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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week I'm going to show you how to take a perfectly serviceable red car and we're going to turn it gold, so that it's worth more, especially in a down economy. Now, if you've spent any time in Photoshop, you know how to do this one. You use the Hue/Saturation command to limit your modifications to just the reds so that you, for example, don't change the blues of the sky and so forth. However, the big problem with that trick--and we'll review it upfront--is that nine times out of ten, it doesn't work.
I'm going to show you a technique that does work. Here, let me show you exactly how that thing that works works. All right, so we have this vintage red car set against this blue background. It comes to us from William McCarthy of the Fotolia image library, about which you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke, and let's say we want to take the red car and we want to make it gold. Well, if you've ever seen a Photoshop demo in your life, you know how this goes. You press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on a Mac, and you drop down to this black-white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and you choose Hue/Saturation.
Because you have the Alter or Option key down, that brings up the New Layer dialog box. Let's go in and call this layer 'red to gold,' and I'll click OK. Then you'll find yourself inside the Adjustments panel. Now if you begin to modifying the Hue values right off the bat like so, then you're going to change all of the Hue values inside the image, so you're spinning the entire color wheel. Obviously, we don't want to do that, so go ahead and restore that Hue value to zero. Instead, you take advantage of this Target Adjustment tool. Go ahead and click on it. Now if you begin dragging inside the reds, you'll change their Saturation values.
What we want to do is change our Hue values, so press the Ctrl key, or the Command key on the Mac, and in this case we want to drag inside these reds, over to the right, because we want to rotate them toward gold. So, Photoshop automatically gets the idea. It says, "All right, you're working in the reds. You don't want to change the blues and the other colors." And so it changes this pop-up menu to reds, and it's also dialed in a new Hue value-- in this case 50 degrees. That's fine, but it doesn't really do the trick. You can see in the background here, if I hide the Adjustments panel for a moment, you can see that I've changed some of the car colors to gold, but some of the other colors remain orange and red and so forth.
If I double-click on the thumbnail for that adjustment layer, I'll revisit the Adjustments panel and I can increase the range of my Hue adjustment by, for example, dragging this gray bar in the left-hand side, and I'll take it over until that first couple of values there says 274 to 305. So basically, what's happening is anything inside the range from 305 degrees to 15 degrees, which is your big mass of magentas and reds essentially, is getting modified by this Hue value and then 274 to 45 degrees, those are the drop-off points.
Those are the faraway points, so that we have something of a gradual transition. However, that still doesn't do the trick. Now, if I go ahead and take the Hue value too far then I start rotating the colors into green, and if I don't take it far enough then the colors remain red. About 45 degrees is the best I'm going to do, and yet the car refuses to turn entirely gold. Now, the reason for this problem is we've applied a relative adjustment. So these colors that remains sort of peach here, they began more magenta than the colors that were formerly red, which have turned to gold.
What we need to do is apply an absolute adjustment, which you can do using the Hue/Saturation command. However, if I bring back the Adjustments panel by double-clicking on that layer thumbnail and turn on the Colorize check box, which is the way you apply absolute adjustments, then that pop- up menu goes dim, and we can no longer isolate the reds from the rest the colors in the image. Now, I don't know. It's fairly indefensible that things work this way. I don't know why Photoshop doesn't allow me to limit my modifications to the reds, but it doesn't.
So I'll press Ctrl+Z, or Command+Z on the Mac. What is the solution? If the solution that everybody knows works doesn't actually work, which 9 times out of 10 it doesn't, then what is the solution? Well, the solution is to create a mask for your absolute adjustment, and let me show you how that works. I will go ahead and turn off that Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. I'm not going to throw it away because it will come in handy later. Then I'll go up to the Select menu and I will choose the Color Range command, the Color Range command allows me to select a range of colors inside the image.
So it does pretty much what it says it does. I will go ahead and click inside some region of red, and then I'll press the Shift key and drag across the hood of the car here in order to add reds to my selection. I'm just going to keep adding reds. Notice you're seeing a masked version of your selection. So wherever you see white, that area will be selected. It will also be revealed inside your Hue/Saturation adjustment layer that we will be applying in a moment. Everything that's black will be deselected, or if you prefer, protected from the adjustment.
So I'm going to Shift+Drag around the headlight, but not into the headlight. Limit your drags to the red area of the image. And there's a few more areas that I need to select. You can see that this rear fender is not very well selected, so I'll go ahead and Shift+Drag inside there. There is something around this right- hand headlight that needs to be selected, so I'll go ahead and Shift+Drag around that. And it looks like I've pretty well selected everything I need to inside of this image. Once you get a halfway decent selection --the Fuzziness value, by the way, for this particular effect should be set to 40 and Invert should be turned off-- then go ahead and click on OK in order to create your selection.
Now press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, once again, click on that black-white icon and choose the Hue/Saturation command in order to create yet another Hue/ Saturation adjustment layer. This time I'll call this one 'gold colorize' and click OK. I'm going to turn on the Colorize check box, and I'm going to dial in a Hue value of 40, should work out pretty well for this effect, and I'm going to crank up the Saturation value pretty darn high. No reason for subtlety here. Let's go and take it up to 65.
And I'll leave the Lightness value alone. You don't want to touch that value, because it will just mess things up. Now it's very possible you got everything exactly the way you want it, and in my case it looks like I've been pretty successful. If, however, you still see a few regions of red hanging on then go ahead and turn that red to gold layer back on, and it will serve as a fortifying under layer. In my case, I got things a little bit too right, so everything worked out brilliantly. Now that you've got both of these layers working together, if you so desire, you can tone things down by changing the Blend mode in the upper-left corner of the Layers panel from Normal to Hue, and that'll give you a more organic effect that respects the original Saturation levels in the car.
For yet another variation, go ahead and turn off that red to gold layer and you'll end up with this more muted, arguably more lustrous effect. So just remember, if that technique that everybody assures you allows you to change the hues of an obviously differently colored object inside of a photograph fails for you--as I say, most of the time it does--then you can take advantage of this better, more flexible technique.
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