Using Selective Color to get better tones in Photoshop

You know my workflow, Tone, Color, Artistic Effects, right? I preach it all the time and more often than not, I teach how to get better colors through your tonal work first, right? Well, recently, I discovered an incredible use for the Selective Color Adjustment Layer to get better tones.

Wait, hold the phone…

So Blake, now you are telling us we can get better colors through our tones and better tones through our colors? Uh, yeah, that’s precisely what I am saying. Now to blow your mind one more time, you can use color to get better tones, so you can use tone to get better color so that you can get better color from your tonal colorwork…

Not only is that a tongue twister, but it is confusing as all get out! I promise this tutorial will be more straightforward than reading the last sentence of that last paragraph.

What I discovered recently is that you can use the Selective Color Adjustment Layer with a Luminosity Blend Mode to get a ton of control over the tones in your photo. The Luminosity Blend Mode only allows the selected layer to affect the underlying layers Luminance values. So when we use a Selective Color Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity, we get to control the tones in our colors without shifting the hue or saturation of the color.

Trust me, all of this will make more sense when I demonstrate it. These are some advanced concepts that I think you will find quite challenging to wrap your head around from one viewing. 

Therefore, I STRESS that you experiment with it. It’s simple:

  1.  Make a Selective Color Adjustment Layer
  2. Select the LUMINOSITY Blend Mode
  3. Select a prominent color in your photo.
  4. Move the sliders to the right to get darker 
  5. Move the sliders left to get brighter
  6. Repeat as necessary for each prominent color in your photo

That’s it, pretty easy, huh? Let’start with the tutorial first; then, I give you permission to run off and experiment.

Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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