make this a little bit brighter, I'm adjusting the contrast of this layer independently from the rest of the image, from the sky. Change this to something like the luminosity blend mode so it doesn't affect the color while it does that, and there we go. Another way that this can be really useful is to very specifically select the highlights, the midtones and the shadows, just like I had shown you before. So let's go ahead and open up another image where this would be pretty conducive for. Let's do this one. This is Sol Duc Falls in Olympic, beautiful place, can't wait to go back there. So if I wanted to select the highlights, the midtones and the shadows of this image and modify them independently, I could go up to select, go to color range, and if I change this right here to highlights notice how it's giving me anything in here that would be a highlight. The cool part about this also though is that I also have options for the range of that highlight similar to what we saw in something like Adobe Camera Raw or even very similar to what we saw with Blend If. So if I were to bring the, let's go ahead and change the preview here to grayscale so we can see what this would look like on our image. If I were to bring this down, I'm selecting more of the area that I would consider a highlight. Let's just go right here, very specifically for the waterfall. Bring this up, that's the fuzziness of that highlight, how much contrast is gonna be in there. This is how big of a selection, this is how much contrast we're gonna get in there. So let's bring the contrast up, drop this down a little bit, and that would be a selection for my highlights that I think would be pretty good for this image. So with that as a selection any adjustment layer that I select on here is going to allow me to modify just those highlights independently. Now a lot of times when I'm working with highlights, midtones and shadows I like to work with tonal-based adjustments. So again, you're gonna see me revert to the curve a lot. I love the curve, I think the curve is absolutely powerful. Call this "highlights," and I'm gonna go ahead and click on that background, go to select, go to color range, select midtones, this is gonna help me select those midtone areas. Again now you'll see that the slider is split. Why is the slider split? Because the midtones can be either a white or a black, right? So if we move this out we're getting more of the black areas in our midtones, we move this out we're getting more of the white areas in those midtones, so we'll just do something like that. This fuzziness again is gonna be the contrast of the mask that we're creating, whereas this is the finite selection. So this would have, if we did a fuzziness of zero, notice how we have a very hard edge. This would be a very horrible mask, okay? Because we want a smooth transition, we want a feathered transition. So if we go ahead and bring this fuzziness up a little bit, it's gonna add more contrast between those lights and darks to give us some more middle graze within our mask and then we can refine this a little bit to select a little bit less than that. If we go ahead and make another curves adjustment layer, this is now our midtones. Click on that background, go to select, go to color range, go to shadows, let's do that again so I can show you a little bit more. Select, color range, shadows, again it's only giving us one range here, 'cause a shadow is a shadow, but how big do we want that shadow to be? Do we want it to transition into our highlights, or do we want it to be pretty strict and maintain to its shadows? I think that's a pretty good selection right down here, bump that up a little bit, press okay. Now you might be wondering why I would bother doing this, because if you look at these, what I'm doing here I'm making something for my highlights, my midtones and my shadows. So if we look at something like Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, or any other program or plugin out there that lets us modify our raw files, what does it do? It does highlights, midtones and shadows, correct? But I challenge you to go into any one of those programs and tell me exactly what your shadows are. Do you know where they are? I don't. Can you be the one that selects exactly what those shadows are? No. But here I can. I can say exactly what I want those shadow areas to be and I get unprecedented control, that word is very important here, unprecedented control over those highlights, those midtones, and those shadows because I'm using curves adjustment layers. If I grab all three of these curves by pressing and holding shift, I can change all of their blend modes to luminosity, and now these are essentially luminosity masks made from color range. It's not a true luminosity mask and I'll show you those next, but these are created from the color range of what a midtone, a highlight, or a shadow would be. So now looking at these highlights, if I want to modify these I can make those highlight areas darker or brighter and I can do that specifically within the highlights highlights, the hightlights midtones, the highlights shadows. (imitates explosion) Are we there yet? Holy cow. Alright, so what I can do is I can brighten those up in the shadow areas of those highlights, and then dim them down in the midtone areas of those highlights. So I'm specifically brightening just the dark areas, just to highlight the dark areas of those highlights. Boom, look at that. Man, oh man, love it. Every time, every time. And then I can brighten those areas up while maintaining those midtone values of those highlights to not have anything blow out. Now if I look at the midtones, same thing is true here. Midtones might need a little bit more brightening here, I can clip them in a little bit. If I press and hold alt or option that's showing me where things would be blowing out in the midtone areas by pressing alt or option when I click that. But again, make those midtones a little bit, have a little bit more depth in them, make them darker, make them brighter. Little S curve there. S curve is typical curve that's really used to make your darks darker and your lights lighter while maintaining those midtone areas, adds constrast, adds depth. We look at our shadows, we can make those shadows maybe a little bit darker, maybe a little bit brighter in the bright areas of those shadows. So if we zip this down by clicking and holding and zipping down, there's the before, there's the after. And I just have more control over it. And again, it doesn't stop there. I still have opacity, I still have Blend If, I still have all the other things that I can do here. Now if we look at this mask, speaking of Blend If, looking at these highlight areas, we double click on this, we get into our Blend If options, turn that color overlay on, remember? Now we can go into our Blend If options and we can start protecting some of our highlight areas within the highlight areas. Holy cow, alt or option, split and feather, look at that. What that helps me do there is it allows me to amplify those highlight areas without letting them blow out with that curve. Because that curve is now, the selection is here, this is the selection, the curve is modifying everything that's happening within there. But as I do that if I go a little too heavy handed with this, the Blend If options are restricting me from blowing out too much of those highlighted areas. So I know that's a pretty advanced thing, but just think about all the steps that we've taken to get to this point. We've already talked about Blend If, we've already talked about blend modes, we've talked about opacity, now we're just stacking all of this stuff together. There's another type of selection that we can do with this that actually uses channels. If we go in and open up this image, I don't want to confuse you too much with channels because channels are actually a lot more difficult than you would gather. 'Cause if we go over to channels here and we look at this, what these channels are telling us is that this RGB image, this red green blue image, is created from a red channel that looks like this, a green channel that looks like this, and a blue channel that looks like this. When they're all layered on top of each other, the colors that we get in the RGB image are exactly what you're seeing in front of us. We can split those up though if we were to just look at the blues, that's what information is in blue. This is the information that's in green, this is the information that's in red. Okay? But red is not necessarily red. I know that sounds really weird, but let's go ahead and open up our color wheel and look at the channels. Look at red. What is red? Red is now a little bit more, if you look at anything that's white, it's gonna tell you what's in the red channel. So what's in the red channel? It's not jut red. It's actually red, a little bit of magenta, yellow, orange, all of those colors exist in the color red. If we look at the color green, green is actually green, cyan and yellow. So we can't think of channels as being specifically red or specifically blue, they're any colors that are within the range of the color blue feathering out, spreading on the color wheel. So if we look at things as far as building the color range masks that we did before, if you were to make a mask from any one of these selections for the color red if I press control and click on this, control clicking on any layer or any layer mask will give me a selection for that layer or layer mask. Now what this is actually doing is if we look at this as the color red, by itself this is a mask. Black is not gonna be affected, white will be affected, this is essentially a mask. Right? So if I click, control click on here, that will give me a mask for my color red. If I control click on green, that will give me a mask for the color green, if I control click on blue, that will give me a mask for the color blue. However I do not want you to confuse that by going up to select and going to color range and going to red. That mask is totally different, right? Because this is specifically red pixels. That's not the red channel, okay? So it's not a channel selection, these are pixel-based selections. Yellow, more importantly let's go to something like green which has a channel. There's nothing in here in the color green. But the green channel does have data in it. So you can actually make masks specifically from your channels, so if I wanted to go in just to my reds, I can control click on those reds, go back to my layers, and make a curves adjustment layer, and this is gonna affect anything that is in the red channel. See that? Look at that. Man, love it. Really quick, really fast, but we have to look at the data that's in that channel to understand what exactly is being selected with that mask. Looking at the data within this channel, anything that's white is gonna take a very serious affect from that red channel. If we look at green, anything that's white is gonna be essentially the mask and what we're affecting, and blue, likewise, same thing. Now these all have very similar color data to them.