Creative Color with Photoshop | Khara Plicanic | Skillshare

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Welcome!

    • 2. Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers

    • 3. Gradients & Gradient Maps

    • 4. Let's Paint!

    • 5. You Did It! Free Bonus: Creative Toolkit

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About This Class

Ready to color your world?  In this class, we'll explore beginner-friendly color manipulation with Photoshop.

You'll learn three (3), simple and non-destructive ways to get creative with color in your images, including:

  • How to skew existing color in an image for creative effect, as well as how to and re-colorize an image with a single hue, using adjustment layers.
  • The difference between a Gradient and Gradient Map and what makes them awesome
  • How to manually paint your image (non-destructively) using layers, blend modes, and simple selections

----------- FAQ's ----------


So take a minute to download them (click RESOURCES below the video, then in the right side column, you'll find the link to download the files), grab your favorite beverage, and I'll meet you back here to jump into Lesson 1!


Here's a link for a 7-day, fully-functioning free trial.


You can have the most current, always updated version of Photoshop (plus Lightroom) for $9.99/month as a Photography subscriber to Adobe's Creative Cloud. (If you don't see the $9.99/month plan, be sure you're browsing within the "Photography" category.)


It's been awhile since I've test driven things in Elements, but yes, within the "Experts" workspace of Photoshop Elements, you do have access to adjustment layers. (Elements currently sells for $99.99 per year, which is only $20 less than a subscription to the full version for the same time period. Something to consider!)

Meet Your Teacher

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Khara Plicanic

Inspiration & Know-How for Creatives


With a passion for simplicity, my courses are geared towards beginners. I take great pride in demystifying topics and concepts in a way that not only empowers new learners, but is also a whole lot of fun. Join me on a new learning adventure!

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1. Welcome!: I'm Carol punch, an inch long time Photoshop, nerd and design geek. Here just show you three different ways to have fun with color in Photoshop. Whether you are brand new to Photoshop or you feel like you know, your way around pretty well in this class is gonna give you some new ideas for exploring and having fun with color, will start by exploring hue saturation adjustment layers. Then we'll see how that compares with gradient and gradient map adjustment. And finally, it will pick up a paintbrush to add our own ideas about color. All of the example files and practice files you see me using are included in the resources for this course. So take a minute, go download those and I will meet you back here to get started in the next video. 2. Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers: In this video, we're going to be adjusting the color of an image using a hue saturation adjustment layer. We're going to be working with the sunset image first. And because Adjustment Layers live in the layers panel, we need to make sure that our Layers panel is open. So to do that, we're going to come up to the window menu in Photoshop and click layers. So if it's not already open, it should be now. And you'll notice that right now we just have the Background layer, that is the image that we're starting with. In this case, the sunset. To add a hue saturation adjustment layer, we're going to be coming down to the bottom of the Layers panel and clicking on this little icon right here. So it looks like a half moon or I call it a yin-yang. It's half black, half white. And when we click on it, we get this menu here of all different types of adjustments that can be made right here in the layers panel. So you'll notice that one of them is hue saturation. So we're gonna go ahead and click on that. And now two things happen. One is that we see the addition of a new layer here in the Layers panel, and it's aptly called hue saturation one. So photoshop created that just automatically when we selected the hue saturation adjustments. So this layer consists of two parts. It's got a layer mask right here which is blank and we're not going to worry about it in this course. So that is another lesson for another day. But the other component of this layer is this icon right here, and this is the actual adjustment itself. We'll talk more about that in a second. The other thing that is now on our screen is the Properties panel right here. And here we can see that we have three sliders to work with. And two of them are hue and saturation. So what this is going to do is take the hues of our image, the existing hues. So hue is colour in the purest sense of the word. So we're going to be taking the existing color in this image and we're gonna be shifting it around the color wheel or color spectrum. So here we don't see a wheel, obviously we see a horizontal line, so we see the color wheel. If you imagine this being a wheel, and then if you imagine that we snip the top of it and then open it up flat. That becomes a linear coloured spectrum. So that is what we're looking at here. And you'll notice as I take this slider and if I just start dragging it, the colors begin to shift. So now our sky is green up on top and we've got some Deep Purple's down here. And we can go all the way this way where you'll notice, if you pay attention to numbers, this is for you. It goes to minus 80 on one side. So you might have a guess what it says on the other side. If we drag this back, we go through 0, which is where we started. And if we go the other direction now. We're going to end up at plus 180 because of course, if we think of a circle having 360 degrees and we snip it up here. And we're starting in the middle of this 0 in our linear your goal. Then we would have plus 180 on one side and minus 180 on the other. And because of that, you'll notice that the colors that we get when we are at plus one AD is the same as when we're at minus 180 because they're both the opposite of where we started at 0. So the plus just means going one way around the color wheel and the minus means going around the other way. So that's pretty cool. We can get some really neat effects and we didn't have to like do much. We didn't even have to make selections or anything. So this is one thing that we can do while we're here. We can also adjust the saturation, which means the intensity of the color. So we could drag it to the left, which is D saturating our image to the point where if we drag it all the way to the left, it just appears as a black and white image. And of course, if we drag it to the right, it starts to get a little bit to punched up. And if we were to print this, it would look pretty not good. But we get some very intense saturation. So that is what those two sliders do. And a third option down here is this button that says colorize. So if we click on that, something totally different happens. So before, just money to go, when we played with the hue slider, we were taking existing color and shifting it around on our linear color wheel. In this case, when we turn colorize on, we are actually wiping out all of the existing color in our image and we're instead replacing it with a given hue. So with the colorized option turned on. Now if I come up here into the hue slider, now instead of shifting things by a certain amount, now we're simply introducing a single hue to the image. So the numbers here are different. Now it ranges from 0 on one side to 360 on the other. So this is a great way that you can create a colored toned image, of course, is just one of many ways that you can do that in Photoshop. But this is a quick and easily accessible one. So that's a look at shifting the color or replacing the queue in an image. And now we're gonna take a look at how we can actually target certain colour ranges in an image and just make adjustments to those. So in this image here, we have the beautiful blue background and then we have these bright orange slices on it. So what if we wanted to change the color of the oranges, but we don't want to mess with that beautiful blue background. Or we've got a couple of green leaves down here. We're going to repeat the same process. So at the bottom of the layers panel, we're going to click to add another hue saturation adjustment. So now we've got a new hue saturation adjustment layer, just like we did before. It's got the blank mask and it has the adjustment icon right here. And here is the Properties panel once again. And this time though, instead of just grabbing the hue slider and dragging it around and therefore changing the whole image. We are going to specify what we would like to change. And the way that we do that without having to make a selection is we can come right here to this drop down where it says Master. And I'm just going to click on that. And instead of master, I'm going to select yellows. Now the Orange is not technically yellow, we would call it orange, but in Photoshop, it considers it yellowish. So we can click on that and we see that Photoshop chooses a section here in this rainbow below. And it's showing us with these little bookends. Here. It's showing us what it considers to be yellow. So we can look at this and we can say, okay, well, let's kinda in the Orangi range right here, so that could work. And indeed if you test it, it actually does. But for the sake of learning, I'm gonna show you how to tweak photoshops definition of color. So again, we selected yellows up here instead of master Photoshop defined yellows down here. And now we can click this first eyedropper on the left. And we can actually tell Photoshop what we mean when we say yellow, or in this case orange. We want more orangey yellows. So to tell Photoshop that we click this first eyedropper and we just mouse over the image on top of the orange itself and give it a little click. And when I do this, watch those little sliders at the bottom of the Properties panel. So I'm gonna click boom. And they moved a smidge. Not a whole lot because actually photoshop was pretty close to right on. But this is one way that you can define a color. You can target it with this drop down, and then you can expand or contract that definition of that particular color by using these eyedropper is down here. So you can see that there is a plus eyedropper to expand your definition of a color and the minus, we'll subtract it. So I think we're in pretty good shape. Now we're ready to take this, use lighter and we can drag it around. And you'll see that indeed, just the oranges are changing and the blue background is not. So maybe the whole thing should be blue and maybe that's fun. There. Now the oranges can match the background. I really like them over in this red area. That's kinda fun. And then maybe we wanna take the saturation and drag that down a bit. So you'll notice that there's no okay button here. And that's because this is what we call non-destructive editing. So this is an adjustment that we're making, but we're not actually applying it to the image yet. So there is no okay that we need to click instead when we're ready to move on and we can just click on the icon up here to collapse the panels. You can click if you have the shortcut button here, you can click that. Or if your panel is floating, you can click this little double arrow and it will just close it and took it out of the way. So then let's say we go about our business and we're like, wait a minute. I don't know if I really want those oranges to be this color. Maybe I want them to be something else. We can pop that adjustment back open at anytime by just double-clicking this thumbnail right here on the adjustment layer in the layers panel. So I can double-click that pops the Properties panel right back open again. And then I can just go back to the yellows right here. So it defaults back to master, so we don't want to mess with that. We would wanna go back to the yellows, but then it remembers our settings and we could say, okay, maybe I wanted that to be more purple. Like that's pretty cool. And maybe desaturated a little bit, and maybe we like that instead. So that's the beauty of working with adjustment layers as they are endlessly adjustable, M non-destructive to our image. Another thing I should point out while we're talking about adjustment layers is you'll notice if you look at the thumbnail for the background, for the actual image itself, it has not changed. So you can see in the thumbnail that the orange slices are still orange even though over here we're viewing them as purple. And that is because the adjustment is not on the background layer. It's up here. It's sort of like a magical layer. And the only thing on it is the instructions that tell Photoshop to adjust the hue and saturation. So this background, we can just hide this. We can turn this layer on and off by clicking the little visibility icon here. And we can turn it on and off and see our original image, or turn it back on and see our adjusted image. So let's try this again on another image. This time what we're going to take a classic red to Whistler and change its color. So again, from the bottom of the layers panel, we click the little half-moon and we select hue saturation. And if we want to just target the whistler, which is red, we're going to select from this dropdown here instead of master, which would affect the whole image, we're going to select reds. And we can take the hue slider and turn it blue. Maybe we have blue to Hitler's or green is kinda fun. So you can see how easy and how powerful just a simple hue saturation and adjustment layer can be. In the next video, I'm going to show you the difference between a gradient and a gradient map. 3. Gradients & Gradient Maps: Okay, we are going to talk about the difference between a gradient and a gradient map. They are both adjustment layers that we can use to have some fun with the color in our images, whether that's adjusting existing color or introducing something new altogether. So once again, from the bottom of the layers panel, we're going to click the half-moon icon. But this time, instead of hue saturation, you'll notice that there are two gradient options. There's regular gradient and then there's something called gradient map. So we're going to start with regular gradient. So that is the second option from the top. And again, you'll notice that this adds another adjustment layer. And again it's got a mask. And then it has this icon here which is different than the one for the hue saturation adjustment layer. This is a gradient adjustment layer. We also have this pop-up here that is asking us to select a gradient fill. So right here we see it says gradient and here's a little preview. Now, gradient is just a transition of one color into another. So it's a great radiated blend between two colors. Or sometimes 35, however many columns you want. Or sometimes it can actually be a gradient that transitions between a color and transparency. So there's a lot of fun to be had with gradients. And there's a lot of cool settings you can play with in here. But for right now, we're just going to click this little drop-down. And Photoshop comes with a bunch of preset gradients. So depending on your version of Photoshop, you may have like folder after folder of options. So this is something to really spend some time at playing with because there's all kinds of fun things inside it. Grab this color here, and this is a three color gradient. So it's called grapes, strawberry, lemon. And you can see that it goes from purple to pink to yellow. So I'm going to click to select that colour. And then I'll just click away to get the dropdown here closed. We're going to leave everything else as it is. And go ahead and click OK. And now you can see that we can see a preview of our gradient over here in our Layers panel. And our image has disappeared. But if we look at our Layers panel, we see our image is really quite still there, but it's being covered up by this gradient. So this is a regular gradient as opposed to a gradient map. So you can see in this case, it was a linear gradient. If I pop this back open, you can see under style there's different styles of gradients. So a linear is just, linear. Gradient is just when it goes from one color into another. And it's just like in a line. That line could be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, any which way. It's just happening in a linear fashion. So this is yellow at the top, it's pink in the middle and it's purple at the bottom. And we can change the way it interacts with the background layer underneath by changing its blend mode. So in the layers panel, with that Adjustment Layer selected, we can come up here where it says normal. And if I click that dropdown and try something like multiply, Look how cool that is. You can still see that the gradient is exactly where it was. It's yellow on the top, pink in the middle, and purple on the bottom. But now it's blending with the original photo image underneath. So I think that's a pretty cool effect. And blend modes offer all kinds of options. So here instead of multiply, you can just kinda mouse your way through these and look at linear burns. Nice too. You can look at all the different ways that, that particular gradient can be blended with the layer underneath. But you'll notice that all of them, except for the ones where like the colors disappear completely. The like these ones where it's like inverting the color. Throughout this whole thing. The yellow is at the top. It's finite. Good. The yellow is at the top. The purpose, the pink is in the middle. There we go. And the purple is at the bottom. So that isn't regular gradient, it's just laid on top of the photo and then we can sort of change the way it blends. Okay? So I'm going to leave this set to multiply for now, and I'm going to turn that off and hide that temporarily by clicking that visibility icon. Again. This time we're going to add a gradient map. So we're gonna go back to the low half-moon and we'll scroll down and this time instead of gradient, but second from the top, we're gonna go second from the bottom and choose gradient map. And it looks like we're talking about the same thing. We have another adjustment layer. We have another icon here for the adjustment. One is called gradient fill. That's the one we just did that's currently off right now. And then this one is gradient map. So let's go back to the same drop-down right here. And I'm gonna pick the same gradient, so purple and pink and yellow. And we're getting a totally different effect. So I'm going to close the Properties panel and let's talk about this because we didn't even change the blend mode yet. You can see that we're still in normal blend mode. And the effect that we're having is quite different. So instead of doing what the first gradient did, let's put that back in normal blend mode. The first gradient just started at yellow, went to pink and became purple, but the Gradient Map is altogether different. The Gradient Map is taking one color, in this case yellow, and it's mapping it to the highlights in the image or the bright areas. And the purple, the grape that was on the other end of the spectrum is mapping to the shadows of the image. And then the pink in the middle is mapping to the mid tones in between. So instead of just overlaying the color in a linear fashion without any regard to the actual tones in the image, a gradient map maps the colors of the gradient to the tones of image, which is super cool. So you can see here that the mid tones are more pink and the shadows, the really dark areas are the grape purple and the bright areas are yellow. And of course there are all the radiations in between. So this is super cool. And just like with the other gradient adjustment layer, we can still change the blend mode. We don't have to because it's not overlaying the color on the image. It's actually mapping the gradient to the tones. So we don't have to change the blend mode, but we could, and we get different effects. So we can scroll through that is gorgeous, darker color, big fan. So you can play and you know, see what you think, see what you like. And blend modes are one of those things that with practice, they become somewhat predictable. But honestly it's always a bit of a surprise and a guessing game. So just scroll through and when you find something you like, then, you know, awesome. So we can leave this to color. Color is also very nice. So that is a look at the difference between a regular gradient Adjustment layer and a gradient map Adjustment Layer. Join me in the next video where I'm going to show you how to make simple selections. And we're actually going to paint our photograph. 4. Let's Paint!: In this video, we are going to die easter eggs with our Photoshop paintbrush. So we have here this beautiful image of these eggs and we are going to colorize them, but we're not going to be using an adjustment layer this time. And instead, we are going to select the eggs and then Street up, paint them. And it's easier than it sounds. The first thing that we're gonna do is grab our quick selection tool to select the egg. So a selection basically allows us to isolate part of an image. So this will make it possible for us to color the eggs and paint the eggs without painting out of the lines. Basically it's sort of like a stencil. We're targeting part of the image. And there's a really great tool that can help us with that. It's over here on our toolbar. The keyboard shortcut for this tool family is w. And if I click and hold on this tool right here, we'll see that this w family has two members, the Quick Selection Tool and the magic wand tool. For this, we're going to be using the Quick Selection Tool and it is a brush tool. So like all of the other brushes in Photoshop, we can change its size by pressing the left or the right bracket keys on our keyboards. So those are the two brackets next to the letter p for paint. So the left bracket key will make our brush smaller. The right bracket key will make the brush bigger. And there's no required size here is just sort of whatever you think is going to work well. So I'm adjusting my brush until it's about 70 pixels. But you can do whatever doesn't matter. But just for reference, the 70 up here in the control panel tells me that my brushes 70 pixels in diameter. So that's what that means. The other thing we want to keep an eye on are these settings up here in the Control Panel. This tells us whether each click that we do is going to make a new selection. Or maybe it's going to add to the selection, or it might subtract from a selection. So those are basically modifier button for how this tool works. So for right now, because we're going to select all these eggs at once. We're going to make a series of what, five clicks, there's five eggs. We need to be able to make one selection and then add to it. So we want the add modifier on. And then we just position our cursor over here in the image and kind of click and sort of you even have to drag very much to basically click on this top. Egg and Photoshop just selects it like magic. Pretty awesome. Then we're gonna come down here, do the same thing on this egg. This egg, this egg and that egg. See how this is working. And then we see all these little squiggly black and white undulating lines around the eggs and those indicate our selection. So the area inside of that, those funny lines is called our selection. And the lines themselves are actually referred to as marching ants because that's what they look like. So you're welcome. Photoshopped trivia fans. Okay. Now we're almost ready to paint, but we never want to paint directly on our background layer because that would be destructive. And it doesn't give us any flexibility. So we need to make a new blank layer. And we can do that from the bottom of the layers panel by clicking this little plus button right here. And we see that we now have a new layer called layer one. And it is Blink, which is indicated by all of the checkerboard here at that represents transparency. So we can rename Layer one by double-clicking on the words and typing paint and pressing return. And now we need our paintbrush. So the brush that we're going to use is just the regular brush tool. So the keyboard shortcut for that is B for brush. And just to make sure you know where we are, that's right here on the toolbar. And you'll see that the B family is a family of four. And some of these other brushes, they look very similar, but we just want the regular plain old brush tool. So make sure you select that. We can see up here in our control panel, you can see what size your brushes. Mine is currently 500 pixels, which is massive. So I want to scale that down by pressing again that left bracket key. I'll make it maybe a 125 pixels. Another thing we need to check before we start painting is because we've got this selection that includes multiple eggs. Unless we want all the eggs to be the same color, we need to paint them carefully. And we need a brush that's not gonna bleed color from one part of the selection to the other. So we don't want a soft, fuzzy edged brush. So right now I can see that my brush is indeed hard edged because this little dot above the numbers right here indicates the brush stroke. And you can see it looks like a pepperoni or something. It's just a circle with a crisp edge. So I have a hard edge brush. If my breast was soft, the preview might look like this, like more fuzzy. So those same left and right bracket keys on your keyboard that we use to change the brush size. If we hold down shift and we press left bracket key, it will make the brush softer. And shift right bracket key will make it harder. And for a reference of what's happening when we do that, if we look in the control panel here, if we click on this little drop-down next to our brush tip preview, we can see a slider for size and a slider for hardness. So these are the sliders that are being adjusted with those left and right bracket keys. And again, the hardness is with the addition of the Shift key. Alright, so we wanna make sure our brush is hard and a decent size. And by the way, if you have your Caps Lock key on, you will not see that round brush cursor, you'll see this cross hairs. So make sure you don't have caps lock on. So the next thing we're gonna do is choose our color. So we're going to come up to the window, Window menu and we're going to open our swatches panel. So Windows swatches. And that will pop this open right here. And we can just click to select the first color that we want to paint with. So maybe I'm going to choose pink right here. And now we just mouse over the image and we paint. And I don't know why, but that is strangely fun and satisfying. So we have a pink egg Now, let's see, maybe I'll get a boo. Let's try like green, I guess, Green Egg. Maybe not as much fun. How about yellow? Lovely. And we'll do a turquoise egg. And that kinda looks a lot like the green, doesn't it? Let's do, let's do this kind of blue, purple color instead. And you'll notice I'm being careful not to paint outside of each egg. If you do, that's okay. You can just paint over it. This time. I'll go with orange, which isn't that much different than what's already hearing us. Okay? So once all of our eggs are painted, we can now get rid of our selection. And anytime you want to do something to a selection, you can come up to the Select menu where you will find de-select or Command or Control D on your keyboard. So we're going to get rid of the ants and I'm gonna move my swatches out of the way. And now, for the fun part, right now it looks silly like we just pasted paint on top of our photograph. It looks silly, but of course, those good old blend modes are there to help. So we're gonna change this instead of normal for that paint layer. Let's try multiply. Nice. Can scroll through overlays, fun. I really like soft light or color is good too. I really like how soft light looks. So I'm gonna choose soft lights, but play with the Blend Modes. Find something you like if the color is too intense and you want to have faded away a little bit. You can also come in the layers panel two right over here where it says opacity 100%. You click that little dropped down. There is a slider here so you can really fade that color if you want to. And I wish that dying Easter a Higgs was this mess free, right? Okay, let's do another example. In this case, we also have this skateboard image. So same kinda thing. I'm going to press W to get that quick Selection Tool one more time and make sure I still have the plus modifier turned on up here. And I'm just going to click and drag across all the white stripes in this scene. So you're kind of like painting with this brush and then it, It's like a selection paintbrush. So we can see that I've got all of these selected. And if we zoom in here by pressing command plus a couple of times, we can see that Photoshop included the wheel of the skateboard in the selection. Thankfully, we have a fixed we have a subtract button up here or subtract modifier. So I'm going to click that. And now because this wheel area is considerably smaller than my brush, I need to make my brush smaller. So again, that's the left bracket key. So I'll hit that a few times. Told me brush is pretty tiny and now I can just click on that wheel to subtract the wheel from the selection. Before we do any painting, we wanna make sure we add that new blink layer. So down at the bottom of the layers panel, click to add that. And now I'm ready to switch to the paintbrush. Again, B on your keyboard, press before brush. And we'll open our swatches, panel backup, window swatches. And we can just pick some colors and go to town. And now we can make our brush pretty big because we have a lot of space between all of these selections that we're painting in. Let's see, a couple of other colors. Green is good. Maybe kinda purple again, Cool. So again, we can get rid of our selection from the Select menu by choosing de-select. Or we can press Command or Control D on the keyboard. And if we go back to our Layers panel and play with the Blend Modes, multiply is kind of a nice one that works well in this particular image. And again, we can lower the opacity if we went to, so rock I'm, you just learned a few ways to manipulate color in Photoshop. 5. You Did It! Free Bonus: Creative Toolkit: Thank you so much for watching. I hope you had fun and that you feel inspired with some new ideas to play with color in holding way. Go check out all my online classes on everything from photography to resume design at carol slash classes. While you're there, if you would like some free color toning actions for Photoshop, download my free creative toolkit. I hope to see you in another class soon. Until then, heavy Photoshopping.