PI8 Color Range Selection Command

Many of us like to replace backgrounds in our photos to create fun, fantasy effects. PhotoImpact 8 has a fabulous new Selection menu command, Color Range, which makes it easier than ever to perform this kind of photo magic.

For this tutorial you'll need my water lily photo. Right click and save it to your hard drive, then open it up in the work space. Choose Selection, Color Range to open the Color Range dialog box.

On the left is your original image. On the right is a representation of your image after a color-based selection is made. There are two Methods of selecting by color similarity: Sampled Colors (the default) and Standard (Highlight Midtone Shadows). Unless you have a very bold, highly contrasting image, you are most likely to use the Sampled Colors method.

Take a look at the After window, based on the default values. Most of the water lily is black, which means that it has not been selected. The white and gray areas have been selected. So without doing a thing, a good deal of the background has already been selected. Make sure "Preview" is selected, then click the Preview button.

click preview button

You'll see a selection marquee around the selected area in the photo.

The selection is pretty clean around the flower, but there are still parts of the lily pads and water that need to be selected. Click Continue to return to the Color Range dialog box.

To select the rest of the background, choose the Eyedropper button with the plus (+) sign to add to the selection. Note that you can edit the Similarity value as you click to add to the selection, but if you make it too high or too low, it's easy to select too much or too little. Often the default Similarity is the easiest value to work with.

add to selection button

Look at the After window on the right to locate the gray areas in the background. Then Click on the corresponding areas in the left side Before window. Doing so will add them to the selection area in the After window. If you make a mistake and add too much to the selection, switch to the Eyedropper button with the minus (-) sign on it and click in the same place. That will subtract the area from the selection. Continue adding to the selection until the entire background is white and the flower is mostly black.

select entire background

As you can see in the screen shot above, some of the middle of the flower is white too. We'll fix this in a moment when we refine the selection. For now, click OK to close the Color Range dialog box. When viewed at Actual Size, you can see where the selection needs tweaking.

places that need tweaking

Specifically, the middle of the flower needs to be subtracted from the selection, and some dark edges of the flower petals need to be added. Once these problem areas are fixed, we'll be able to change the background.

To refine the selection, click the Mask icon in the Tool Panel. This will place a semi-transparent red mask over the part of the image where no selection exists. (If your mask isn't red, you can change it by hitting F6 to access your General Preferences to edit mask color and transparency)

mask on non-selected area only

Select the Paintbrush tool from the Tool Panel. If you click the Color box in the Attributes toolbar, you'll see that the only colors you can use while in Mask mode are grayscale -- black, white and shades of gray. Click in the Color box and select black paint. Paint over the middle part of the flower, so that the middle of the flower is covered by the red mask. The black paint removed the pre-existing selection area from the middle of the flower.

Zoom in with the Zoom tool to get a closer look as you work. Edit your brush size smaller to paint over the dark edges of the flower petals with black paint, so they are added to the masked area.

zoom in and paint dark area

Paint over the flower's stem with black paint to add it to the mask. If you make a mistake and paint into the wrong area, switch to white paint to subtract from the mask.

When your selection is completely tweaked, click the Mask icon in the Tool Panel to get out of Mask mode. Your selection should look like this now.

refined selection

The selection is ready to be filled with a different background. Choose Edit, Fill (Ctrl+F) to access the Fill dialog box, or fill from the EasyPalette's Fill Gallery. I've filled this background with a grass texture from PI6.

background filled

And here is the same image filled with a different photo background.

different background fill

Once you get the hang of making selections with the Color Range command, in tandem with mask mode, you can make even very complex selections. You may so skillfully select a person in one photo and fill the background with a completely different photo that you may not believe your eyes. I've used this method to create astonishingly different looks for the same photo. For example, here is my daughter in a photo taken at a Florida beach, and here she is with a Hawaiian scene behind her.

This tutorial uploaded 9/18/02

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