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How to Use the Color Range Command in Photoshop CS6

The Color Range command in Photoshop CS6 allows you to select similarly colored pixels in a selection or within an entire image. You can think of it as a smarter Magic Wand tool. Unlike the Magic Wand tool, however, Color Range lets you adjust your selection before you ultimately get the selection outline.

It does this by using Fuzziness (a cousin of Tolerance), which allows you to select colors relative to how closely they resemble the sampled colors. Photoshop CS6 selects all the identical colors, partially selects similar colors, and doesn’t select dissimilar colors. You adjust the fuzziness, and Photoshop CS6 adjusts the selection.

Here are some Color Range command tips before you get started:

  • You can save and load Color Range settings by clicking the appropriate buttons in the dialog box. But heck, after you have a selection, you can also choose Select→Save Selection to save it as an alpha channel.

  • You can select a color range based on preset colors or tones that you choose from the Select drop-down menu (pop-up menu on the Mac). For example, choosing red automatically selects all the red in the image. Choosing midtones selects all the medium-range tones in the image. And Out-of-Gamut (only available for RGB and Lab modes) selects all colors that can’t be printed by using CMYK colors.

    Version CS6 enables you to select a color based on skin tones. When this option is selected, you may also choose the Detect Faces option to get better results. Masking just faces allows you to either protect the faces from adjustments you want to make to the rest of the image (after you invert the selection), or allows you to adjust only the faces.

    For example, if the faces are too red or green or in shadow due to harsh lighting, you many want to adjust only the faces. Note, however, that it isn’t foolproof. If your subject(s) have light colored hair, the color range command may also pick that up in addition to the faces.

    If you choose the Color Range command when you have an active selection, Photoshop selects only colors within the selection outline and ignores the rest of your image.

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