I see this all the time. Lots of folks out there take great photos that they’d like to add colorized backgrounds to. The reasoning behind this is to either give the photo an alternate look or to avoid distraction from the subjects in the images. Whatever the reason, it’s a good enough subject to cover on this blog. I’ve done this type of thing many times in the past, so I thought I’d share what I know here.
In today’s post, I’ll work through a project where I first desaturate the original image in Adobe Photoshop. Then, I’ll add a colorized effect to it and finally, I’ll duplicate the original image so the previous color shines through once more. After that, I’ll select the subject of the image using the Focus Area tool and mask out the background of the colored layer. This will give me the effect of having a normally colored image in the foreground with a neat colored background. All completely editable, of course.
This is the original photo that I’ll be working with.
You can probably guess why I chose this photo to work with. Since I’ll be selecting the girl in the image with the Focus Area tool, I wanted a good separation between the areas of the image that are in focus and those that aren’t. I’d say that most of the girl is sharp while the background is soft. I don’t think I’ll have much of an issue with the tool today.
By the way, if you’d like to read up on how to use the Focus Area feature in Photoshop, please click through below.
Also, as I mentioned above, the subject of the photo is sharp while the background is blurry. Do you know how the photographer did this? If not, feel free to read up on aperture priority mode in photography. It’s all there.
Setting Up My Layers
Okay, I’ve already got the photo opened up in Photoshop. I’ll first add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer from the Adjustments panel and within the Properties panel for that adjustment, I’ll push the Saturation slider all the way to the left to remove the color from the entire image. Then, I’ll add another of the same adjustment, but this time, I’ll check the box that says Colorize down near the bottom of the Properties panel and I’ll push the Hue slider around until I find a color for the background that I like. In this case, I’ll go with an aqua/blue. Mind you, this new colorized effect will cover the entire image. Separating out the girl in the photo from the background will come next. For the final step, I’ll make a duplicate of the background image layer and bring that all the way to the top of the other layers in the Layers panel. Here’s what things look like as they stand.
I turned off the visibility for the top layer so you can see the color that I chose.
Selecting the Girl
I’ll go ahead and turn the visibility back on for the top layer. What I’ll be looking at will appear as the regular original image. I’ll click on the top layer in the Layers panel as well to select that layer.
From here, I’ll head up to the Select > Focus Area menu item and click.
When I do this, the Focus Area dialog box will appear and I’ll make sure that the On Layers option is activated in the View drop-down. This option will allow me to see both the background layer as well as the top layer while I’m editing.
I’ll also push the In-Focus Range slider to the left and the right if I need to, to add or subtract content that’s been selected. But once the majority of the subject in the photo has been selected, I’ll click on the Select and Mask button down near the bottom of this dialog box to move into the next area to clean up some of the selection’s edges.
When the Select and Mask palette opens up, I’ll use the Refine Edge Brush Tool to clean up the edges. This tool works particularly well in cases when you’re trying to select hair. I’ll run this tool around the edges of the girl. When I’m finished in this palette, I’ll be sure to output the selection to a New Layer with Layer Mask and then click the OK button.
To learn how to refine selection edges in Photoshop, please click through below.
From here, I can make further adjustments to the mask if I need to. If you’re interested, this is what the resulting Layers panel looks like.
And that’s it! Take a look at the final image.
As I stated above, I can always go in and change the color of the background if I wanted to. Right now it’s blue, but I can make it any color I want. Since the subject of the photo has been masked, she’s completely separate from anything else in the image.
This is a fairly simple operation. The most challenging part is making the selection. I got away easy with this one because I chose a good photo to work with, but there can be some definite challenges for more complex photographs. For them, you’ll need to employ more of the tools in Photoshop’s arsenal.
If you have any questions regarding this post or the technique I covered today, please ask down below in the comment section or in the Photoshop user’s forum. Thanks for reading!