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Add new backgrounds to your images with Photoshop's Color Range command

Added on Tuesday 2nd of August 2011 02:38 am EST

Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

Isolating the background from a simple photo is easy, but when you want to change the background behind blossoming trees, your challenge just got bigger. Don’t spend hours drawing selection paths, use the Color Range command instead.

To isolate a background with the Color Range command, we’ll:

  1. Explain how the Color Range command works so you’re familiar with the tool.
  2. Prep the layers and select a color range to make a selection.
  3. Adjust the selection border for a realistic swap.
  4. Paste a new background in to give the image a new look.

Although we’d all like to see constant blue skies, we know that adding clouds to a photo can portray a more realistic scene. To copy and paste a few white fluffies into your cloudless skies, you could spend a long time creating selection paths around your subjects. Or you can do it the quick and easy way using Photoshop’s Color Range command.


About the Color Range command
The Color Range command enables you to select a specific color or range of colors in an image. It also allows you to select a highlight, midtone, or shadow area. It even allows you to select out-of-gamut colors. Once selected, the command creates a selection border that you can use as you would any other selection border you’ve made.
Let’s create an example to see how easy it is to add a background to an image using the Color Range command. To follow along using our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the files leaves.tif and clouds.tif.


To prep the file for this technique:
Launch Photoshop, and open the leaves.tif image file shown in Figure A.
Name the Background layer Leaves.
Drag the Leaves layer onto the Create A New Layer button located at the bottom of the Layers panel, so you can work on a duplicate layer rather than the original.
Name the copied layer Leaves 2.



Select a color range
The first task is to select a range of color in the image area where we want to add...


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