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Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Lesson 29 of 36

Introduction To Color & Painting

Dave Cross

Foundations of Adobe Photoshop CC

Dave Cross

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Lesson Info

29. Introduction To Color & Painting

Lesson Info

Introduction To Color & Painting

Let's talk a little bit, switch gears a little bit and talk about the world of color in Photoshop, and the different way-- I guess I'll leave that open for now. So we use color in different ways in Photoshop, often for things like changing the color of certain pixels, like previously I made a selection and filled it with white, or I've added a shape that was red, or whatever it is. So obviously, color is an important aspect of how we're working. Generally, when we open a photograph that's already color, we're in this mode called RGB, which is only important to know that that's just the way the color is described as red, green, blue. Sometimes if you're preparing for printed purposes, we need to use a different mode of CMYK if your printer wants that, but that's less of the discussion I want to talk about, I want to talk more about how we pick a color and how we use them and things of that nature. So, I want to add something to this document, whatever it might be. But I want to do it in...

a certain color. So I have several choices available to me as to how I access a color. Typically, I'm gonna change my foreground color, 'cause that's what will happen, whatever I do next. If I paint with my paintbrush or I add a shape or something else, it's gonna typically use my foreground color. However, the good news is, as long as you do it on its own layer you can always change it. So I'm gonna add a new layer and say, for now, I'm just gonna make a big rectangle I wanna fill with some color. So what color do I want and why do we need to choose it? So option one is to go to the Color Picker, which is actually where the foreground color is, you actually click on that. Click right on it and it opens this thing called the Color Picker. I always annunciate that very carefully 'cause about five years ago by mistake I said "color pickle," and that became its name for the whole rest of the class, so I'm gonna be very careful not to say that again. (laughs) So the Color Picker works like this: you can dial in specific numbers, so if someone you're working with says, "Our color is RGB blah, blah, blah, or CNYK values of these numbers," you can type them in. If you're using web-related stuff, this little field down at the bottom's called hexadecimal color, which is a web-based thing. So if all of these are just the same end result as you change those, your color will change. You can also just do it completely visually and say, "I want some shade of green." So I'm gonna click here on this rainbow to say somewhere in here, and then move this little circle around to say, maybe that color. So you have this one up here is saying "new." That's my new color. As I move it around, every so often, see that little triangle that's appearing with a little warning symbol? That's saying, "If you eventually changed this to print CMYK, that shade of green you're choosing is not printable in CMYK, I will switch to this color." And sometimes it's a little small shift in color, sometimes it goes from vibrant blue to dull purple. So you only have to worry about those warning symbols if you know, "I'm preparing something to actually go out to a printing company where they say, 'make sure it's in CMYK'", which is somewhat unusual today 'cause a lot of places don't worry so much about it, but that's what that's for. So don't worry about if you're doing something visually, just for your own purposes, for social media or something else, that's not a worry. Whatever you choose, you click OK. That's your new foreground color, but nothing has happened yet, all I've done is picked the color, I haven't applied it. Like a lot of things in Photoshop, that will stay my foreground color until I change it again. So, which is fine, there's no worry about that, except don't be surprised if you go to use a paintbrush and go, "Why is it green?" Well, because you had picked green some time ago. In this case, I made a new layer. I'm gonna chose Fill under Edit, and say use my foreground color. Remember I'm always filling at 100% opacity, and then if I need to I will change opacity here. Anytime I have a selection I wanna make sure once I'm finished I'm done with it, so I deselect to move on. And now I have that element filled with that color. And that remains my color from now on. So that's option one. Another option is to go to swatches, which are just a whole series of colors that Adobe has provided. I wanna make it clear that just because these colors were provided for you doesn't make them necessarily good or bad, they're just colors. So Adobe just said, "Hey, if you don't wanna click on the Color Picker and find your own, here's a bunch of colors for ya." What I will say is, though, they ignored completely anything to do with CMYK, because some of the first colors in there there's no way those will ever print in CMYK, 'cause typically the bright, vibrant blues and purples, it will never work. So the fact that they're in there in the very first row suggests they didn't think about that, which is fair enough, as long as you know. So again, these aren't good or bad or anything, they're just, "Here are some colors for you." What I would use this for is if I'm working with a client, a high school, a corporate company who says, "These are our colors. We always use this green and this gold," and they give you the values of them. I would go into my Color Picker and I would dial in those values that they said, then I would choose Add to Swatches, and I would call it, Corp, you know, whatever their company is, ABC, green, and now it's in my Swatches panel. So instead of every time I need that green anymore, instead of me going for the Color Picker, I know it's right there, and eventually if I hover over it maybe the name will show up, maybe not, something it usually does but it's not going to today, eventually it would, no I guess not. Oh there we go! Phew, just have to wait long enough. So this way now you know, instead of me going, "What was that color again and where did I write that down?" It's just built in there. So it's another form of preset that you can create very easily. So that's probably where I would tend to use the Swatches panel more instead of just-- unless you just wanna say, "I just need, ah, that green right there is fine." It just saves you having to go the Color Picker. But the nice part is if you know these are the specific colors, you build them in there, and then they're available. The swatches at the very top are the most recently used. So these ones always stay in the same order. This bar at the top will change, 'cause it will say the last color used was this. So if you say, "Oh wait a minute. A few minutes ago I used the right shade of red," it will appear up in that bar. The other possibility: let's say, "You know what? I really like that blue right there, that's the color I want, it's from the photograph." So what I do is I take the Color Picker, but instead of trying to go here, I zoom my mouse outside the Color Picker, I get a little Eyedropper and go, "I want this color, or that color." So now you're actually picking a color from the image. So it's just a different way of doing it, it's just a visual way instead of going to a preexisting swatch or yourself dialing in numbers or just, "I like that visually, that color is the one that I want." I didn't think ahead to set this up easily. It's a little more complicated, but just so you know, Photoshop is so smart that if you move your eyedropper in the Photoshop, it doesn't just pick up colors from Photoshop, but if you could move over a little bit and see there's a website in the background behind me, you could actually move the eyedropper outside Photoshop and click on something outside Photoshop and pick that as the color. I can't really demonstrate that easily 'cause I didn't think ahead of time to set that up, but if you can see it, you just start in the window and then click and drag right out to whatever other window you can see, and then you can sample a color from somewhere else. I mentioned previously a little bit about this app called Capture CC that Adobe has as another way now to make swatches is you actually point your camera and say, "I really like that color combination of this building." So you take a picture, or I should say as you move it it actually takes little dots and says, "Are these the colors you want?" And you say, "Yes," and when you hit OK and save it, it shows up in your creative library as swatches that are available, which is really, really cool and very simple to use. Now the other way we could do this is similar to what we talked about with the Eyedropper but on the fly. So if I was gonna add another layer, and I'm gonna take my Paintbrush, by default, the paintbrush will assume you want to use your current foreground color. So I'm about to start painting away, and that's not really the color I want, I want that orange over there. But I don't wanna move my mouse away, 'cause I wanna start painting right here, I guess I have to, but instead of going to the Color Picker, I just hold down the Alt key, and, oh look, it's the little Eyedropper, so you can click and then start painting. So what this can be really useful for, if you're painting right in here somewhere, you start painting with orange and then say, "But I want this blue now, and I want this color here." So on the fly, each time I'm just pausing holding down Alt to turn it to the Eyedropper so I can sample that nearby color, so that can be quite useful for situations where you're trying to add a bit of color into something that's already existing. You need to sample it from that exact area instead of going to the Color Picker first. And this is another case we talked about before where the cursor will change. So if you're like, "Wait a minute, what do I hold down again?" Nope, nope, yep. So you just keep pulling it out and keying until you see that Eyedropper and now you know, okay, now I'm sampling this color. And then I can start painting with it. And of course, I hope it goes without saying that we generally want to be doing this painting on a separate layer, as opposed to right on the background layer. Hopefully that's ingrained in your brains by now with me saying it 4,000 times so far. I think my world record is 5,001 class of saying, "Don't ever touch the background layer!" Okay, so previously I, a couple times, have said, use the Fill command to apply this color. So let's say that I took my Eyedropper and I said, "I really think I want this orange." So how would I change this existing layer that has this green rectangle on it to a different color? So the simple answer is you can use Fill, but with a little twist, 'cause if I just went to the Edit menu and choose Fill with Foreground Color, and be OK, and it would fill the entire layer, 'cause I didn't tell it otherwise. When I first made the rectangle, I still had an active selection, but I don't anymore. So I'd have to do one of two things. I'd have to either reselect this bar, these pixels, or tell Photoshop to only change the color of the pixels that are already there. So the first option would be to make a selection, the same selection again. And one of the simplest things we can do in Photoshop, it's actually very nice, if you already have something on a layer by itself, 'member, all that's on that layer is that gray bar, everything else is transparent. If you wanna make a selection of that, Command or Ctrl-click on the layer will make a selection out of whatever pixels are on that layer. Now normally, day-to-day there's no reason to select something on it, 'cause it's already on it's own layer. But the whole point is, I only wanna fill those same pixels. Now if I go back to Edit and choose Fill, Foreground Color, it just changes just that area. So that's one option, which is simple enough. The other one, though, we haven't really touched on this a whole lot, actually at all. I've mentioned before that the background layer has that little padlock symbol but it's not really locked. There are commands that let you lock things, so let's look up here. Right above this layer see it says Lock? And there's all these little icons. The very first one is called Lock Transparent Pixels, which means now the only pixels I can change are the pixels that are actually there. In other words, anything that's see-through won't be affected. So just to demonstrate that, now that I have that turned on, Lock Transparent Pixels, my foreground color is orange. If I take my Paintbrush, see how it's not doing anything down here? It's only affecting the pixels that are actually there. So this could be very nice for things like shading if you wanna do some shading on something so it will only get the edge of it, not the whole thing. Or in this case, now that I've locked the transparent pixels, if I choose Fill and click OK, it only changed those colors 'cause I said, "Don't affect the transparent areas. Preserve, or lock them." So this is gonna be really useful for situations where you've already done something, you've changed your mind and you don't wanna go through the whole effort of making a complex selection. If you're trying to change the color of every pixel but leave the transparency alone, that's the simplest way to do it, is preserve transparency. Here's the only little warning label on this technique, is don't forget you did that, because now that layer is locked transparent from now on, until I turn it off. So here's a typical sample of what happens to people 'cause they're not thinking through the whole, "What happens if I lock it? I've forgotten that I've locked it, so I'm like, okay, I want this bar to not have such a hardness, I wanna blur it to make the edge really soft." So of course, I could just go to the Filter menu and choose Gaussian Blur and at this point, I should be seeing a really blurry edge because I've got this set up really high. Well, the reason it's not working is the way the Gaussian Blur filter works is it pushes the pixels into the transparent areas to make them blurry. But I've said, lock the transparent pixels, so the Gaussian Blur goes, "I can't do anything." So this is an example of where as much as the lock transparent pixels helped us for filling, it's now not helping us at all for the next step. So when someone asks, "Well, when should I turn on Preserve Transparency?" Guess what the answer is. It depends. If you're trying to do something like Fill, yes, turn it on. If you're trying to do some other effect and you realize, why is it not working? Look at it and say, "Well, wait a minute. That's because this is turned on." If I turn it off by clicking it again and now go back and try it again, ah, there we go. So there's sometimes in Photoshop, in fact, quite often, there's no black and white answer to say, "Always do this or always do that." That's why I only said my joke and said the answer's always "It depends," 'cause it is. It depends on what you're trying to do that will help you determine whether you need a setting or not. So if you're ever uncertain, just try it. If you're like, "I wonder if I need Preserve Transparency in this case?" If you're not quite sure, the simplest way is turn on that little check box, try it, "Oop, no, that's not right," turn it back off, and that way you can find out. And the more you do that, then you start to realize, "Oh, wait a minute. I'd better do that ahead of time." Now one way to avoid that worry is I've turned off Preserve Transparency. So right now if I did the Fill command normally, again it would fill the whole thing. So if I go back to Fill and said Foreground Color, but look down here. There's a checkbox that says Preserve Transparency. So now it's a one-shot deal. Instead of locking the layer and making it potentially permanent, I just click on here, and now it gives the same effect, but now I know the layer's not locked transparency anymore. So that's another possibility to do it as kind of a one-shot deal. So there's always multiple choices to do that.

Class Description

Join Dave Cross in this beginner friendly class starting at the very basics with Adobe® Photoshop® CC. You’ll learn how to begin navigating the software and what the best practices and work habits are to approach different projects.

Dave will cover:

  • Working non destructively on your files
  • How to resize, crop, and straighten images
  • Using layers with basic layer examples
  • Adding text, color, and painting to images
  • How to retouch and adjust images using selections and masks
  • Learn how to use the tools you need to create the image you want. Dave will demonstrate using sample workflows that take you through projects from start to finish.

Don't have Adobe Photoshop yet? Get it now so you can follow along with the course!

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Adobe Stock Contributor

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Quick Notes Guide

Landscape Image for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait Missing Element for Practice Edit

Senior Portrait With Element for Practice Edit

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I really like Dave's methodical teaching style. Step by step works best for my learning processes. He also has a lovely voice to listen to during his classes, that is important if you have to listen to someone talk for any length of time. I also like the "dance" he does by explaining what he is going to do, then does it, and then comes back to explaining the choices he made and why. Very, very easy to follow him in his straight forward explanations. He increased my understanding of so many tools I use and so many I have never used. Wow! Photoshop with Dave took away a lot of "fear"! (Wish I had a "happy face" to place here!) I bought this class today because I don't think I can get along without it!

Jim Bellomo

I was so lucky to get to attend this class in person here in Seattle. I have been a fan of Dave's for years and own a number of his courses from Creative Live. When this class was announced I almost decided to skip it since it was listed as a "beginners" class but decided that it "might" be worth it. One of the reasons I wanted to take it was that I am self-taught. I had started with Photoshop 5 (not CS5 but 5) about 15 years ago (at least). I figured it I took this class I might learn a little something that would help me in my work. Well, two days later I have 18 pages of handwritten notes, a whole new way to work and it has already paid off in a huge way in my daily workflow. I bill out my hours at around $100 an hour as a graphic designer and marketing person. That means in the two days that I spent 10 hours a day taking the class and commuting to it, it cost me about $2000 in working time. But it didn't. I can guarantee that I am way ahead on this one. I l learned so much. The real world things I learned will pay off for a very long time. Within one day after the class I had already started changing my workflow to be more non-destructive and faster. Dave is an awesome teacher and I can't say enough good things about this class. Even if you think you know Photoshop, you don't. I teach it in my small world but I learned so much.


A writer and an old person (over 60), I rarely use neat exaggerations like "great" or "fantastic," and never say "awesome" in the currently fashionable manner. However, I would call this class both great and excellently planned. Cross is well-spoken and a consummate teacher with a rarely non-irritating voice. It is information packed, clearly presented, well-organized, and extremely helpful. I wish I could afford his others.