Tag: selective color

Adobe Photoshop Adjustment Layers – Part III

In two previous posts, we looked at the first two groups of adjustment layers in Photoshop: those devoted to make changes in the contrast and those to make changes in the color if images. In this post I will go through the last group of layers available in Photoshop. Below I show once again the full set of fill and adjustment layers for reference.

photoshop layers

This last group, in contrast to the previous two, does not have a general purpose but it simply contains five types of adjustment that are, each of them, designed for more specific purposes.


The first layer of the group has a pretty self-explanatory name. What it does is just invert the colors of your image. Inverting a color means subtracting the original value of each color channel from 255 (in an 8-bit image). The resulting image is analogue to looking at a film negative and thus this can be a useful tool if you want to use Photoshop to process your scanned negatives.

You can also use this simply to play around and do some creative color editing. The image below shows the result of applying the negative layer to our original image.

photoshop invert


While this layer might not find too much use within the world of photography, it can be useful for visual artists looking to produce particular effects. The idea is to reproduce the effect achieved in earlier times when printing posters and what this layer does is basically downsampling the color resolution of an image. While an 8-bit image will have 255 different levels (or shades) between black and white, with a slider that appears once you create the posterize layer you can reduce the number of those levels to any level between 2 and the original 255. This will create a banding effect as it can be appreciated in the image below (created with 8 levels).

photoshop posterize


When applying this layer, Photoshop will convert your image to a 1-bit monochrome, meaning that your new image will only contain black and white pixels. With the creation of the layer, a histogram of the original image together with a slider will appear. The slider is there for you to set where you want the threshold that will define what pixels are turned into white and what pixels are turned into black to be set. Once you set the threshold, all the pixels with luminosity levels above that threshold will be turned white and those with luminosity below the threshold will be turned black.

The image below shows the result of applying the threshold layer with a value of 120.

photoshop threshold

Gradient Map

This layer takes the luminosity values of the original image and converts them to a specific colormap. It is similar to a black and white conversion (in fact, if the right color map is chosen, this is exactly what it will do) only that the colormap is not limited to grayscale values. There are some presets available and each conversion can be inverted as well by ticking the ‘Reverse’ tickbox.

You can obtain some interest results when combining this layer with different blending modes. For instance, the image below was created with a grayscale gradient map and the ‘Hard Light’ blending mode.

photoshop gradient map

Selective Color

This is probably the most useful layer for photographic purposes within this last group. By selective color, Photoshop does not mean what is usually understood by selective color, i.e. converting an image to black and white while retaining a specific color. What this layer allows you to do is due some subtle kind of color mapping in which you actually control the amount of coloring applied to specific tones.

Once you create the layer, a panel will appear showing a dropdown menu where you can select among nine colors (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas, Whites, Neutrals and Blacks) and four sliders (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black).

Basically, with the dropdown menu you can select which colors within your image you want to alter and with the sliders you can control how much of the indicated tones you want to add or subtract from the selected color. The sliders work with the idea of opposite colors meaning that moving one slider to the right will increase the amount of a given color and moving it to the right will increase the amount of its opposite.

This is actually a pretty useful, although frequently neglected, tool. You can use it to adjust skin tones or hair color in portrait photography or you can use it to selectively increase saturation or contrast in virtually any type of photography.

For instance, the image below was obtained moving the ‘Black’ slider all the way to the left with ‘Whites’ selected in the ‘Colors’ menu to increase the contrast in the sky and adjusting the colors of the reds (to increase the saturation of the pink trees and the orange-ish bridge on the back) and the yellows (to change the tone of the trees; yes, usually trees have a strong yellow content!).

Photoshop selective color

So that’s it. Those are all the adjustment layers available in Photoshop. Play with them until you get familiarized. As with blending modes, you will most probably end up including some of them in your workflow while some of them you will rarely touch again. Photoshop is a very powerful software that has many uses, so in fact some tools are intended for some specific users like visual designers and are not that useful for photographers.

Also, keep in mind that, as with any layer, adjustment layers will have completely different impacts when using different blending modes, so take your time as well to explore different combinations and, if you have any question, just contact me.

Using Selective Color in Lightroom

Hello, today we’re going to be looking at using Selective Color in Lightroom Presets.

Selective colour is where you take a coloured image and remove most of the colour from that image, leaving just one colour behind that you want to focus on.

The photo we will be using today, provided by sleeklens.com, is a lovely shot of two little kids playing in some Autumn leaves.


For this, I’m going to have everything in the background black white, while focusing in on the leaves, the children and their colourful outfits.

Installing Lightroom presets make this super easy and with all Adobe products, there are several different ways to do it. I’m going to show you the way I do it and what I was taught.

First up, go to your HSL/B&W/Color panel, which is situated in the Develop module.


Click on the Saturation tab, and we are going to turn all the colours down, that we don’t need.

Ok, so you will notice that there are 8 colours. You will want to desaturate the colours that you think will not effect the targeted area too much.

So, I will turn down everything else, minus the Red’s and Oranges to start with. As we go through, we may return and re-edit as we see fit.


As you can see from the picture we have some other colours in the background, such as the leaves in the trees and the trunk of the tree that make it look a little messy and unfinished, so to get rid of those you want to click on the Brush Tool.

Click on the Brush or press (K) for the Shortcut.


Note: if your Brush has other previous settings, Press Alt, and where you see Effect written beside Custom, it will change to Reset. click on that and you will be in your default brush mode.

Click on the Custom Field and open up the dropdown box, click on Saturation.


The setting you will want for this is as follows.

Saturation at -100, Feather your brush a little and have Auto Mask Checked.


So, now we’re going to paint over the areas we want to Saturate, as you do this you can use the Bracket keys ([ ]) to resize your brush.

You should end up with something that looks like this.


While painting over you will come across areas that have fine detail, in those situations reduce the Feather on your Brush so you have a hard edge. That way, there won’t be much of a bleed over into the parts you want colourised.

Just a short one today, but straight to the point. If you play with this technique you can create some wonderful images. I find this technique is best used in this type of lifestyle shot, and also good for Weddings etc when you might want to focus in on flowers or something like that.

Well anyway, those are some ideas you may want to consider, so I hope you got something out of my tutorial. You may also consider looking at my tutorial about white balance in Lightroom.

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