Jun 17, 2015

How to Create Perfect Selections Using Channels in Photoshop

How to Create Perfect Selections Using Channels in Photoshop

Channels are a great way to make extremely accurate selections! Prepare to make magic happen- even with highly detailed line drawings!

Although there are many different techniques that could yield similar results, Channels can provide the most accurate selections of all.

Section 1: Making Selections

To begin, click over to the Channels tab (if it is not showing up, go to Window – Channels).

Since our image is black and white, we can use any of the Channels to get the selection we want (we use the Blue Channel for this particular example). However, this will change if your image is in color. Click on each Channel to see which selects the most of what you need, and then duplicate it by either Holding Cmd + J or dragging the Channel down to the new layer icon.

Hold Ctrl/Cmd and click on the duplicate layer to create the selection. This selects the lightest areas, so if you need the dark areas selected simply go to Select – Inverse.

Section 2: Adding Color to Selection

With the selection active, create a new Solid Color Adjustment layer. This will automatically make a layer mask and fill the selection with whatever color you choose! That is why you can capture incredible detail with this method; it fills everything in seamlessly.

Section 3: Design Details

To begin really turning this into a piece of art, we crop the image into a square to give it some visual breathing room.

Then, we start to play with color! We create another Solid Color Adjustment layer and place it underneath the illustration layer to act as the background.

At this point, you should discover why this technique is so efficient: you can change the color of those color fill layers as much as you’d like!

You can also have lots of fun playing with the styling of the image. We duplicate the layer of the wolf and move it up a bit, which gives a sort of screenprint effect. We then add a blue Color Fill layer on top of the already present orange layer. Then, we add a Gradient from black to transparent which acts as a mask for part of the color. The result is a beautiful fade from one color to another! And, as you already know, you can always go back in and adjust those colors. In this case we decide to stick with a cool palette, and use blue and green.

For a final artistic touch, we create a white Color Fill copy of the wolf and scale it up (Cmd + T) as another layer of the background. You are able to see through it, but we lower the opacity even more so that the effect is nice and subtle.

We end up with a beautiful graphic image by simply playing with Channels and colors!!


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    I Am Karan

    Very cool , channels are a life savior for accurate and complicated selections

  • user image

    Hey =)
    First .. great tutorial ! I really enjoy your website and your YouTube stuff =)
    You do a great work there and give guys who not have that much expirience with PS alot help
    Could you link or upload the Image of the wolf ? I cant find it at the webside you linked below the Video
    thanks =)

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    photoshop rombaoa

    always been looking forward to your next tutorial. idol! 🙂

  • user image

    I made this after watching this tut. Keep up the good work. Thanks so much!

  • user image

    You forgot to put the link to download that image….
    or can we find that on google or….

  • user image

    hi, great tutorial, as always 🙂
    i didn’t quite understand why did you duplicate the blue channel for the selection? why couldn’t you use the existing blue channel for it?
    another question is, can we use this technique for colored images?
    because we cannot decide what colors will be selected.

    thanks again.

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    xavier wallach


    Are we able to download that awesome illustration?


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    John Ens

    Thank you, your dedication to your craft and followers is something rarely found in this profession. The amount of free information you give us can not be quantified! I am a sports and all round photographer, and am very curious about trying to get an image to look similar to the car photographer Al Day. I want to create similar images with sporting moments where the image appears to be a drawing or sketch that fades from the outside of the image progressively becoming more detailed. Please consider doing an episode that covers this look. Forever in your debt,


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      Edo Dimitrijevic

      John Ens I agree very much, this ‘comics’ kind of sketched-drawn-painted look to photo would be a very good tutorial to watch.
      Do you have any other sports example image for Aaron to go by?

  • user image

    You are the best phlearn, Aron you are one of the best teacher i ever had. 🙂

  • user image

    This technique works very well with graphic designs. But, can it be used in a portrait, landscape or other image? Can you make a tutorial showing this technique with a non-graphic / line drawing image?

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  • user image

    I am 67 years old and learning Photoshop. Don’t have money to pay for courses. Want to thank you for the opportunity you have given me to learn.

    Thanks again, Irish

  • user image

    Another great tut, many many thanks!!!!!
    But one question. Having B&W picture could not I use Color Range instead? Just question…:)

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    el misto

    just signed up – thankyou! really great info and presentation. This is all new to me – Im learning so much, and its a bit overwhelming. Just fyi, about me – i do drawings/graphics/paintings in my sketchbook, then scan them. The input i have : I’m starting to understand how to manipulate black and white graphics , but have a much harder time with multi colored painterly styles. Thanks again and looking forward to more fantastic tuts! I attached a graphic derived from my sketchbook as an example of what im currently playing with.

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    Gwen A.

    Thanks for this tutorial. It helped me with a B&W dragon image I had to make pop a bit more. Much easier than the options I would have normally used and definitely more accurate.

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    Gerrie Viljoen

    Thats such a great tutorial thank so much. What happens if you have images that are more than one color ?


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    Karim Mifflin

    Good episode! I like the way you teach. This Phlearn is a great way to learn! Thanks!

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    Would love to see more of how to do designs beautiful Melody

  • user image

    Very cool tutorial. Well done. Tried it with the image you used and now going to go try it on everything, lol.

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    Brenda Fischer

    This was so fun! Here’s my finished project. By the way, what brand/model of pen/tablet do you use? I’m just now looking for one and would love your advice. I’m on Mac Pro. Thanks.

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    Brenda Fischer

    This was so fun! Here’s my finished project. By the way, what brand/model of pen/tablet do you use? I’m just now looking for one and would love your advice. I’m on Mac Pro. Thanks so much for all your tutorials, I’m just doing this for fun at this point but I’m hoping to use these tips in my real estate business.