How-To: Pantone's Color of the Year

By Jesús Ramirez

Every year, the Pantone Color Institute selects a color to reflect the current cultural climate. The 2019 color of the year is Living Coral, an optimistic, energetic shade. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to incorporate Living Coral into a paint splash effect produced by compositing several photos in Adobe Photoshop CC.


You can combine your own photographs or stock photos. I chose mine from Adobe Stock. The main subject is a runner, and I used paint splashes (one, two, three, and four) and a paint texture to create the splash effect. I saved the images to my Creative Cloud Library.

Tip: To quickly find what you need, use the keyword “isolated paint splash” on When you find a splash you like, click on the “Find Similar” button to bring up additional splashes that work well with the first image.


In Photoshop, create a new document measuring 1920 x 1080 pixels. In that document, make three groups (Layer > New > Group):

  • Splash
  • Runner
  • Background

Move your background layer into the Background group and name it “Background Color.”


Click on the “Background Color” layer and go to Edit > Fill. In the Fill dialog box, select Color from the Contents dropdown. In the Color Picker dialog box, enter #FF6F61 to set Living Coral as the color and press OK. This will fill the layer with the Living Coral color.

Press Ctrl-I/Command-I to invert the color. Inverting turns the background into a blue-green color that creates contrast between the background and the Living Color paint splashes.


Open the Libraries Panel (Window > Libraries) and find the Library where you saved your Images. Drag the paint texture image into the Background group. Make sure that you scale it so that it fits the entire canvas. In the Layers panel (Window > Layers), change the Blending Mode to Luminosity and set the Opacity to 10%.


From the Libraries panel, drag the Runner image into the Runner group. Place the runner on the right side of the image.

Because this subject is on a white background, it's easy to remove the background. If your subject is a little trickier, try this: Choose the Quick Selection Tool by pressing the W key, and from the Options bar, click the Select Subject button. Photoshop will automatically select what it considers the main subject. (You'll probably have to refine the selection with the Quick Selection Tool, but Select Subject gives you a, er, running start.)

With the selection active, create a Layer Mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection) to hide the background.


Desaturate the runner layer by using an Adjustment Layer. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black and White and then click on the Clipping Mask Icon in the Properties panel to ensure the desaturation effect affects the runner only, not the background.

Tip: Use the color sliders in the Properties Panel to fine-tune the luminosity of the Black and White image.


Create a new Solid Color Fill Layer (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color). In the Color Picker dialog box, enter #FF6F61 to set Living Coral as the color. Set the Blending Mode to Color.

To make sure that the Living Coral color affects only the runner, create a Clipping Mask by pressing Ctrl-Alt-G/Command-Option-G. Then click the Layer Mask icon and press Ctrl-I/Command-I to invert the Layer Mask to black and hide the color fill.

Set white as the foreground color and press the B key to select the Brush tool, then paint over the runner's clothing to reveal the Living Coral color.


From the Libraries panel, drag the splash photos into your Splash group. Place the runner on the right side of the image. To make things easier to see, disable all but one splash layer by clicking the eye icon of each layer.

Tip: You can click one eye icon and drag down to disable or enable multiple layers more quickly.


To hide the white background from the splashes layer, select the Magic Wand Tool, which is nested under the Quick Selection Tool.

In the Options Bar, set the Tolerance to 5 and uncheck Contiguous.

With the Magic Wand Tool, click any part of the white background, and then go to Select > Inverse to invert the selection.

Now that you're selecting the paint splash, go to Select > Modify > Contract. In the Contract input box, enter 1 and press OK. Contracting moves the selection inward one pixel, which helps you avoid white edge halos around the paint splash.

With the selection active, create a Layer Mask (Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection) to hide the background. If the mask hides any white specular highlights inside the paint splash, paint on the Layer Mask using white to unhide those pixels.

Next, right-click the paint splash layer and select “Convert to Smart Object.” A Smart Object lets you make distortions and adjustments that are editable.


Go to Layer > Layer Style > Color and double-click the color swatch to bring up the color picker. Enter #FF6F61 to set Living Coral as the fill color. From the Blend Mode dropdown, set the Blending Mode to Color and press OK.

Next, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and use the Levels controls to adjust the Luminosity of the layer to better match the Living Coral color. Sometimes the paint splatters might look too dark or too light, and Levels can help you adjust the luminosity to get a better color match.

Repeat the previous two steps with the other paint splashes. When you’re done, you should have four paint splashes that are colored with Living Coral and don't have backgrounds.


Disable all but one splash layer, and then move the splash around until its contours follow the contours of the runner's body; for example, the “Pink Paint Splash” fits perfectly over the runner’s shorts. Set the splash layer's Opacity to 80% so you can more easily place it, place the splash over the shorts, and press Ctrl-T/Command-T and use the corner handles to scale the paint splatter until it fits well. Once you're satisfied, bring the Opacity back to 100%.

Merge the splash with the runner’s body by creating a Layer Mask (Layer > Later Mask > Reveal All). Select the Brush Tool by pressing the B key and paint with black on the Layer Mask in areas that you want to hide; for example, the paint that folds around the runner's leg.


Repeat the previous step with a second paint splash layer. You can distort the paint splashes in any way you like; for example, you can press Ctrl-T/Command-T to transform and then right-click and select Warp to warp the image until it matches the contours of the body.

You can also duplicate a paint splash layer (Ctrl-J/Command-J) and use the duplicate in a different area. Since you are using Smart Objects, any distortion or adjustment you applied is editable, making it easy to re-adjust the duplicate to match another area.

After you repeat this process several times, your image should look something like this:

To find out more about Living Coral, read "The Pantone Color of 2019 Is Warm, Glorious, and Connects Us to The World," and check out the specially curated image collection devoted to the color.

December 6, 2018