Using the Camera Raw Filter & Masking in Adobe Photoshop

  • Thread starter Cameron
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May 10, 2021
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I’ve got the itch to mess around in Adobe Photoshop again today and I found the perfect photo to work with. I’d like to alter the photo in such a way that I’d end up with one part of it darkened and another part of it reduced in expansiveness. Of course, this means nothing to you because I haven’t exactly explained anything yet. I’ll tell you what I need for this project to be successful though. I’ll need to take advantage of the Camera Raw Filter inside of Adobe Photoshop as well as some masking and some color range selection. The type of project I’ll undertake today and the concepts I’ll explain can be used right now in so many Photoshop workspaces. I’m sure you’ll think of application after application as you’re reading through what I have to share.

In today post, I’d like to modify a photo of the Colosseum in Rome using Adobe Photoshop and Camera Raw. The original photo is just fine and it really doesn’t need much done to it besides a few little tweaks, but I’m not going to let that stop me from experimenting with it. This is the way I learn. I try to think of things I can do to photos and then I get in there and try to get those things to work. Hey, I’ve gotten this far by using this methodology. Why stop now?

The Demo Photo​

Here’s the photo I’ll be working with. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with it. I even went in and added some contrast and a few other things to make it pop more.


What I’d like to do is use the Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop to add some different colors to the sky and then to drain the orange from the structure itself. Then, I’ll bring the image back into Photoshop and take advantage of some masking and color range selection to bring the orange back, but to only a few of the arches. More than anything else, this post should teach you how to separate out and modify colors by using different tools that are available.

Smart Objects & Camera Raw Filter​

To start off with, I’ll need to convert the image I’ll be working with into a Smart Object. To do this, instead of right-clicking on the appropriate layer in the Layers panel and choosing Convert to Smart Object, I’ll head up to the Filter > Convert For Smart Filters menu item and click. Both of these methods have exactly the same effect; they convert the layer in question to a Smart Object. I just wanted to mix things up today, so I chose a different route to get the same task done.


Next, I’ll jump the photo into Camera Raw. The way I’ll do this is to visit the Filter > Camera Raw Filter menu item and click.


Changing Some Colors​

Like I mentioned above, one of my goals for this photo is to change some colors in it. Since I’m now in Camera Raw, I’ll click the HSL/Grayscale panel and make sure the Saturation tab is active.


After that, I’ll go up to the top toolbar and click on the Targeted Adjustment Tool to activate it.


I’ll then click on the sky portion of the image and drag to the left and to the right until I see the sky change to my liking. Remember, dragging to the left reduces saturation and dragging to the right increases it. Then, I’ll head back into the HSL/Grayscale panel and click to activate the Hue tab. After that, I’ll bring my pointer back to the sky for some more dragging back and forth. When I see something I like, I’ll stop.


As you can see from the above screenshot, I saturated the sky and added some purple to it. That’s good enough for me.

Now, before I leave the Camera Raw filter, I’d like to do one more thing. I’d like to desaturate the orange and yellow from the arch areas. To do this, I’ll use the Targeted Adjustment Tool once more and, making sure the Saturation tab is active in the HSL/Grayscale panel, I’ll click inside an orange area and drag to the left. If there is any yellow residue remaining, I’ll click inside those areas and drag to the left again. After doing this, in my case, the Orange and Yellow sliders are now sitting all the way to the left.


When I’m finished and I have a purple sky with no orange in the photo, I’ll click the OK button to return to the Photoshop workspace. See how easy it is to manipulate color inside of Camera Raw?

This is what the image looks like so far.


Bringing Some Orange Back​

My next goal is to bring some of the orange arches back. Let’s take a look at the Layers panel to see what’s going on.


Okay, if you take a look in the image thumbnail, you probably won’t see any orange color. That’s because it’s being hidden by the Smart Filter effects. To get some of that orange back, I’ll need to duplicate the entire Smart Object layer and then delete the filter part. This sounds more difficult than it is. All I need to do is click on the image layer and drag it down to the Create New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layer panel and let go.


Doing this will give me an exact duplicate of the layer and the filter I had earlier and still have. The next things I’ll do is click and drag the Smart Filters portion of the duplicated layer down to the trash can icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. That will get rid of the filter and will bring me back to the original layer. Here’s what the Layers panel will look like when I’m finished.


As you can see, I have the original layer and the filtered layer. Now, you might be asking yourself why I didn’t just duplicate the layer before I ran it through the Camera Raw filter. That would have had the same effect. Well, I’ll tell you it’s because I forgot to and this was a workaround. There, I said it.

Adding a Mask​

Because all of the original image is showing and covering up the modified image, I’d like to remove most of the original, minus the center row of the orange arches. The best way to accomplish something like this is via a layer mask. To add a mask, I’ll make sure the original layer is selected in the Layers panel and then I’ll go down to the bottom of the same panel and click the Add Layer Mask button. Doing this will place a layer mask thumbnail to the right of the original image thumbnail.


Everything is now set up perfectly. I can begin adding some of the orange back. Since the orange is so distinct from the rest of the colors in the image, I think the best tool to use is the Color Range one. To access that, I’ll double-click on the white mask thumbnail, which will open up the Properties panel for the mask itself.


Once the panel opens up, I’ll click the Color Range button.

After the Color Range dialog box opens up, I’ll make sure two specific areas are set correctly. First, I’ll make sure the Localized Color Clusters box is checked and second, I’ll make sure the Add to Sample option is selected. That’s the little dropper with the + sign next to it below the Save button. I’ll just click on that one to activate it.

By the way, if you’d like to learn all about how to use the Color Range feature of Adobe Photoshop, please feel free to browse through the following posts:

How to Adjust Layer Masks by Color Range in Adobe Photoshop

Using Multiple Color Range Masks in Adobe Photoshop

Changing Colors with Color Range Selection in Adobe Photoshop

Once those options are active, I’ll begin clicking around inside the arches. I’ll stop when I feel as though all the orange that can be seen is revealed. While I’m doing this, I’m not too concerned if other arches become illuminated. I’ll deal with them in a moment. When things look good, I’ll click the OK button inside of this dialog to apply the changes.


Here’s the resulting image.


Cleaning Up the Mask​

I only have one last thing to do and then I’m finished with this image. I’d like to remove the orange from any arches other then the center row. To do this, I’ll use the Brush Tool and the color black. I’ll select the mask inside the Layers panel to activate it and then I’ll resize the brush. I’ll give it a hard edge and simply paint black over any area where I don’t want to see orange.


When I’m finished with that, I’ll have the image I wanted all along. Take a look.


And here’s a before and after shot.


I hope I clearly explained how to edit colors using the Camera Raw filter from inside of Adobe Photoshop, as well as how to use layer masks to customize where colors reside in a layer. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!