Photoshop CC Color Range Enhacements

One of the tools I use consistently in Photoshop is Color Range in the Select menu. You can choose a color by clicking on it with the eyedropper, add or subtract from it using the + and – eyedroppers, and decide how far beyond your choice to include colors with the Fuzziness slider. These fall under Sampled Colors in the Select box at the top. You can also choose specific colors or skin tones from the drop down list. There are check boxes for Detect Faces which will help Color Range limit its selections to colors that fall within people’s faces even if others in the image are similar, and Localized Color Clusters which limit the spread of the selection to the whole document. Making a selection before opening Color Range will limit the final color choice to the selected area, which is a valuable aid in limiting the range to specific areas.

But the new guy on the block is a vast improvement in the other option in the Select drop down, which is to choose between Highlights, Midtones or Shadows. Prior to this CC update these selections were strictly based on number values within the three color channels and you pretty much had to hope that the selection worked for your needs. The Range slider now shows you the high or low cutoff point if you choose highlights or shadows, and the central range of tones selected with the midtones option.


The improvement is that the sliders are movable and you can adjust the highlight and shadow sliders to include more or less of the top and bottom values in the image. In the midtones option there are two sliders and you can move them both to modify exactly what tones are included or excluded in the selection. This makes the Color Range selection vastly more controllable. Add the Fuzziness slider and you control the expansion of your selected tones in the image. You can plug in numbers as well, but in most cases having a quick mask preview has proven most useful to me in making determinations.

One thing to remember about this tool is that the selections are based on numerical values in the color channels and values are either selected or not selected. The result will be a hard transition between these values which will show as distinctly black or white in a layer mask. This can mean that adjustments to the selected areas are easily detected in the image and occasionally leave unpleasant traces. This is resolved by blurring the mask to introduce softer transitions between the selected and unselected areas. The blurring is image and resolution dependent so don’t look for a one size fits all solution. Instead introduce Gaussian blur to the mask, and if necessary use Levels or Curves on the mask to modify the transitions and clean up the results.