Which is Better? Hue Saturation vs. Selective Color in Photoshop Similarities and diffrences betwen Selective color and Hue Saturation adjustment layers ion Photoshop

in this video, Blake Rudis from f64 Academy looks at two types of adjustment layers in Photoshop – the Selective color and Hue Saturation to see what each of those can and can’t do and what adjustment layer should you use, and when.

Selective color and Hue Saturation

Most of us associate “selective color” with an image that is typically grayscale with a single (or small number) of vibrant colors but as in this video we will be discussing a different type of selective color editing in Photoshop and that will mean working on changing specific colors using the selective color tool.

Let’s start by adding a selective color layer to your image and in the adjustment layer on the lower right corner add “selective color” (the last option, the hue/saturation is a few adjustments up).

What we get in with hue saturation is the ability to change either the hue/saturation/lightness of all colors (master) or of a specific color group. With selective color we get

Hue is which specific color within a color group we are changing, the saturation is how potent this color is and the lightness is how much black or white exist within this color.

In the selective color adjustment layer, we have the colors but we do not have saturation and the lightness is called “black”.


Although there are a number of similarities there are even more differences. First, on selective color, you have no master layer but more importantly in the Hue Saturation you can choose a color (using the color target adjustment tool) and it will tell you which color it is and change it.

As we noted above you also don’t have the option to change the hue of an image in a selective color adjustment layer. You do have the option to “play” with changing the cyan/magenta/yellow of a specific color (the relative or absolute option basically means if these changes will be very strong or a bit more toned down.

The Hue Saturation on the other hand can change the range of the color you are working on, something that selective color does not offer.

When to use each tool?

First, you need to understand that the Hue Saturation adjustment layer in Photoshop is unique in that it can completely shift a color (something that you can’t do in the equivalent tool in Adobe Camera RAW or Lightroom for example). This can be good for some images but for most images, you will want to use this very sparingly. With selective color, you can make much finer adjustments in color.

To us, it feels as if the selective color is a much more refined tool but it might require a bit more knowledge of color theory or at the very least a little bit more experience and time to learn in order to get the result that you want versus the Hue Saturation layer which feels like a more straight forward tool.

What Rudis explain is that in some situations it makes sense to combine both the selective color and Hue Saturation layers and use specific features out of each one.

More on changing colors in Photoshop

Only recently we covered other aspects related to color in Photoshop in “Two Ways of Matching Clothes to Any Color Background in Photoshop” by Aaron Nace from Phlern as well as How to Match colors in a Composite Image in Photoshop” with Colin Smith as well as a similar video by Glyn Dewis.

You can find even more videos on changing colors in Photoshop in “How to Change the Color of Anything in Photoshop”, “3 Ways of Changing Makeup Color In Photoshop CC” as well as “Changing Color in Photoshop with… a B&W Adjustment Layer (Under 1 min)” by Smith and if you are interested in working with colors in general check out what is available on this page on LensVid.

You can find many more Photoshop video tutorials on LensVid’s Photoshop section.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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