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 (Win­dow’lay­ers) 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 Win­dow’swatches 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!

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