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Understanding the role of foreground and background colors

From: Photoshop for Designers: Color

Video: Understanding the role of foreground and background colors

Crucial to working with color in Photoshop is understanding the role of the foreground and background colors. These are the foreground and background color right here, at the moment they are black and white. These are the default values. It's the foreground color that you paint with when you're using one of your painting tools. I'm currently in my Brush tool. so when I paint, I get black. If I want to switch my foreground and background color. I can press the X key, I am now painting white. I can also click this two headed arrow to switch my foreground and background colors.

Understanding the role of foreground and background colors

Crucial to working with color in Photoshop is understanding the role of the foreground and background colors. These are the foreground and background color right here, at the moment they are black and white. These are the default values. It's the foreground color that you paint with when you're using one of your painting tools. I'm currently in my Brush tool. so when I paint, I get black. If I want to switch my foreground and background color. I can press the X key, I am now painting white. I can also click this two headed arrow to switch my foreground and background colors.

The default values for foreground and background colors are black-and-white, if you want to change the colors, come and sample a color from the Swatches panel, then that's the color that you paint with. And if you want to restore your foreground or background colors to their default values, you can come and click on the two small squares or you can press the D key. The background color is the color that you erase to, when you use the Eraser tool. So currently my background color is white, when I use my Eraser tool and when I'm working on a background layer, that's the color that I am left with.

That's not particularly useful, but if I were to unlock my background layer, I'm doing that just by double- clicking on it and clicking OK. Now I want to use the eraser I am not erasing to the background color, but rather I am erasing to transparency. Photoshop represent transparency as a checkerboard. Sometimes the foreground and background colors work in conjunction with each other. For example, when you are making a gradient, if I choose my Gradient tool and I am now going to choose a different foreground and background color, I am going to choose a Red as my foreground color and a Yellow as my background color.

To choose your background color, hold down the Command key and click on the one the colors on the Swatches panel. I can now do a red to yellow or a foreground to background gradient, like so, because I drew the gradient over my one layer, the colors of the gradient have replaced that layer, so I am going to undo that, create a new layer and then swipe with my gradient to create the gradient above my existing layer, and then I can change my Blend Mode to something other than normal and that gives me an interaction between the gradient colors and the colors of the layer beneath.

There are some very useful keyboard shortcuts for working with your foreground and background colors. I am just going to undo couple of times, so I can get back to my empty Layer 1, and then I am going to choose my Polygonal Lasso tool to make a selection of this garage door. And I would like to fill this selection with a different color. I would like to fill it with yellow, so I am going to make yellow my foreground color, currently yellow is my background color, so I am going to press the X key to switch it to the foreground color, and then I could if I like doing things the long way around come and choose my Paint Bucket tool to fill that selection with that yellow or I could go to my Edit menu and choose Fill.

That would also work, but what I am going to do is press Option or Alt and the Backspace Delete key and that will fill my selection with my foreground color. If I wanted to fill my selection with my background color, then I would press the Command or Ctrl and the Backspace Delete key. So it's Option or Alt Delete to fill with foreground color, Command or Ctrl Delete, to fill with the background color. I did just want to mention one more thing about the foreground and background colors, and that is that they behave very differently when you are working in the context of masks.

What I am going to do now is I am going to press my Q key, which is going to take me to Quick Mask Mode. Quick Mask Mode is one way we can make a selection. We can actually paint in the selection with our Selection tool. So if I choose my Brush tool, I'm now painting in the selection or actually I would be painting in the area that is going to be masked i.e. not selected. And what I mean this masking mode and in other masking contexts, my foreground and background colors are always going to be black or white, or I can't change the opacity, so that I am painting shades of gray, but there is no such concept of color, while working with masks.

So what I am going to do here is just paint over this area. And you will be thinking, wait a minute, didn't you just say there is no such thing as color on a mask, and he is painting in red? Well, that red is really no red. That's just the color that the mask uses and I can change that color if I want to. But this is just a way of showing me what part of my image is not going to be selected. So when I now press the Q key, we return back to standard editing mode and we see the marching ants which represent areas that are selected and not selected.

And I actually have everything in this image now selected, with the exception of this window here in the center, and if I press Command+Shift+I, I could inverse that, so that that's now the selected area. But the important thing I just want to point out there and if this syncs like it's a bit of tangent, just remember, when you are working in a mask or when you are working on a mask, you're not going to be able to choose a color, you are only going to be at a paint Black or White.

Black is going to mask; white is going to reveal. So you are going to get a very different behavior from your foreground and background colors. In every other context, it's the foreground color that you paint in, and less importantly, it's the background color that you sometimes erase too.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Designers: Color
Photoshop for Designers: Color

75 video lessons · 17440 viewers

Nigel French
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 0s
    2. Using the exercise files
      41s
  2. 25m 26s
    1. Defining color terms
      2m 38s
    2. Understanding the color wheel
      4m 3s
    3. Understanding color relationships
      1m 7s
    4. Using Kuler to understand color harmony rules and create color palettes
      4m 2s
    5. Using the Kuler web site
      3m 10s
    6. Colors on screen and on paper
      1m 42s
    7. Color as a signifier
      3m 14s
    8. Color inspirations
      2m 39s
    9. Color and accessibility
      2m 51s
  3. 38m 22s
    1. Demystifying the Color Picker
      2m 57s
    2. Understanding the role of foreground and background colors
      5m 39s
    3. Choosing colors
      6m 41s
    4. Managing swatches
      7m 40s
    5. Transparency
      9m 42s
    6. Color channels
      5m 43s
  4. 41m 4s
    1. Understanding additive and subtractive color
      2m 57s
    2. RGB mode
      1m 56s
    3. CMYK mode
      2m 41s
    4. Lab mode
      3m 49s
    5. Indexed mode
      2m 16s
    6. Grayscale mode
      5m 0s
    7. Color management
      14m 15s
    8. Color depth (8-, 16-, 24-, and 32-bit)
      4m 19s
    9. Monitor calibration
      3m 51s
  5. 26m 43s
    1. Evaluating color with the Histogram panel
      3m 18s
    2. Evaluating color with the Info panel
      1m 48s
    3. Boosting color with levels
      3m 48s
    4. Auto Tone and Auto Contrast
      7m 38s
    5. Manually setting the black and white point
      3m 50s
    6. Curves
      6m 21s
  6. 18m 30s
    1. What is color correction?
      5m 45s
    2. White balancing in Camera Raw
      1m 46s
    3. Color correction with color balance
      1m 34s
    4. Color balancing using photo filters
      1m 26s
    5. Color correction with variations
      4m 27s
    6. Color correction by the numbers
      3m 32s
  7. 33m 14s
    1. Selecting color with the Magic Wand
      4m 43s
    2. Selecting color with the Quick Selection tool
      2m 26s
    3. Selecting color with Color Range
      4m 0s
    4. Neutralizing whites with the Multiply blend mode
      2m 55s
    5. Neutralizing blacks with the Screen blend mode
      57s
    6. Masking colors with the Blend If sliders
      2m 54s
    7. Masking hair with a channel mask and removing contaminant colors
      2m 58s
    8. Shifting targeted colors using Hue/Saturation
      5m 4s
    9. Matching colors using Hue/Saturation
      3m 16s
    10. Matching colors using the Match Color command
      1m 36s
    11. Matching colors using the Color blend modes
      2m 25s
  8. 21m 8s
    1. Saturating colors
      4m 9s
    2. Desaturating colors
      1m 57s
    3. Desaturating in Camera Raw
      3m 1s
    4. Creating a color accent with selective saturation
      2m 38s
    5. Enhancing a sunrise with a gradient map
      5m 49s
    6. Increasing vibrance
      1m 19s
    7. Using selective color
      2m 15s
  9. 32m 42s
    1. Designing with spot colors
      12m 15s
    2. Adding a fifth color to a CMYK image
      5m 0s
    3. Adding spot colors to a grayscale image
      5m 24s
    4. Create a metallic print effect
      3m 8s
    5. Creating duotones, tritones, and quadtones
      6m 55s
  10. 30m 45s
    1. Creating a silkscreen print look with a limited color palette
      7m 59s
    2. Combining color with black and white
      2m 22s
    3. Creating a nostalgic travel poster using the Cut Out filter
      6m 27s
    4. Mapping an image to a color look up table (CLUT)
      7m 56s
    5. Converting to black and white
      6m 1s
  11. 48m 34s
    1. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the easy way)
      3m 29s
    2. Creating a hand-tinted portrait (the harder way)
      11m 23s
    3. Creating an Andy Warhol look
      4m 44s
    4. Applying a gradient map
      4m 4s
    5. Sepia toning an image
      8m 41s
    6. Color tinting an image
      5m 15s
    7. Split toning an image
      2m 9s
    8. Working with line art
      8m 49s
  12. 23s
    1. Goodbye
      23s

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