Beginner’s guide: colours
Release your inner artist by conducting a digital respray, and learn about Layers and Blending Modes at the same time
Release your inner artist by giving images a colourful digital respray.
Software Photoshop or Elements Image type Any pic in need of colour correction, or with a subject you want to recolour
Whether you want to warm up an image to make it more welcoming or add a dash of paint to a subject, knowing how to correct, enhance and even change colours is a vital skill for all photographers.
Although it’s really easy to do, you can create striking effects that will add bags of impact to your pictures, and the same core technique covers all kinds of images. You might want to change the eye colour on a
head shot, respray your car with a fresh paint job, or even see how your house would look with different coloured walls and trim. All these – and many more effects – can be achieved with this editing process, and what’s more, it introduces the deeper workings of Photoshop in the form of Layers, Selections and Blending Modes.
In essence, this technique is like a mini course in editing, but we’ve broken it down into simple steps that you’ll master in no time!
1 Adjust the colour to add warmth
With your pic in Photoshop or Elements, open the Layers panel (Windowlayers) and click the Adjustment Layer icon (the half dark/half white circle). Choose Levels from the list, and in the palette, select the grey (middle) eyedropper tool. Click on a neutral tone in the pic, and you’ll quickly adjust the colours to get a natural look. You can also achieve a warm or cool look by clicking on slightly blue or slightly yellow tones. We settled for neutral colours by clicking on the cabin’s door. You can click wherever you like so, if in doubt, just do this until you get the colour balance you like.
2 Paint on your new look
With the colours corrected, now pick a subject you want to repaint, and click around it with the Polygonal Lasso tool until it’s surrounded with ‘marching ants’. In the Layers panel, click the Create a New Layer icon and a new Layer will appear. Click where it says Normal and change the Blending Mode to Color. Go to Windowswatches and pick a colour you want to use from the palette. Select the Brush tool, adjust brush size with the square brackets, and paint the subject. If you wish, choose other colours and paint these into the subject in the same way.
3 Refine your colours for a natural finish
Hit Ctrl+d to lose the Selection. If your new paint job looks unnatural, you can tone down the results. Click the Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/ Saturation, then hold Alt and click on the line between the new Layer and the Layer below. The Adjustment Layer will jump to the right, indicating that it’s ‘clipped’ and will only affect the Layer beneath. In the Hue/sat palette, reduce Saturation for a more natural look. To alter the colours, adjust Hue. To make the changes more subtle, click on the colour Layer to make it active, and reduce the Opacity slider to around 70%.
Before The colour balance has very cool tones. It would be fun to try the sculpture with bolder colours.
After The image is warmer and more inviting, and the cabin is transformed!