#CreativeFriday – Photoshop 14.1 Update – Colour Range Enhancements / Micro Contrast

Photoshop CC in the Creative Cloud just got another update. There are a couple of great new features in this update to Photoshop, as well as some enhancements. The one i wanted to write about in this post, is the enhancements that have been made to the to the Colour Range feature. Colour Range has the ability to find Highlights, Shadows as well as mid-tones for the image, but up to this release, the selection has been based on fixed values. This new update has modified the algorithms to include more control of each of these zones, enabling a range of tones and the partial selection of tones by using the Fuzziness and Range values. This enhancement now provides the same way of working as what’s found in the  Colour Range’s existing “Sampled Colours” option.

Let us recap on what the two new sliders enable for this enhanced feature.


Use Range to select the threshold value (Example: Highlights – 245 means all values 245 and up are selected, Shadows – 15 means 15 and under, mid-tones 100 – 150 means tones in this range will be selected).


Use Fuzziness to gradually fan out the selection to outside values (uses a partial selection gradient for smoothness).

N.B. You can reset each selection back to legacy default values by holding down SHIFT+ALT and you will see the “Cancel” button change to “Reset”.


The best way to show how this is working is to use a step tablet, before we get into an image.

Let us look at the Highlights

For Highlights and you can see the areas of the step wedge that is being selected. The fuzziness here is quite small thus keeping the selection tight, extending just outside of the 190 to 255 range.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.07.11

You can see if we close the highlight range to 250 we narrow down the overall selection.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.07.24

If we now open up the fuzziness, we extend the results of the feather of the selection and start to include other tones.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.07.35

Selection of Midtones.

For Midtones, you select two threshold values, specifying a range between the black and white sliders.. You can see in the Midtones you need to select the lower as well as the upper range values, a fuzziness of 40 (feather) is applied to this, to extend the selection.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.21.27

If we reduce the upper and lower range you can see that the selected range is narrow but the feather extends this somewhat to provide a long blended selection.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.22.19

If we change the fuzziness down to 10, and restrict the feather to 10%, you can see the actual range that is selected is highly reduced.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.22.07


Shadows selection work just like Highlights, except the Range selects values BELOW the chosen threshold. (Example: 20 selects all values 20 and lower). You can see that with the default settings for Shadows (the standard shadow range is shown).

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.35.24

In the following image, we have narrowed the range to just 15 (0-15) with a low feather range.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.35.38

We can then extend the Shadow feather by opening the fuzziness.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.35.48

You can quickly create selections of tonal ranges within an image that smoothly transition out into unmasked data. You are also able to save presets and record actions/scripts to make this process even faster.

Real world editing

Now let us work on an image to show how much control this type of mask creation can give us when editing our pictures. I’m not going to show the whole end of end re-touch process, just this particular feature, however, i’d love to know how you are using it or planning to use it.

On the image below I would like to show the details in the mountains & trees by deepening the shadows around the trees ,as well as specific low shadow detail areas in the image (within the fjord as there are reflections that contain the trees as well and I’d like to keep balance in the image). I think this technique will really show off the trees and add extra punch to the micro areas of the scene. One of the things that you get when you go up the Lens quality chain is colour, contrast, saturation, bokeh, dimension and finer details. Some lenses can also give you micro contrast. Micro contrast is the tiny details of contrast at almost pixel level, but will provide a subtle difference to the over all contrast and add another level of detail and dimension to the picture.

This does however bring up an issue, there are lots of trees and it would take a long time to work on just the tree shadows as well as the other lower shadow parts of the image, and keeping the balance is going to be tricky. In previous versions of Photoshop, this would have been difficult to do and would have taken an age to complete.

In the picture below you can see that there are thousands of trees on all sides of the facing mountains, but it is slightly difficult to separate them from the actual mountain and their shadows.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 16.43.00

If we look closely there are details that we can work on (the image below is at 600%), and yes there is actual tree details here (amazing huh, this detail is thanks to the amazing Leica Summicron 35mm F2). What I would like to do is to apply micro contrast to the shadow area on each tree on this image, as well as the reflections in the Fjord, and will do this by adding more black to these areas. But as i am sure you are aware, there are a hundreds of trees on this section, and thousands around the whole picture.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 20.33.53

Using the new Fuzziness and Range sliders in the Colour Range Highlight and Shadow feature is really going to save me many hours of time, but also give me a very accurate way to work on this micro contrast addition.

Creating Micro Contrast.

If you are working with micro contrast you want to have as much detail information as possible. I have brought this image into Photoshop via Camera RAW and applied some sharpening to give me as much detail as possible. As you can see in the following screen shot, I have applied quite a lot of sharpening to pull all of the details out (you may need to play with your images and see what values work on your images, as this will be camera/lens dependent). The lens i used for this creates images that hold up well to a lot of detail sharpening.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 20.39.36

To access the Colour Range command in Photoshop CC, choose from the tool bar menu Select / Colour Range. Notice that I have Shadows selected, and my mask is set to Quick Mask, I have also Invert turned on (This will allow me to see what is NOT being selected,  I find it easier to work on what I am not going to select), in this case what isn’t red will be affected by the next step (need to turn off the Invert before I press OK). I also have the Selection enabled for the thumbnail, as this will show me the selection of tones that is being selected for the whole image. The tricky bit in this process is determining the values in the Fuzziness and Range (you may need to play this and experiment on your images). First move the Range value to work out the selection values (42 in this case will select all of the shadow areas of the trees around the mountains, and exclude the green foliage of the trees (the difference between the green leaves and the shadow will be my contrast range), then refine this selection using the Fuzziness value. This may take a little bit of experimenation to get the right values.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 20.42.05

Make sure than when you are finished, turn off the invert. Then press OK.

You can see that all the fine details have been selected

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 20.53.33

(and zoomed out)

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 20.55.17

Now that we have this fine selection of just the shadow areas (mountains and Fjord, as well as the shadows in the foreground area), we can add some black using the Selective Colour adjustment layer using the mask from the selection. To apply the Adjustment layer to the selection, just choose the from the tool bar menu Layer /New Adjustment Layer / Selective Colour.

Once the Adjustment Layer has been applied, you will see the adjustments appear in the Properties panel (Red), you will also see the Layer and the Layer Mask has been applied (Yellow) from the selection of the Colour Range command.


Let us quickly look at the mask (Hold the ALT key and click on the mask (marked with a white square in the image below).

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 20.56.38

If you zoom in using CMD(Mac)/CTRL(Pc) and + (Zoom out CMD/CTRL(Pc) and -), you can clearly see the level of detail that the Colour Range selection has generated.Remember Black conceals and White revels, so everything in will be affected by the micro contrast adjustment.

To return back from the mask just ALT+Click on the mask once again.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 21.05.11

Now we just need to add some Black to the selected areas to increase the contrast in the shadows/white areas.

On the Properties panel of the Selective Colour Adjustment layer just add a positive value to the Black/Neutral values and watch the image gain Micro Contrast.


Also, this command can be scripted as well, so you are able to add speed and consistency to your edits.

There are many other benefits of having this feature on the Colour Range feature, have a play and hopefully you will find ways to improve your picture making skills.


3 Responses to #CreativeFriday – Photoshop 14.1 Update – Colour Range Enhancements / Micro Contrast

  1. Nice work, Richard. Unfortunately, people are confusing us on Twitter and giving ME credit for your work (I am @rcurtis). It’s particularly humorous since — even though I’m a professional photographer/photo editor — I am color blind. Keep up the good work, and I’ll try to send folks to your blog here. Rodney Curtis

  2. Editar says:

    Great tip richard. Just what I was looking for. Tanks.

  3. Pingback: HOW TO USE THE COLOR RANGE COMMAND with CS4 Through CC 14.1 | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog