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Introducing the Color Range command

From: Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Introducing the Color Range command

In this movie, I'll introduce you to Photoshop's best automated method for selecting images: the Color Range command. Now, because the command is a little tricky to understand at first, I'll explain it in the context of the tool it was intended to replace, which is the Magic Wand. I'll start by going to the Image menu, and choosing the Duplicate command, and I going to call this duplicate image Magic Wand, and then press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, and zoom in as well. This is a pretty straightforward photograph. It features these light billowy clouds set against a fairly homogeneous blue background.

Introducing the Color Range command

In this movie, I'll introduce you to Photoshop's best automated method for selecting images: the Color Range command. Now, because the command is a little tricky to understand at first, I'll explain it in the context of the tool it was intended to replace, which is the Magic Wand. I'll start by going to the Image menu, and choosing the Duplicate command, and I going to call this duplicate image Magic Wand, and then press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, and zoom in as well. This is a pretty straightforward photograph. It features these light billowy clouds set against a fairly homogeneous blue background.

It does start a little dark on the top, and end a little light, but it's obvious where the clouds begin and end. So you might figure that the Magic Wand is perfectly suited to select these clouds. So I'll go ahead and click and hold on the Quick Selection tool, and then select the Magic Wand tool from the flyout menu. Notice all of my default settings are in place. You may recall that Tolerance is measured in Luminance levels, so by default, Photoshop is going to select 32 Luminance levels lighter, and 32 Luminance levels darker than the Luminance of the click point on a channel by channel basis.

Anti-alias is turned on, so we'll get those smoothed off edges. Contiguous is also turned on, so the tool will select only adjacent pixels, meaning that it's not going to jump the selection from one cloud to the other. I'll go ahead and click inside the clouds to select them, and that selects about half the cloud. Now, naturally, I could Shift+Click in order to add to the selection, but for purposes of demonstration here, so we are comparing apples to apples, I am going to create a single click selection, which means I need to increase my Tolerance value.

So I'll press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, in order to highlight that value, and I'll raise it all the way to 160. Now, that doesn't have any effect on the existing selection, because Tolerance is a static setting that affects the next selection outline I create. All right. So I'll press Control+D, or Command+D on the Mac, to start over, and then I'll click right there on the cloud, and that selects the whole thing, as you can see. Then I'll Shift+Click on the smaller cloud to select it as well. Now I'll jump the clouds to a new layer by pressing Control+Alt+J, or Command+Option+J on the Mac.

I'll name the layer clouds, and then I'll drag it to the top of the stack. Notice that I have this gradient called red sky. Its purpose is to help us gauge the quality of the selection. So I'll go ahead and turn it on, and you can see that we have got a pretty rough selection indeed here. Now, we can get rid of those blue edges by going up to the blend mode pop-up menu, and switching it from Normal to Luminosity, and we end up with this result here. However, while it was an easy selection to create, I hazard to say, it's not the kind of thing I think any of us would have been proud to have made.

But it's not your fault. The problem is you just happen to be using the wrong tool. So I'll switch over to the original image, press the M key to go back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, and now I'll go up to the Select menu, and choose the Color Range command. If you loaded DekeKeys, you have got a keyboard shortcut of Control+Shift+Alt+G, or Command+Shift+Option+G on a Mac; G being, of course, the second to last letter in the word range. All right. So that brings up this dialog box, which is where a lot of folks get confused, because this doesn't even look like a selection function. But in fact, it works a lot like the Magic Wand tool.

If you move your cursor out into the image window, it turns into an eyedropper, and it functions just like the Wand. In other words, you click to set a key color, and then you can see the selection starting to emerge here inside the dialog box. So what we are seeing in this little preview here is a masked version of the selection. Wherever the preview appears white, that region will be selected; wherever it appears black, that area will not be selected. And in fact, if I click OK at this point right now, I will generate a selection outline, as you can see.

All right. I'll press Control+D, or Command+D on a Mac, to deselect the image. And then I'll go back up to the Select menu, and choose Color Range once again. Now, notice that Photoshop is smart enough in order to load that key color, and that's because I actually changed my foreground color when I clicked inside the cloud, and so Color Range is always basing its initial selection on the foreground color. Now, if you want to expand the selection, you can Shift+Click inside the image window, just as you can with the Magic Wand tool. Also, get this -- I'll go ahead and click at the top of the cloud to reset the selection -- you can also Shift+Drag across the image, and notice, as you do, that your selection will grow on the fly. All right, but I'm looking for a single-click selection, so I'll just click near the top of the cloud once again.

Notice this Fuzziness value; like Tolerance, it's measured in Luminance levels, and by default, it's set to 40. So Photoshop is going to select 40 Luminance levels brighter, and 40 Luminance levels darker than the click point on a channel by channel basis. The reason this option is called Fuzziness, and not Tolerance is because the selection drops off over that luminance range. So in other words, any Luminance levels that are very close to the Luminance of the click point will be selected, and those that are farther away will drop off in terms of the selection.

So in other words, you get a gradual selection that represents the image organically. Now let's say I want to select more of the image. I would go ahead and increase that Fuzziness value, and you can see the clouds inside the mask preview grow on the fly, and that's because Fuzziness, in addition to being better than Tolerance in the first place, is also a dynamic control, so you can see what value is going to work best for you, as opposed to just making stabs in the dark. In my case, I came up with a value of 160; that same value I applied to the Magic Wand.

Now, another thing to notice is that the Color Range command automatically jumps the gaps. In other words, it's always designed to select nonadjacent pixels. Now, that's not always necessarily a good thing, which is why we have this Localized Color Clusters checkbox. I'll go ahead and turn it on, and what it does is it limits the selection to a physical area around your click point. So notice, if I decrease the Range value, we are creating a kind of radial gradient inside the cloud. Now, it's possible that I can find a Range value that will mostly select the first cloud, and mostly not select the second cloud, but I have to say, this is a pretty flawed control.

I haven't found it to be very useful. So what I typically do is just leave Localized Color Clusters turned off. All right; now that we have generated a one click selection that looks awfully good here inside the dialog box -- and by the way, you can switch to the image if you want to see the image instead, and you can switch the Selection Preview to Grayscale, which will show you the mask preview outside in the larger image window. You can continue to Shift+Click in it. You can also click or Shift+Click directly inside the dialog box. Anyway, I am going to restore these items to their defaults, and click OK in order to generate the selection outline. And now let's test its quality by pressing Control+Alt+J, or Command+Option+J on Mac.

I'll name the layer clouds, click OK, drag it to the top of the stack, turn on the red sky layer, and then change the blend mode for the clouds layer from Normal to Luminosity, and we end up with this effect here. So just for the sake of comparison, here is what we got with the Magic Wand tool, which everybody considers to be a really easy tool to use, and here's the results we got, with no more work, using the Color Range command. And that, folks, is how you use Color Range to generate credible, organic selections here inside Photoshop.

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This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

124 video lessons · 19170 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 30m 4s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 19s
    2. Loading the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 5s
    3. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 4s
    4. Adjusting a few general preferences
      4m 3s
    5. Using the visual HUD color picker
      2m 2s
    6. The interface and performance settings
      5m 31s
    7. Adjusting the color settings in Photoshop
      7m 0s
  2. 47m 0s
    1. Smart Objects
      1m 36s
    2. Three ways to place a Smart Object
      3m 6s
    3. Copying and pasting from Adobe Illustrator
      4m 11s
    4. Transforming and warping a vector object
      4m 48s
    5. Blending a Smart Object into a photograph
      3m 10s
    6. Blurring with a nested Smart Filter
      4m 57s
    7. Editing a Smart Object in Illustrator
      3m 20s
    8. Creating "true clones"
      3m 50s
    9. Duplicating a group of clones
      2m 53s
    10. Breaking the Smart Object link
      2m 53s
    11. Styling and blending Smart Objects
      2m 44s
    12. Editing originals; updating clones
      3m 41s
    13. Removing people from a scene with Median
      5m 51s
  3. 29m 59s
    1. Luminance meets sharpening
      1m 2s
    2. Correcting for lens distortion
      4m 39s
    3. Introducing Shadows/Highlights
      3m 54s
    4. Mitigating halos with Radius values
      4m 19s
    5. Enhancing the effects of Midtone Contrast
      3m 18s
    6. Creating a "bounce" with Gaussian Blur
      3m 29s
    7. Sharpening on top of blur
      2m 47s
    8. Masking a group of Smart Filters
      2m 53s
    9. Reducing the density of a layer mask
      3m 38s
  4. 49m 10s
    1. Using Curves
      2m 40s
    2. Introducing the Curves adjustment
      7m 36s
    3. Adding and editing points on a curve
      6m 27s
    4. Winning Curves tips and tricks
      8m 12s
    5. Correcting a challenging image
      6m 33s
    6. Selecting and darkening highlights
      4m 39s
    7. Neutralizing colors and smoothing transitions
      6m 6s
    8. The new automatic Curves function
      6m 57s
  5. 1h 31m
    1. Camera Raw
      2m 11s
    2. Opening and editing multiple images
      8m 1s
    3. Correcting white balance
      4m 8s
    4. The revamped Exposure controls
      8m 8s
    5. Working with archival images
      7m 54s
    6. The Spot Removal and Graduated Filter tools
      6m 4s
    7. Painting edits with the Adjustment Brush
      7m 23s
    8. Tone Curves (and why you don't need them)
      5m 57s
    9. Straighten, crop, and geometric distortions
      5m 17s
    10. Applying manual lens corrections
      5m 14s
    11. Vignette, chromatic aberration, and fringe
      6m 49s
    12. Selective hue, saturation, and luminance
      6m 36s
    13. Working with JPEG and TIFF images
      6m 36s
    14. Camera Raw Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    15. Editing Camera Raw images from Bridge
      4m 24s
  6. 32m 30s
    1. Duotones
      1m 23s
    2. Creating a professional-quality sepia tone
      4m 18s
    3. Introducing the Gradient Map adjustment
      5m 42s
    4. Loading a library of custom gradients
      3m 48s
    5. Creating a custom quadtone
      5m 48s
    6. Colorizing with blend modes and Opacity
      4m 6s
    7. Creating a faux-color, high-key effect
      7m 25s
  7. 1h 6m
    1. Noise vs. Details
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 29s
    3. Correcting a noisy photo
      5m 33s
    4. Smoothing over high-contrast noise
      5m 50s
    5. Protecting details with an edge mask
      4m 52s
    6. Adjusting overly saturated shadows
      3m 35s
    7. Correcting with High Pass and Lens Blur
      3m 45s
    8. Brushing away blur and sharpening
      6m 42s
    9. Creating texture by adding noise
      5m 28s
    10. The Camera Raw Detail panel
      7m 8s
    11. Correcting noise and detail in Camera Raw
      8m 10s
    12. Adding noise grain and vignetting effects
      6m 47s
  8. 44m 30s
    1. Blur Gallery
      1m 36s
    2. Creating depth-of-field effects in post
      5m 29s
    3. Modifying your Field Blur settings
      4m 57s
    4. Editing and exporting a Field Blur mask
      6m 15s
    5. Adding a synthetic light bokeh
      3m 52s
    6. Using the Selection Bleed option
      7m 29s
    7. Creating a radial blur with Iris Blur
      6m 59s
    8. Creating "fake miniatures" with Tilt-Shift
      4m 35s
    9. Combining multiple Blur Gallery effects
      3m 18s
  9. 1h 34m
    1. Blend Modes
      1m 16s
    2. Using the Dissolve mode
      9m 47s
    3. Multiply and the darken modes
      8m 30s
    4. Screen and the lighten modes
      8m 10s
    5. Cleaning up and integrating a bad photo
      6m 38s
    6. Blending inside blend modes
      6m 55s
    7. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 53s
    8. A few great uses for the contrast modes
      9m 7s
    9. Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide
      5m 5s
    10. Capturing the differences between images
      4m 18s
    11. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      4m 45s
    12. Blend mode shortcuts
      6m 21s
    13. The Fill Opacity Eight
      8m 57s
    14. Using the luminance-exclusion slider bars
      8m 8s
  10. 44m 20s
    1. Color Range
      1m 14s
    2. Introducing the Color Range command
      7m 24s
    3. Selecting a complex image with Color Range
      5m 49s
    4. Refining a selection in the Quick Mask mode
      7m 4s
    5. Viewing a mask with or without its image
      4m 24s
    6. Painting directly inside an alpha channel
      5m 39s
    7. Correcting fringes around a masked layer
      8m 5s
    8. Turning a layer into a knockout
      4m 41s
  11. 59m 43s
    1. Refine Edges
      1m 28s
    2. Laying down a base layer mask
      6m 49s
    3. Introducing the Refine Edge/Mask command
      7m 57s
    4. Edge detection and Smart Radius
      4m 42s
    5. Using the Refine Radius tool
      7m 31s
    6. The transformative power of Refine Edge
      3m 37s
    7. Perfecting a mask with overlay painting
      10m 58s
    8. Combining Quick Selection with Refine Mask
      10m 37s
    9. Bolstering and integrating hair
      6m 4s
  12. 1h 18m
    1. The Pen tool
      1m 50s
    2. Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool
      6m 45s
    3. Drawing a straight-sided path outline
      6m 57s
    4. Moving, deleting, and adding anchor points
      6m 10s
    5. Dragging control handles to modify curves
      5m 27s
    6. Converting a path outline to a vector mask
      5m 36s
    7. Customizing a geometric shape
      5m 53s
    8. How to position points and control handles
      7m 7s
    9. Drawing smooth points with the Pen tool
      8m 7s
    10. Duplicating and scaling a vector mask
      5m 21s
    11. Cusp points and the Rubber Band option
      6m 21s
    12. Setting anchor points in the pasteboard
      6m 8s
    13. Using the Convert Point tool
      6m 43s

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