Photoshop Tutorial: Selective Color Manipulation

In this video, Bryan O’Neil Hughes explains how to use selective coloring in your photos using Photoshop:

Most people who have a bit of knowledge of using Photoshop know about the Hue/Saturation tool and might think selective color is easy. But try doing this quickly on a selective area of the photo and you might realize that it’s not so simple after all.

selective coloring in photoshop

While adjusting the hue and saturation tool is a great place to start, you need to know some additional tricks.

The Hue/Saturation tool is a great place to start with selective color manipulation. For beginner Photoshop users, dragging the saturation slider allows you to saturate or de-saturate the colors easily. Similarly, if you move the hue slider, the colors on the image will change across the entire spectrum.

But that is not what you want. What you need is to be able to do these changes selectively.

Using the Quick Select Tool

photoshop quick selection tool

Use the quick selection tool.

The quick select tool allows you to, well, quickly select an area that you wish to manipulate. If you happen to select too much, simply press Option (Alt) and then drag the tool to cancel out the area that you don’t need.

Back to Hue/Saturation Tool

using layer mask with quick selection tool

The Hue/Saturation tool now shows the new layer mask.

Now when you get back to the Hue/Saturation adjustment tool you will notice that you have created a mask. In other words, now when you drag the hue or saturation slider you are only going to affect the selected area while the rest of the image remains unaffected.

The On-Image Tool

The on-image tool is a slightly better and more convenient way to work with the Hue/Saturation sliders. Simply click and then drag on the image to change the saturation. Even more interesting is that if you hold down the command key and then drag the mouse around you can change the color.

To top it all, with the Lightness tool you can change how dark or light the color would be.

The Black & White Adjustment Layer

What if you want to have some part of the image in color and the rest of the image in black & white? Here is how you do it:

  • Click on the Black & White adjustment layer tool. The whole image is going to be B&W now.
  • Now, provided that you still have that layer wherein you selected the area you need to manipulate, click on it and drag it to the top of the B&W adjustment layer. If prompted by PS about replacing the layer mask, click ‘Yes’.
  • You’ll notice that the whole image, barring the selected area, will be in color and the selection area will be B&W.
  • You need to invert this by clicking ‘Invert’ in the new properties dialogue that opens.
selective coloring in photoshop using quick selection tool and layer mask

An Example of Selective Color

Finally, you have the image that you need, a splash of color on an otherwise B&W photo!

For more refinements, drag the density tool to fine tune the color or feather the edges of the mask by dragging the Feather tool.

Do you use this method for selective adjustments?

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