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Three Ways to Isolate Color

(February 2009) posted on Fri Feb 20, 2009

Determining the best way to separate images in Photoshop can be a challenging decision. This month, Trimingham narrows the playing field with three useful approaches to color separation.


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By Thomas Trimingham

The third method involving the Color Range tool is a last ditch effort to pull a specific color in an extremely challenging image. While it may work out, this approach takes quite a bit more time and can sometimes appear a little clunky and less true than some of the smoother methods of pulling separa-tion colors. I use the Color Range in segments and pull the color in three areas: the shadow, the highlight, and the midtone. I then save the three separate color-range selections as channels. I use a slightly bumped (in saturation) color to create the main color and then further modify it by using the Color Picker menu to pull the appropriate colors around it for blending.

In this example, the orange in the flames in the guitars had a tendency to pull in too much red. I created a final channel using the Color Range’s three-pass selection and added the extra two selections into the original channel, giving it much needed additional information so it would blend smoothly into the surrounding colors and create a better quality separation (Figure 3).



The Image Mode dialog

The beauty of using Image Mode to separate images is that it processes all of the available information into the final channels. In a sense it is like forcing the image through a controlled screen that permanently splits the colors into the new mode. This means that any color selections that are made from channels in an image mode tend to be smoother and more true than processed, computer-aided selections like the Magic Wand or Color Range tool.


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