User Guide Cancel

Understanding color

  1. Photoshop Elements User Guide
  2. Introduction to Photoshop Elements
    1. What's new in Photoshop Elements
    2. System requirements | Photoshop Elements
    3. Workspace basics
    4. Guided mode
    5. Making photo projects
  3. Workspace and environment
    1. Get to know the Home screen
    2. Workspace basics
    3. Preferences
    4. Tools
    5. Panels and bins
    6. Open files
    7. Rulers, grids, and guides
    8. Enhanced Quick Mode
    9. File information
    10. Presets and libraries
    11. Multitouch support
    12. Scratch disks, plug-ins, and application updates
    13. Undo, redo, and cancel actions
    14. Viewing images
  4. Fixing and enhancing photos
    1. Resize images
    2. Cropping
    3. Process camera raw image files
    4. Add blur, replace colors, and clone image areas
    5. Adjust shadows and light
    6. Retouch and correct photos
    7. Sharpen photos
    8. Transforming
    9. Auto Smart Tone
    10. Recomposing
    11. Using actions to process photos
    12. Photomerge Compose
    13. Create a panorama
    14. Moving Overlays
    15. Moving Elements
  5. Adding shapes and text
    1. Add text
    2. Edit text
    3. Create shapes
    4. Editing shapes
    5. Painting overview
    6. Painting tools
    7. Set up brushes
    8. Patterns
    9. Fills and strokes
    10. Gradients
    11. Work with Asian type
  6. Quick Actions
  7. Guided edits, effects, and filters
    1. Guided mode
    2. Filters
    3. Guided mode Photomerge edits
    4. Guided mode Basic edits
    5. Adjustment filters
    6. Effects
    7. Guided mode Fun edits
    8. Guided mode Special edits
    9. Artistic filters
    10. Guided mode Color edits
    11. Guided mode Black & White edits
    12. Blur filters
    13. Brush Stroke filters
    14. Distort filters
    15. Other filters
    16. Noise filters
    17. Render filters
    18. Sketch filters
    19. Stylize filters
    20. Texture filters
    21. Pixelate filters
  8. Working with colors
    1. Understanding color
    2. Set up color management
    3. Color and tonal correction basics
    4. Choose colors
    5. Adjust color, saturation, and hue
    6. Fix color casts
    7. Using image modes and color tables
    8. Color and camera raw
  9. Working with selections
    1. Make selections in Photoshop Elements
    2. Saving selections
    3. Modifying selections
    4. Move and copy selections
    5. Edit and refine selections
    6. Smooth selection edges with anti-aliasing and feathering
  10. Working with layers
    1. Create layers
    2. Edit layers
    3. Copy and arrange layers
    4. Adjustment and fill layers
    5. Clipping masks
    6. Layer masks
    7. Layer styles
    8. Opacity and blending modes
  11. Creating photo projects
    1. Project basics
    2. Making photo projects
    3. Editing photo projects
    4. Creating Photo Reels
  12. Saving, printing, and sharing photos
    1. Save images
    2. Printing photos
    3. Share photos online
    4. Optimizing images
    5. Optimizing images for the JPEG format
    6. Dithering in web images
    7. Guided Edits - Share panel
    8. Previewing web images
    9. Use transparency and mattes
    10. Optimizing images for the GIF or PNG-8 format
    11. Optimizing images for the PNG-24 format
  13. Keyboard shortcuts
    1. Keys for selecting tools
    2. Keys for selecting and moving objects
    3. Keys for the Layers panel
    4. Keys for showing or hiding panels (expert mode)
    5. Keys for painting and brushes
    6. Keys for using text
    7. Keys for the Liquify filter
    8. Keys for transforming selections
    9. Keys for the Color Swatches panel
    10. Keys for the Camera Raw dialog box
    11. Keys for the Filter Gallery
    12. Keys for using blending modes
    13. Keys for viewing images (expertmode)

In Adobe Photoshop Elements, you use two color models to manipulate color. One model is based on the way the human eye sees color—hue, saturation, and brightness (HSB), while the other model is based on the way computer monitors display color (in amounts of red, green, and blue or RGB). The color wheel is another tool that helps you understand the relationships between colors. Photoshop Elements provides four image modes that determine the number of colors displayed in an image: RGB, bitmap, grayscale, and indexed color.

About color

The human eye perceives color in terms of three characteristics—hue, saturation, and brightness (HSB)—whereas computer monitors display colors by generating varying amounts of red, green, and blue (RGB) light. In Photoshop Elements, you use the HSB and RGB color models to select and manipulate color. The color wheel can help you understand the relationships between colors.

HSB model

Based on the human perception of color, the HSB model describes three fundamental characteristics of color:


The color reflected from or transmitted through an object. It is measured as a location on the standard color wheel, expressed as a degree between 0 and 360. In common use, hue is identified by the name of the color, such as red, orange, or green.


The strength or purity of the color. Saturation, which is sometimes called chroma, represents the amount of gray in proportion to the hue, measured as a percentage from 0 (gray) to 100 (fully saturated). On the standard color wheel, saturation increases from the center to the edge.


The relative lightness or darkness of the color, usually measured as a percentage from 0 (black) to 100 (white).

Although you can use the HSB model in Photoshop Elements to define a color in the Color Picker dialog box, you cannot use the HSB mode to create or edit images.

HSB view in the Adobe Color Picker

A. Saturation B. Hue C. Brightness 

RGB model

A large percentage of the visible spectrum can be represented by mixing red, green, and blue (RGB) light in various proportions and intensities. These three colors are called the additive primaries. Added together, red, green, and blue light make white light. Where two colors overlap, they create cyan, magenta, or yellow.

The additive primary colors are used for lighting, video, and monitors. Your monitor, for example, creates color by emitting light through red, green, and blue phosphors.

Additive colors (RGB).

A. Red B. Green C. Blue D. Yellow E. Magenta F. Cyan 

Color wheel

The color wheel is a convenient way to understand and remember the relationship between colors. Red, green, and blue are the additive primaries. Cyan, magenta, and yellow are the subtractive primaries. Directly across from each additive primary is its complement: red-cyan, green-magenta, and blue-yellow.

Each subtractive primary is made up of two additive primaries, but not its complement. So, if you increase the amount of a primary color in your image, you reduce the amount of its complement. For example, yellow is composed of green and red light, but there is no blue light in yellow. When adjusting yellow in Photoshop Elements, you change the color values in the blue color channel. By adding blue to your image, you subtract yellow from it.

Color wheel.

A. Magenta B. Red C. Yellow D. Green E. Cyan F. Blue 


Get help faster and easier

New user?

Adobe MAX 2024

Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX 2024

Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online