SIG Notes for March, 2015


The March Photoshop SIG will cover a splattering of color theory and then show some examples of how you can use these in Photoshop (PS) or Photoshop Elements (PE).

A bit of color theory
There are so many different areas that fall under the heading of color theory – emotions, visual effects, design of websites, mixing paints together (printing) and mixing digital colors together (digital as in camera, scanner, monitor).

Not to mention how to calibrate all of your devices so that they show the same colors. How many times have you printed an image only to find that it is quite different from what is on your monitor?

One area that you should be aware of is the connection between emotions and colors. They are described in a lot of different ways. Here is one way – red (physical), blue (intellectual), yellow (emotional), green (balance), violet (spiritual). More details at

There are several diagrams that you can find under Google images. Here is one that helped me :

If you Google “colors and emotions”,  you will be surprised and entertained by the widely divergent views that are presented. Some seem to be similar to wearing a helmet constructed from aluminium foil to keep ASIO from reading your thoughts.

Color Modes in PS and PE.
Here is where you start to see a difference between PS and PE. Here are screen shots of the menus from Image/Mode for the two programs:

About 90% of the time, you will be working in the RGB (red, green and blue) digital mode. This will also work fine with most of your home printing.

It is only when you want to print something like a magazine cover, that you need to worry about CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta and black) mode for high end four color printing. Most of the time  a commercial printer will be able to convert your RGB mode to the CYMK mode. But you will have some of your colors slightly changed.

The Color Wheel
When you work in RGB mode, you are mixing colors of light. This is just the opposite of when you mix paints/inks for printing. So I am only going to show discuss the RGB color wheel. The color wheel looks like this. The three primary colors are red, yellow and blue.

For a bit of revision, when you mix two primary colors together, you get a secondary color. So mixing red and green will give you yellow as the secondary color. Remember that we are mixing light, not paints/inks.

Here is a video clip to help you see how you can use different color schemes for effects –

If you wish to have a play with these yourself, go to this website – Just click inside the color wheel on the left. Next click one of the six choices above it to see the various color schemes – mono, complementary, triadic, square and analogous.

Some thing that you can try #1 – non-destructive editing using dodge and burn tools.
Sometimes you need to lighten or darken part of an image. You can use the Dodge to make parts of your image look whiter, such as someone’s teeth. You get the opposite effect using the burn tool because it darkens parts of your image. And once you have done a permanent edit, it will not be possible to go back to what you started with (unless you saved the original or duplicated the layer).

Here is a video to show you how it can be used:[/

But there is another way to do the burn and dodge in a non-destructive way.
(1) Press Control + Shift + N to create a new layer.
(2) Set the blend mode to Overlay.
(3) Tick the box at the bottom that says Fill with 50% gray.

Task 3 Painting with Light

Click on image to see full size.

Tip – press Control + Shift + A to revert to your original image. Assuming that you have not saved it yet. Otherwise it takes you back to your most recent save.

(4) We can use the default Foreground/Background colors of black and white for dodge and burn of sections of your image. Press D to reset your Foreground/Background colors back to default.
(5) Use X to toggle back and forth between Dodge (lighten) and Burn (darken) sections of your image.
(6) Use E to bring up the eraser tool when needed.
(7) Remember to press B to get back to your brush tool.
(8) Use low opacity (20 to 30%) and several brush strokes rather than the bull in a china shop style of 100 % opacity and a single brush stroke.
(9) If you make a mistake, you can always use Control + Z, Edit/Undo or the History panel to take you back a step.

Something that you can try #2 Create a matt for your image and use the color wheel to pick a color for a matt canvas effect.

I want to add a border to the outside of the image so that it looks like  a cardboard matt. Since the image is purple, I want to use a complementary color of a shade of yellow. Hopefully it will not look too awful.

(1) Use Google images/search tools to find a picture that you like of a certain color cast. I searched for fantasy landscape backgrounds and set the search tools to purple. Like this:

Google Search using purple

An aside – using Google to find the source/s for an image. Just click on the camera icon and follow the instructions to find the source/s of an image.

Google Reverse  Search using camera icon

(2) Save your image and then open it in PS/PE.

Purple Fantasy Castles Wallpapers

Click on the image to see full size. I love this image. It is magnificent.

Here it is in PE all set to go. Well, almost.

PE purple image

Click on image to see full size.

(3) The following instructions are from

Steps for creating a simple black border using Resize Canvas Size
1. Open the image and make a copy of the background layer.
2. Use the menu command Image > Resize > Canvas Size to open the Canvas Size dialog box.
3. In the New Size section, select a Width value of 10 and a measurement of percent. Select a Height value of 10 and a measurement of percent. ( I used 40 pixels on a trial and error basis.)
4. Ensure that Relative is checked.
5. Ensure that Anchor shows a box with 8 arrows pointing in all directions.

(4) Select Canvas extension color: Black. Or you can double click on your Foreground/Background color and use the color picker to choose a colour

Image 10 - Canvas Resize for Matt

Image /Resize/Canvas Size


(5) This  gives a yellow border like this. I changed it from 40 to 100 pixels and liked this one better.

Image 11 - 100 Pixel Yellow Canvas Resize for Matt

Click image to full size.

(6) We could extend this further by adding a second matt effect. Just repeat the sequence again. This involves a bit of trial and error sometimes before you come up with a combination that you find pleasing. If the person that you show it to blanches and turns their head away, then you may be doing something wrong color wise!

But you can find better instructions with screen shots from here –

Something that you can try #3  – How to isolate a color of one part of an image.

(1) Let’s try this with a selection and  a hue/saturation adjustment . This is the effect that I have in mind:

red brolly on b&w background.

. Red brolly on B&W background.

(2) This is the image that I will be using

fl_umbrella2 (1)

(3) Open the image in PS/PE.
(4) Duplicate the background layer.
(5) Use the Magic Wand to select the red brolly.

Image 13 - Brolly selected
(6) Press control + J to duplicate the selection on its own layer.
(7) Click on the back ground layer to make it active.
(8) Click on the adjustment layer icon and chose Hue/Saturation.

Image 14 - Hue saturation Layer

(9) Move the Saturation slider all the way to the left to make a black and white (and gray) background. And here is the finished image. well, you still have to save it and print it and mount it and sell it at the local market.

Image 16 - Desaturated background

Click on image to see full size.

Conclusion for March
I hope that this bit of color theory will get you interested in exploring it further and to see how you can use it to add zing, pop, and flair to your photos. You can find a few more ideas to try here:

What about next month?
April will be about all the things that you do with brushes in PE/PS. Get a head start by going here ––psd-5200

April Photoshop Challenge
There is no formal challenge for April.

If you have the time or inclination to try some of the tasks, please send me your photos and I will happily put them up on the website for the April Challenge. The email address is

That’s all, folks!



About woldham

Concise! Retired and loving it!
This entry was posted in Colour theory, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Using adjustment layers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s