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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.
Now, for some reason, every time I demonstrate how to change the color of a car, or any other object for that matter inside Photoshop, I have at least one person who is wondering, "How do you change it, not to a different color, but to absolute black. I want to make this car jet black." Well, that is possible, and I'm going to show you how it works inside this video. However, I'll also have people ask me, "I've got a white car and I want to make it black," and I have to answer where that's concerned and I hate to do this, but good luck with that. And the reason is, when you're working with a white car or any other white object, your darkest shadows are going to be anywhere in the medium to light gray range, which means you would have to take those luminance levels and stretch them, so you'd make that light gray black, and that would bring out all kinds of noise inside of the vehicle in our case, and it just looks terrible.
So you need color to work with in the first place. We've got this brightly colored car. It comes to us from the Fotolia Image Library, about which you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke, and so we're going to be able to pull things off, no problem. The first step is to go to the Channels panel and determine which channel provides you the best version of a black car. So if I go to the Red channel, it's pretty bright because, after all, this is a red car. Green channel, much darker. That's a nice black car right there, and then Blue lightens up slightly. So depending on the color of your car, or other object, you're going to see a different dark channel. Just remember which one it is, in our case green, switch back to the RGB image, switch back to the Layers panel, press Ctrl+Shift+N, or Command+Shift+N on the Mac, to create a new layer.
We'll go ahead and call this black. Click OK. Then go up to the Image menu and choose the Apply Image command. Inside this dialog box your best bets are to change the Layer option to Background, and you probably want Blending set to Normal, although it doesn't actually matter when you're working with an empty layer, but that's the safest option. The most important modification here is we need to change channel from RGB to Green. So we bring the green channel into this new layer. Click OK. All right, obviously we've gone too far because we've annihilated all the colors inside the image, so we need to create a mask.
Go ahead and turn off that black layer and then go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command. And we are once again, just as in the previous movie, we're going to select all the reds inside the car. So click on some red portion of the car, go ahead and Shift+Drag around the other red areas, and you'll want to make sure to Shift+Click inside the sort of red/blue reflections at the top of the car, and go ahead and Shift+Drag along the side of the car. Make sure to Shift+Drag inside that fender. Don't go too far, by the way. You don't want to select too many sort of sky colors. In this case I've managed to select some of the clouds up there.
But it's not too bad. If you do go too far, you can press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac, to undo that modification. And then I'll Shift+Drag again to see if I can create a more limited selection. Actually, I went too far at that time, so I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z again, and then I'll Shift+Drag around the headlights. I need to Shift+Drag around this right headlight as well. I need to make sure to integrate some of these highlights over in this area. I'm trying to select as much of the hood of this car as humanly possible. It looks like I've done a pretty good job.
And now having done that, make sure your Fuzziness value for this particular effect is 40. For your own images, you will want to mess with that value to see what works. The Invert check box needs to be off and then go ahead and click OK in order to create that selection outline. Now we're going to go ahead and convert this selection to a mask by turning the black layer back on, then drop down to the Add layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and click on it, and you've gone ahead and masked that entire car. Now you may see some spots sort of revealed there, little bits of red. I'll go ahead and zoom in right at this location here. In which case, make sure that the layer mask is selected and go and grab your Brush tool, which you can get by pressing the B key.
White should be your foreground color; if not, make it so by switching those colors around. And then what you want--I'll go ahead and right-click here--you want a fairly small brush. I'll go with something like 50. You want the Hardness cranked up to 100%, very important. I'll press the Enter a key a couple of times in order to hide that panel, and then go ahead and paint away any red defects. You want to get rid of them to the greatest extent possible right now. All right, I'm going to go ahead and zoom back out. The next step is to integrate some of the organic colors in this scene. So you really wouldn't have this grayscale black car. In other words, there's no colors going on inside of the body of the car whatsoever; instead you would actually reflect the ambient colors in the scene. So here's what I want you to do.
Go ahead and turn off that layer for a moment. Then switch to the Background layer. And what we want to do is we want to infuse the car with the color of the sky. So switch to the Eyedropper tool. Go ahead and grab it here inside the toolbox-- you can also get it by pressing the I key--and click somewhere inside the sky. And notice the Hue/Saturation and Brightness values here. If you don't see them in the Color panel then click the flyout menu icon and choose and choose HSB sliders. And you should see Hue values in this range.
I'm seeing 227 degrees for Hue, a Saturation value of 73. Brightness does not matter for our purposes. All right, so I'm going to create a Hue/Saturation layer by pressing and holding the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, click the Black-White icon and choose Hue/Saturation. Let's go ahead and call this guy blue sky and then click OK. Then turn on the Colorize check box here inside the Adjustments panel, and I want you to dial in the color you see inside the Colors panel. Now I'm going to round things off because that just happened to be the color of that one pixel I clicked on. It's going to be closer to 225. And then I'm going to take the Saturation value down to 15.
Now you might say, "Well, why 15? That's very low compared with the saturation of the sky, which is 73." Well, bear in mind that the car is not a mirror; it's not going to reflect the entire saturation of the sky. We just want to integrate a little bit of sky color into the body of this car. All right, obviously we've gone overboard. Once again we've colored the entire scene. We need to grab that layer mask we created a moment ago and we're going to duplicate it onto that adjustment layer, by pressing and holding the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, drag that layer mask from the top layer down onto that new blue sky layer, and you will go ahead and limit your modifications to just the formerly red body of the car.
All right, now turn that black layer back on, the top layer in the stack, and click on it to make it active. And let's change the Blend mode so that we're integrating the blue beneath this layer. Let's change the Blend mode to Multiply, and you'll see that we now have a very, very black-looking body of a car that has a few blue highlights going on, thereby indicating that it's reflecting the natural ambient colors in the scene. Now, we've gone a little bit too far. It'd be nice to recover some of those highlights. And you can do that by double-clicking on an empty portion of this layer.
We don't have much empty portion to work with in my case, but above or below the layer name will do just fine. In my case it's truncated to dot, dot, dot, so I'll double-click below the dot, dot, dot to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. And in order to bring back some of those highlights, you want to modify the Underlying Layer slider. If you drag this white slider triangle then notice that you will bring back some highlights inside the body of the car. However, we have some very jagged transitions, so you need to press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and drag that triangle apart.
And I'm going to take the right half of the triangle all the way back over to the right-hand side, back to 255, and then I'm going to take the left half of the triangle-- you don't have to press the Alt key or the Option key anymore, because they're already divided from each other-- I'll take it over to a value of 50. And so we're revealing this big range of highlights right there, and it's a nice soft smooth transition. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. This is what things look like before I modified the Underlying Layer slider triangle, and this is what the car looks like now.
And we have a beautiful black car where formerly we had red. So if I Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eyeball in front of the Background layer, that's what the car looked like before, and then if I Alt+Click or Option+Click again, that's what it looks like now, thanks to your ability to make a colorful car, or other object, black, here inside Photoshop.
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