Thursday, November 26, 2009

Selective Coloring in Adobe Camera Raw 5.5

So, you would like to do some selective coloring with an image but you also want a little more control than what you get using CS4. I think I've found the answer for you or at least for me since this is what I am using now. Here's the original image we will be working with.

I'm going to start by desaturating the entire photo first using the HSL/Greyscale panel , which can be found here.

When you first open this panel, the Hue tab will be the first set of sliders that are shown, you will want to select the "Saturation" tab and leave the other two tabs alone. Grab the red slider and move it to the left, which will give it a negative number and remove all the red from the image. You will want to repeat this for all of the colors, so go ahead and make all the colors in the saturation panel -100.

As you can see, we now have a completely desaturated image. Our next step is to make this look like a decent black and white image before moving on to add some color back in.

As you can see, the image needs some contrast, so we will need to return to the Basic Adjustment Panel, which is the icon that looks like a lens (first icon from the left). After you have brought up the Basic Adjustment Panel, go ahead and drag the Black slider to the right , for this image, something in the 25-35 range works best. You can go ahead and drag the clarity slider to the right too, for most landscape type photos I will usually go with a value of 30-40 for clarity. You can also go into the Tone Curve Panel (looks like a mountain on a graph), select Point and then either use the medium or the strong contrast setting and adjust from there like you would when using the Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop.

Ok, so we now have a decent Black and White image to work with, now we're going to start painting back in some of the color. Go ahead and click on the Adjustment Brush icon on the tool bar at the top left. The Adjustment Brush is located between the Red Eye Reduction tool and the Graduated Filter tool.

Before you start painting the image there are a few things we need to do first. Go ahead and ZERO out all of the sliders, you can do this by double clicking on each slider, this will set the value back to Zero.

Now, once you have done that, go ahead and drag the saturation slider all the way to the right, this should give you a value of +100. Go ahead and start painting in the area you want to add the color back into, I selected the green hot rod in the foreground in this image.

Don't worry if you make a mistake and paint an area that you didn't mean to, it's a very easy fix in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) as ACR is much more forgiving than CS4 is for this type of work. If you do make a mistake, simply hold down the ALT Key on a PC or the CMD Key on a Mac and paint back over the area you want to fix. (you'll notice that the brush changes from Add to Erase).

** Here's a quick tip for you guys, if you want to see what areas you have painted over with the adjustment brush, click on the Show Mask box directly below the brush panel.

As you can see, I have over painted in a few areas so I'll hold down ALT on PC (CMD on MAC) and paint back over the areas I don't want to add color to.

There, that looks pretty good. Now, if you click on the Show Mask box again, it will remove the mask and reveal the area you have painted over (this works for any adjustments you want to make, it doesn't have to be for just saturation).

Looks pretty good now but if I want to adjust anything, all I have to do is move the sliders for any of the values either right or left and it will effect only the area in which I painted over with the Adjustment Brush. So if I decide that +100 for Saturation is too much, I can move the slider over to say +30 and see how that looks now.

Having the ability to change any adjustment you've made using the adjustment brush is huge. That's what makes this method of Selective Coloring much easier to use and believe me it's a lot more forgiving too when compared to using layers in CS4. Another really nice feature is that all of the different adjustments you make are all represented as pins on the image, so if you go back several times to make serveral different adjustments, all you have to do is click on the appropriate pin and adjust the sliders from there.

Here's the final image below, I added in a bit of exposure , clarity and sharpness to the car we painted in , I thought it made the car stand out a bit more. I also adjusted the saturation down to 75 from 100 on the adjustment brush we used. I felt it made the image a bit more realistic looking.

That pretty much sums it up. Thank you again for visiting my blog, I hope you found that helpful. If you would like to see more of my work you can head on over to .

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My name is Michael White and I'm a Fine Art Photographer based out of the Tampa Bay area.   I enjoy photographing various landscapes and wild life that can be found in the US.  I am also the creator of a new process called High Key HDR. 
You can find my website at and I can also be followed on Twitter at @rorymadstudios .