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  #1  
Old December 7th, 2008, 07:47 AM
lemon_juice lemon_juice is offline
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Color Range workaround for Elements

I have found a workaround for color range selection in Photoshop Elements, it may not be as convenient as the one from full Photoshop version but it works and should be enough for most cases. There are basically two techniques depending on how you want to select the colour range. I did this in Elements 2 but will work in any version. I couldn't find anything about it on the web so I decided to try it on my own. I hope some of you will find it useful.

The first technique is useful when you want to manually select the colour by selecting a specific spot on the image. You will need a layer mask add-on installed (e.g. Grant Tools):

1. Open the image in Elements and duplicate the background layer. We will be working on this layer only and leave the background layer untouched.

2. Open the Replace Color adjustment. Select a color in your image (for example the blue in the sky) and adjust the range of selection with the fuzziness slider. Choose the "Selection" circle under the preview image to see the preview of your selection. This step is very much like the real Color Range from full Photoshop.

3. Once you have your color selected move the lightness slider maximum to the left or right (-100 or 100). If you selection consists of dark colors move it to the right, for light colors move it to the left, if the selection is in midtones range then either direction will do. The idea here is that you should make the biggest difference possible in the image to your selected range. Apply the changes.

4. Change the layer's blending mode to Difference.

5. Select all (Ctrl+A) and Copy Merged (Ctrl+Shift+C)

6. Add a layer mask to this layer

7. Alt click on the layer mask to enable mask editing. You should see white everywhere. Paste into the mask (Ctrl+V). Choose Levels (Ctrl+L) and click the "Auto" button and OK.

8. Now we will not need this layer to be visible so turn off the layer visibility by clicking on the small eye icon.

9. Our color range selection is ready in the layer mask. Whenever you Ctrl+click on the layer mask, the color range selection will load. You can now switch to the background layer, Ctrl+click on the layer mask in the top layer and apply any adjustments you want on the selection.

10. If you want to keep the selection in your PSD file for the future you can delete the contents of the top layer, it's not necessary for anything but will only take up memory and disk space. We only need the contents of the mask. Or, you can save the selection by Select > Save selection and remove the layer altogether.




The second technique is somewhat similar and can be used if you want to select specific colours like blues, reds, magentas, etc. without picking them from the image. Suppose we want to select the blue sky - we will be selecting blues and cyans:

1. Open the image in Elements and add the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. In the Edit box select the colours you want for selections and for each colour set the Hue slider to -180 or +180. For example choose Blues - change Hue, choose Cyans - change Hue. Click OK.

2. Change the layer's blending mode to Difference.

3. Select all (Ctrl+A) and Copy Merged (Ctrl+Shift+C)

4. Alt click on the layer mask to enable mask editing. You should see white everywhere. Paste into the mask (Ctrl+V).

5. Now we will not need this layer to be visible so turn off the layer visibility by clicking on the small eye icon.

6. The color range selection is in the mask just like in the previous technique.

Let me know what you think about these techniques. The first one may not be as precise as the one in Photoshop because I use Auto Levels to strengthen the selection, which may result in some posterization of the selection. But I think in most cases it will not be visible and should work well enough. The second technique seems to be precise and giving almost the same result as the Photoshop version, I could see some subtle differences but that should not be a problem. Actually, it's even better because here you can choose several colours as your range or refine the range with the bottom colour sliders, something that CS4 doesn't allow you to do with the Color Range tool.
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Last edited by lemon_juice; December 7th, 2008 at 12:29 PM. Reason: small clarification
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Old December 7th, 2008, 07:55 AM
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LauraE LauraE is offline
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Thanks for the tutorial. I will definetely give it a try. I love the tutorials in this forum. There are so many things you can do with Elements but you do not know about them until you start playing with the tutorials.
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Old December 7th, 2008, 10:00 AM
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TonyW TonyW is offline
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Very clever. I've often played with trying to use the replace color mask in Elements as a color range mask (it appears to be the same as the color range one in Photoshop but you can't get at it as a selection like you can in Photoshop.). Your method looks like it will work - and it's inspired me to play around some more and see if it can't be turned into an action that works in Elements.

Tony
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Old December 7th, 2008, 10:40 AM
Michel B Michel B is offline
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The second method, based on a difference mode is the way I chose for my tutorial in the anniversary newsletter of photoshopcreativeelements. I have added two addidtional adjustment layers to:
- select color similarity instead of color+tone similarity
- make the selection more precise

Additionnally, the setup is based on 6 adjustments layers which should be saved in a separate psd to be moved on your picture to create the mask. Very quick and flexible. I use this method for selecting purple fringing, skin tones (I can mask reddish or yellowish skins separately). The ability to select color without tone can provide a way to separate two different white balance lightings in a single picture (tungsten + daylight, flash + fluo, blue shadows and afternoon warmth...)
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Old December 8th, 2008, 07:58 AM
lemon_juice lemon_juice is offline
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The first method as I described here selects color+tone similarity because that's how Replace Color works. But if instead of Lightness you change the Hue (to -180 or +180) then only color similarity will be selected. I'm still wondering if it would be possible to somehow skip the auto levels step. If you change Lightness then the difference will not be enough to make the selection strong enough (=too much transparency) so that's why I use auto levels.

I suspect that the second method always works on colour similarity only since Hue/Saturation works on colour information only and disregards tone. But with Hue/Saturation you can also pick a sample from the image and this should work well, or even better than Replace Color if you don't want tone to be taken into account.

There's a lot of potential for making various selections with the Difference blending mode because you can make any adjustment to the image and turn the affected parts into selection.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 08:56 AM
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Michal: You're right, the difference mode is the key. I did some playing around and to match the color range mask you do seem to need auto levels or something similar to increase the tone range. One helpful extra action that does work in Elements is making a selection of the composite (RGB) channel. Once you have the difference mask, using that action (you need Photoshop to make it) creates a selection which matches pretty closely the selection that the Color Range selection makes in full Photoshop.

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Old December 8th, 2008, 10:08 AM
Michel B Michel B is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lemon_juice View Post
Select all (Ctrl+A) and Copy Merged (Ctrl+Shift+C)
The first one may not be as precise as the one in Photoshop because I use Auto Levels to strengthen the selection, which may result in some posterization of the selection. But I think in most cases it will not be visible and should work well enough.
The posterization effect is an unavoidable result of the difference mode. The lighter values are generally very dark, hence a very small gamut. Since Elements does not have 16 bits for layers, we have to live with it. I have tried the auto levels method, but I find using levels selectively is more precise. My preferred method to amplify the difference is a black to white gradient map. My setup consists of 6 layers:
- 1 - 50% grey fill layer, luminosity mode (equalizes luminosity, leaves color: hue + saturation). You may want not to use it if you want to take tones into account.
- 2 - (optional) HSL adjustment layer with sat +20 or +30% to better target you color.
- 3 - The color fill layer with the targeted color in difference mode
- 4 - another HSL adjustment layer with sat -100% to desaturate
- 5 - a levels adjustment layer
- 6 - an inverse adjustment layer to make a hide all instead of show all mask if needed.

Steps 4 and 5 are best replaced by a gradient map adjustment layer if you are familiar with them.

The 6 layers are saved in a tiny psd file.

Worlflow:
- open the psd file together with your working file
- use the eyedropper to pick your target color as foreground color
- with both files open (window/tile), select all six layers from the psd layer stack (click on the upper layer, shift click on the lower one), drag them over your working file.
- change the target color layer in difference mode to your foreground color.
- adjust the levels layer
- toggle invert layer on/off depending on your goal, showing or hiding.
- file/duplicate with flatten checkbox saved
Your mask is ready in the duplicate, you can discard the adjustment layers and use it as indicated by Michal.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 11:21 PM
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lruther1 lruther1 is offline
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Tx for the great tips Michel and Tony. I have pasted your whole discussion into a word doc for future reference.
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