How easily create Color Value Masks for precise selections

How easily create Color Value Masks for precise selections

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Few weeks ago I published an article called how to use color range to select highlights, in this article we’ll talk about how the color range tool is very helpful for making a quick and precise selection of all highlights making easy digital blending between exposures

This type of adjustment can also be used to select a precise mask based on color value, this technique is very useful when you want to make an adjustment to a specific color range. I often use this technique to easily create color value masks for precise selections when working on an image’s color balance, particularly for sunrises or sunsets

Creating the Color Value Mask

For example I need to select only some colors in the sky without affecting any of the other colors in the image. To do this Navigate to Select>Color range and a new window will appear

Color Range Window

Compared to the color range tutorial this time I select sampled colors, with the eyedropper tool simply click on the color that you want to select.

After select the color we need to adjust the fuzziness, about this further right you pull it, the wider the selection becomes. If you want intead a more restricted selection, simply pull it back towards the left

By clicking ok, the Color Range window closes and the new selection with marching ants appear. With this selection active, it is possible to create the adjustment layer needed

Add More Colors to the selection

Right side to the eyedropper tool selection there are other two eyedroppers:

The First: with a + symbol next the first eyedropper tool to add a new color to the selection without losing the old area selected. If we need to add a sampled color to the selection just press the eyedropper tool. In my example image I can select other colors to make my selection more complete. You can repeat the process as many times you need to add more colors to the selection

Add to Sample Eyedropper

The Second: with a symbol, to subtract a color by using the third and last Eyedropper Tool

How to use selections

Although I usually use Luminosity Masks to select areas in my workflow, I prefer using this Color Range technique when make adjustments to the sky for making specific selections based on colors or working on color balance

Selected areas

Selections such as this can be used for a large variety of purposes, for example with Photo Filters, Adjustment Layers, Curves, Color Balance, Levels, Hue/Saturation or either to add a mask using digital blending

So this was how to easily create color value masks for precise selection, if you want to let me know what you think about it or if you have further questions please let me know, I’m always happy to answer to you!


Digital Blending Using Color Range

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Among my favorite subjects there are certainly the cityscapes, during my travels in Asia I had the opportunity to explore urban landscapes like these many times, which offer beautiful shots from an architectural point of view, especially at dusk in these spots you can work with colors of city lights in contrast with the night twilight

In this article I want to talk about a very simple digital blending technique that I often use whenever I find myself managing an image like this. It’s very usefull to speed up and optimize the workflow, I recommend that small tip that in a few steps allows you to exposure blend two or more images in order to easily obtain an exposure with optimal highlights

So let’s start the digital blending using color range technique:

I captured a series of shots of this place and I selected this two exposures

Darker Exposure
Brighter Exposure

The darker expousure is nicely exposed along the lights on the buildings and a brighter exposure better for reflections and everything else. In this case we need to recover the highlights in the brighter exposure from the darker one

The first thing to do is to stack both layers as you normally do when you digital blend and make the darker exposure unvisible


After this create a mask on the darker exposure

Than navigate to to Select>Color Range and here select Highlights

In this selection the highlights are the brights parts and the shadows are the darker ones, we need to separate the brighter tones with the darker tones

When you’re happy with the selection press ok, than put the layer thumbnail visible of the darker exposure and you will see the digital blending using color range have recovered the highlights just with a click in the brighter exposure

Result image with recovered highlights

If you don’t want to affect some part of the exposure like this colored reflections on the foreground you can always select a black brush and paint those parts out as I do for the colored spot at the bottom 🙂


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Hi, my name is Giuseppe Sapori, a professional photographer and author of this website, created by yours truly to show my work and share with you the techniques I use. My expertise is in the field of Landscape Photography... (Read More)

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