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The Color Selection Tools

Okay, you've got a new open file. It's a blank slate ready for you to add any color you want. Photoshop offers four ways to choose the colors you need: the Color Picker, the Color Palette, Color Swatches, and the Eyedropper tool.

The great thing about all of these different tools is that they are all tied to one another. They work as a team to give you the colors you want. When you start out in Photoshop, try out all of the color selection tools so you can get a good feel for what you like or don't like about each one.

(Personally, I find myself grabbing whatever happens to be handy. If I'm working on an area near the Toolbox, I go there. If I happen to be by the Color Palette, I start moving sliders. Go with whatever works to increase your productivity.)

Why Is There a Foreground and a Background Color?

You just need a single box that tells you what color you're painting with, right? Au contraire, mon frère! With Photoshop, you can do better than that.

Choose File, New to create a new document that's seven inches wide and five inches high, with a resolution of 72 pixels/inch. Make the mode RGB, and then click OK to close the dialog box.

The default colors in Photoshop are black and white. If the default Foreground/ Background colors are not currently displayed, you can click the default color icon (the small icon of black and white boxes) located just to the lower left of the Foreground Color box in the Toolbox (or you can press the D key on your keyboard).

  1. Assuming that you've got the New file open, click the Airbrush in the Toolbox.

  2. Choose the far-right brush on the top row of the Brushes pop-up palette found on the Options bar. Also make sure the Pressure setting is 100%. Write your name in the image file.

  3. Now click the switch colors icon (the double-headed arrow icon) that's located in the upper-right corner of the Background Color box (or press X on the keyboard).

  4. Run the Airbrush through the letters you just wrote several times. Of course, this is a very basic example of color switching, but it's a very handy feature for quickly going back and forth between colors (see Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6 Using the Foreground and Background colors can be like using two brushes at once.

Let's make believe you're working with a color that you want to keep using (let's say red is the Foreground color on the Toolbox), but first you want to touch up the color in another area, which is black (your Background color on the Toolbox). Press X to put red on the back burner. Black, the Background color, becomes the Foreground color. So, you just paint, hit X, paint with red...you get the idea. It's like holding two paintbrushes loaded with color in your hand.

Black is the current Background color from the previous exercise. You can use the Foreground/Background colors to change the base color of your image. Click the Rectangular Marquee tool in the Toolbox, and then click and drag out a small rectangle somewhere in your image. Now click the Move tool in the Toolbox (or press the V key), and drag the selected area a little bit to the side.

Because the Background color is black from the last part of the exercise, you should have a black space where the rectangle you selected was originally located (see Figure 3.7). Press Ctrl [Cmd]+D to deselect the rectangle, and then go to Select, All on the menu (or press Ctrl+A). Now press the Delete key on the keyboard. Yikes! It's the heart of darkness! Press X again. You're back at the beginning, so press Ctrl [Cmd]+D to deselect everything.

Figure 3.7 When you move a selected area on the Background of an image, what remains is the current Background color.

Again, this is meant to be really basic, and give you a quick grasp of what you can do. It's just as easy to choose a Background color as it is a Foreground color. Use them both to work more efficiently.

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