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Black-and-White HDR: Colorize with Elements Color Variations Tool

One option for colorizing black-and-white high dynamic range (HDR) images in Photoshop Elements is to use the Color Variations tool. Several controls are available here with which you can increase or decrease colors in specific tonal regions. In other words, if you want to increase green in the shadows, you can. The downside is that you have only three color options: Red, Green, and Blue.

All is not lost, however, because a side effect of decreasing any of the three primary colors is increasing another color. Red and cyan are thus linked, as are green and magenta, and blue and yellow. Therefore, to increase cyan, decrease red. Although this is an easy method, it’s sometimes hard to exercise fine control over the process, and the preview window is tiny.

To colorize a black-and-white image in Elements using the Color Variations dialog box, follow these steps:

  1. Modify brightness and contrast as desired by selecting an option from either the Enhance→Adjust Lighting menu or the Enhance→Adjust Color→Adjust Color Curves menu.

    Increase contrast for a nice, dramatic effect. You can also alter shadows, midtones, and highlight brightness as well as midtone contrast.

  2. Choose Enhance→Adjust Color→Color Variations.

    The Color Variations dialog box appears, as shown in this figure.

    image0.jpg
  3. Increase and decrease colors by selecting a radio button (Midtones, Shadows, Highlights, or Saturation), and then adjusting the Amount slider.

  4. Choose a color to increase or decrease by clicking the appropriate button (Increase Red, Decrease Red, and so on). To lighten or darken the image as a whole, click the Lighten or Darken button.

  5. (Optional) Click the Undo button if you don’t like a change; click the Reset Image button to revert to the original and start over.

  6. When you’re satisfied with the results, click OK.

A good way to use the Color Variations dialog box in Elements is for cross-processing, which is a technique used to develop film in chemical solutions meant for another type of film. The result is an oddly colorized image, often heavy in greens and yellows.

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