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How to Use Selective Color in Photoshop

By Jules Ebe on April 27th 2013

When dealing with color correct on your image in Photoshop, there are three main adjustment layers that are the “go-to” in post-processing. Today will take a brief look at Selective Color Adjustment. I’ve noticed most people tend to shy away from this adjustment in relation to color toning. It is a shame, because this is quite a helpful tool to use in your color correction workflow. Selective Color Adjustment layers give far more control over the color spectrum and can result in some subtle, yet powerful improvements to the look of your overall photo.

The Three Big Boys of Color

7 color channels: 3 general sliders: 1 color hue, 1 color saturation, 1 color luminosity

Color Balance
4 color channels: shadows, mid-tones, highlight

Selective Color
9 color channels: 4 color sliders for each

The range is pretty impressive and can be intimidating at first.


With the Selective Color Adjustment, all Color Channels will have the same 4 sliders: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow will effect the density, or presence, of each color (and its opposite), within that specific Color Channel.

For example: How red or green your yellows are.


The Black slider effects the luminosity of the image. Increase for more contrast / saturation, decrease for more luminosity. Again, this is adjustable for each specific Color Channel. It is definitely something you should play around with to find the tone and luminosity you desire.

For each, you can choose Relative or Absolute adjustments.

Also, this is added with an automatic layer mask, so if you need to block out the effect for separate areas of your image, just brush on the mask (black or white) and you are good to go.

Skin Tone and Selective Color

Skin tone is a great place to test out this technique. Skin tone is a blend of all colors, and finding that right balance can be quite a challenge. You may also want to try this out with a photo that has a fairly color neutral background, such as true black, gray, or white. This way you can get a good visual of the subtle (or dramatic) shifts you are making.

Color channels you may want to play around with include (but are not limited to):

    Fair Skin Tones: Red and Yellow
    Olive Skin Tones: Red, Yellow, and Green
    Dark Skin Tones: Red and Yellow (depending on Hue)

As you begin to become comfortable with this technique, try a variety of tones to appreciate the diversity and unique characteristics inherent for each subject and lighting condition.

How Selective Color Works: Tutorial

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.


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  2. Basit Zargar


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  3. Chris Shannon

    Hey let’s be nice. First of all this video was published in 2011. Since then Andrei has made a lot of awesome videos that do have more energy and enthusiasm. I really dislike reading negative comments about something that is free. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

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  4. Tony Guillaro

    I hope that guy never makes another video!!
    Get some energy in your voice .. I mean I really want to watch this but damn I cant take it

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