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How to Use Selective Color in Photoshop

We know that colors put life in the image. Sometimes you might want to make some colors stand out in the image. Whereas, other times a color might be too distracting that you would want to dim it down a little bit. Well, guess what, you can easily do that using selective color. Not many photographers use this technique as they consider it too complex. But once you go through this guide, you will learn how to use selective color in Photoshop in an efficient manner.

Understanding Selective Color

As the name suggests, the selective color gives us control over the color modification in our images. We can not only highlight color but also make it less distracting. There are two ways of using selective color in Photoshop. 

The first method is by directly using the Selective Color Tool provided by Photoshop. You can only use it to modify individual colors.

Whereas, in the second method, you convert the image to black and white. This conversion is done while highlighting one color from the image. As you can imagine, this process is used to make a color stand out in a black and white image.

Using Selective Color Tool

As we discussed, two ways can be used to learn how to use selective color in Photoshop. In this article, we will discuss how you can do it by using the tool.

This tool is a lot more flexible than the other process as you do not have to convert the image into black and white for this purpose. Also, a great advantage for portrait photographers is that they can use this tool for removing redness or color casts on the skin.

Before we start the process, it would be better to create a duplicate background layer. If you have not heard about it, then this step ensures non-destructive editing. For instance, if you perform edits on your original image and something goes wrong, then you lose that image. However, in this case, the edits are done on the duplicate layer. Hence, the original image is always secure. You can create a duplicate layer by pressing Ctrl/Command+J.

Flower in red - How to Use Selective Color in Photoshop

Step 1:

In the first step of learning how to use selective color in Photoshop, you have to add an Adjustment Layer. As the theme of this article goes, there are again two ways to do this step. 

First, head into the Layer menu at the top. There you will see New Adjustment Layer. Once you click it, you will see the option to add Selective Color

Alternatively, you can use the Adjustment Layer icon for adding the Selective Color Layer. You can find this icon under the Layers panel. 

After you have done this, you will see that a new layer is created above that duplicate layer.

Step 2:

This is the most important step of the whole process. You will now see how to modify and adjust individual colors. In other words, the real magic of selective color in Photoshop happens in this step. 

Firstly, you have to double-click on the Adjustment Layer that you just added. It will open the properties panel. There, you will see six primary color channels which are Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, and Magentas. In addition to these main color channels, you will also see Whites (Highlights), Neutral (Midtones), and Blacks (Shadows). 

To adjust an individual color, just select it. However, the panel might vary a little in different versions of Photoshop. Let us start with a basic one. If you see sliders with opposite colors on both ends, then such as red on one side and cyan on another side, you can move the slider away from the one that you want to tone down. Similarly, if you want to highlight color, then just move the slider towards it.

Whereas, if you see a panel that has Relative or Absolute written below the colors, then you can use Relative for general use and Absolute for less subtle changes. After you select a mode, select an individual color, for instance, red. Next, you will see some sliders below it. In the case of Red, you can use the Cyan slider to modify its tone. 

Step 3:

Lastly, we just have to add a Layer Mask to specify the areas where we want to apply the selective color in Photoshop. For this purpose, add the Layer Mask next to the Adjustments Layer and then choose a paintbrush. Using the brush, paint over the areas. The edits will be applied to the white parts of the image, whereas the black parts will remain unchanged.

Conclusion - How to Use Selective Color in Photoshop

As you saw, it was pretty easy to learn how to use selective color in Photoshop. You can not only use this powerful tool in Portrait but Lifestyle photography as well. Only limit to the use of this tool is your creativity. You want to pop up a color or dim it, or maybe change it altogether, the selective color will help you in doing so. 

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