Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Selective Re-coloring Using a Layer Mask

One of my favorite ways to improve a digital photo is through selective recoloring. This process can take an average photo and give it a bit of pop! To show you what I mean, I'll be using this photo of my daughter for today's tutorial. 


I really adore the way she looks here, but I find the background a bit distracting, so I'm going to make the background black and white and re-color her so her cuteness can be highlighted.

Here is the process in three easy steps.  If you cannot see enough detail on the photos, click on them and you will see a larger view of each image:


Choose a photo and open it in Photoshop or PSE. Create a new adjustment layer by clicking on the circle icon that's half blue (or black) and half white (see letter A in the diagram). It's located right above the layers palette. A flyout menu will appear; from there, choose “hue and saturation.” Just below the layers palette, you will see an area with some sliders for the adjustment layer you created. Using your cursor, go to the middle slider and move it all the way to the left (the number on the right of the slider will say something like “-100;” see letter B).


For re-coloring to work correctly, the first thing you need to do is change your foreground color to white (see letter C). If it isn't currently white, a quick way make that color is to hit “D” on your keyboard, then hit “X.” From here, go to your toolbar and click on the eraser tool (letter D in the diagram). You will use the brush tool to do your erasing, so choose a hard, round brush from the flyout menu there. You can resize the brush either up or down by using the bracket {} keys on your keyboard. Use the eraser like coloring crayon to recolor the section of your photo you want to be in color.  Leave the rest of the image in black and white.  Letter E below shows where I started to erase the black and white to reveal to colors in my daughter's skin and clothes.  

The black and white layer you are erasing is your layer mask, and it is "masking" the true colors of your background so that you can better highlight the person or thing you are recoloring.  If you look at letter F below, you can see the shape of my daughter on the layer thumbnail.  The black and white hues are being removed as I color her back in.



If by chance you accidentally color in too much, don't panic! Simply change your foreground color from white to black (see letter H). Hit the “X” key again to make black the foreground color, and remove color with the eraser tool. I generally make the brush size smaller and zoom in closer so that my brush strokes are more precise. In the photo below, you can see that I colored too much of the rug, so I went back in to make that part of the photo black and white again. I removed color from my daughter's hand so you can see how simple it is to undo the re-coloring if you want (letter G). 



Check out the photo before (straight out of my camera) and after on the layout. The recoloring is subtle, but it makes her stand out a bit and fades out the rest of photo so that she can shine. By the way, if you want to pick up the gorgeous supplies I used for this page, they are from Celeste's "Noted" kits. 


Thanks for reading and enjoy your week!

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