Selecting by colour range is a way of selecting broken/disbursed areas that are the same colour, and would otherwise be time consuming and/or hard to select. These selections would be difficult to do using lasoo tools, macquee tools or even something like quick select. You might be able to achieve some of them with the magic wand tool or by basing a selection on a color channel, but even then it could prove tricky.

Lets start by opening a new photo. Go to the file menu and choose the open option. Select an image which lends itself to a color range selection, a good example of this would be trees with the sky behind them.

One this is done go back to the ‘File’ menu and select ‘Place Embedded’, choosing your second photo (the one you want to use for the new background). Your page should then look like this.

find a particular range of colours in an image

Resize this second image by clicking on one of the corners, and dragging it until it is the same size as the other photo. In the past this would involve holding down the Shift key while resizing to ensure the width and height stay in proportion, however in the newer versions this has now been reversed so no need to hold down shift anymore.

Next go to the layers panel on the right of your page and click on the padlock on the bottom layer. This unlocks the layer and you can now drag the layer you want to perform the selection on to the top of the layers panel.

Now make sure you have the top layer selected (the layer which you want to perform the selection on), and go to the ‘Select’ menu at the top of your page and click on it. In the ‘Select’ many click on ‘Colour Range’, and this will bring up the colour range dialog box.

selecting a colour range in a photo with photoshop

At the top of the dialog box use the select drop down to choose “Sampled Colors”.

In the select dialog box you will also see two sliders. One will be called Fuzziness and the other called Range.

If you slide the bar named Fuzziness to 200 (right), you’ll see that the colour values picked up are increased. If you slide the bar to 0 (left), you will see that very few colours are picked up. A good level to start with would be around 100 (about the middle), then adjust according to the image.

The Range bar is the distance it spreads while picking up colours. First, however, you need to make sure that the ‘Localised Colour Clusters’ box is ticked, because otherwise the Range Bar won’t work. So, by sliding the bar to 100 (right), it would pick up colours around a larger distance compared to if it was at 0 (left). A good level to have Range at to start with would be around 50 (about the middle), and then adjust according to the image.

Underneath the ‘Save’ button on the Colour Range dialog box, you should see three eyedroppers. The first will be plain, the second will have a small plus, and the third will have a small minus sign. The first will automatically be selected. By selecting the second one, you are adding to the selection (shortcut key=shift). To remove from the selection, choose the third one (shortcut key= alt).

When you are selecting, make sure to be holding the eyedropper over the actual image, not the mask preview. However, keep one eye on the Colour Range dialog box preview while you are selecting. Make sure to note that the area that will end up staying is white, and the area that will be replaced is the black on the pop-up menu. Sometimes it is easier to select the area you plan on removing, so if this is the case just tick the invert box.

If you are planning to select peoples, the Detect Faces check box, will make things easier.

Once you are happy with your selection, press ‘OK’. This will take you back to the original photo, but with your selection now in place.

select by color range in photoshop cc

You can turn this into a mask by clicking on the small, white rectangular box with a circular hole in middle at the bottom of the layers panel.

This will turn the selection into a mask and hide the layers not selected, showing the second layer in these areas, as can be seen below.

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