Color Change


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Doing a color change in an image is one of the most requested Photoshop techniques

When I show someone how to do this they usually grab a piece of paper and a pen and write it all down but you don't need to do that.

Just follow along ...

You can easily replace the color of just about anything you want from red eye to your car or sweater.

Replace Color


Perhaps the easiest way to do a color change is to use the Replace Color command - itcolor change sweater is found in Image > Adjustments >  Replace color ...  For this technique we will change the color of the sweater on the left from black and yellow to black and red.

When you open the Replace color dialogue you will see some options ...

  • Fuzziness - the tolerance of the selection and it controls the degree to which related colors are included.
  • View Mode - either Selection or Image.  This one is set to Selection.
  • Eyedroppers - to select the color to be replaced and you can both add to or subtract from with the eyedroppers.
  • Replacement Color - use the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders to choose a new color.

This is the dialogue for this image ...

color changeBefore you open the Replace Color dialogue make a copy of your background layer.  There is sure to be some new color where you don't want it to be and that will need to be removed and it will be done on the Background Copy Layer..

As you can see the original yellow was selected using the Eyedropper.  To get all of the yellow at the edges of the neck it was necessary to zoom in and then use the eyedropper+.

When you are working on an image its possible to move around with the dialogue open.  

Just press the space bar and drag the image to get to a new place to do your sample.

You can also zoom in and out when in a dialoge -

Zoom in - space/Ctrl
Zoom out - space/Alt

To choose a new color either move the HSL (Hue/Saturation/Lightness) sliders around or click on the little color swatch to bring up the color dialogue.


Click OK.

Now you have a nice new color and it is time to do some clean up.  At this point add a Layer Mask to the Background copy layer by clicking on the little rectangle with the circle at the bottomcolor change layers of the layers palette (outlined in red).

The layer mask allows you to remove any unwanted color casts that have appeared as a result of using the Replace Color technique.

Set the default colors to Balck and White by pressing the D key and then make Black the foreground color.  Select the Brush tool and if you are using a Wacom tablet set your brush to change size with pressure (Shape dynamics).

Now carefully paint black over any areas that have picked up the new color by mistake.

And here is the complete image ...

color change sweater

This technique works well but there are some problems.  It was very difficult to completely change the color around the neck of the sweater but it is acceptable for a quick job.

There are more effective methods to change color in an image using Hue and Saturation Adjustment layers.






Hue And Saturation Adjustment Layers 1


This color change method is quick, easy and targets only the color you want to change. color change mustang

Lets use this method to do a color change of this old Mustang - a digital repaint if you will ...

  1. The first thing is to create a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer.  At the top of the layer is a drop down box labelled EDIT.  

    Because the Mustang is RED (more or less) we want to modify the Red color in the image. Drop down the EDIT box and select Reds as the colors to edit.
  2. color change hue and saturation layer


  1. The next step is to move the HUE slider around until you find a color you like.  In this case I chose Green for my new color.  This is how my Hue and Saturation dialogue looks now (I colored the little sliders to make them easy to see) ...
  2. color change hue and saturation 2

  3. The Reds have been changed to Hue +128, Saturation +11 and Lightness +1.  You need to keep messing about with the sliders until you are happy with the results.
  4. This is how the Mustang looks now ...

    color change mustang1



  1. This is a good color but there are a couple of problems:
  2. There is some color noise that needs to be fixed and everything that was red is now green.
Noise Fixing
From Photoshop Help

Hue/Saturation adjustment slider
A. Hue slider values
B.
Adjusts fall-off without affecting range
C. Adjusts range without affecting fall-off
D.
Moves entire slider
E.
Adjusts range of color component
color change photoshop help

At the bottom of the Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer are the Hue and Saturation Adjustment Sliders.

color change adjustment sliders

This allows you to modify the range of colors bening modified.  

The Fall Off is similar to Feathering.

In my example I moved the D part of the slider to eliminate the noise from the original color change.

color change hue and saturation 2



You can see the change in the Hue Slider vales.

This is something you will need to fool around with if you have some noise or if the color is kind of blotchy.

Removing Unwanted Color

This is a simple matter of using the Layer Mask built in to the Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Select your Brush and set the default foreground/background colors by pressing the D key.  Now make Black the foreground color and paint over the areas where green has incorrectly replaced red.

In this image the taillights of other cars, a sign in the distant background and the mirror on the van next to the mustang all have green that needs removing.

color change mirror color change mirror 1
Mirror with green Mirror corrected

And  - the final image ...

color change mustang end

Easy, huh, and an easy way to do a color change.



Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layers 2


This color change method may be the best of the three and it also uses a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer.
color change hs layer
  1. There is only one difference between the first Hue and Saturation method and this one and that difference is this - create a new Hue and Saturation Adjustment layer and put a check mark in the COLORIZE box.
  2. What this does is colorize the complete image according to where the Hue slider is located. Simply move the Hue slider left and right to see the full range of color available.  You can also adjust the Saturation and Lightness to taste.

  3. Here is the original image - a guy playing his sax on the street.  The color change on this image is to make his shirt and his cap a nice purple.

  4. color change original

    This is the Layers Palette and the resulting image ...
color change adjustment layer color change purple picture
Hue 266, Saturation +50, Lightness +1 The new color

  1. When you have a color you like click OK  - this will close the Hue and Saturation dialogue and the image will be completely coverd by the chosen color - yikes!
  2. Have no fear as it is easy to finish the project.

  3. At this point you have two choices.  The Hue and Saturation layer has a Layer Mask attached so you can paint out the color in areas you don't want it or you can eliminate all of the color and then paint it back in where you do want it.

    • Ctrl-I or Cmd-I to invert the Layer Mask
    • set your foregound color to white
    • choose the appropriate sized brush and
    • start painting on the shirt (or whatever you are coloring.

  4. I prefer to eliminate the color and then paint it back in.  To do this press

  5. If you prefer to keep the color and remove it where it should not be then set your foreground color to black and start painting.

  6. You will, of course, find this much, much easier if you are using a Wacom tablet.  It is much more accurate and easier to control than a mouse and when you get into tight spaces there really is no comparison with a mouse. Ta da - the pen wins - every time!

  7. Here is the finished image with the new purple shirt and cap.

Color change end

Looks OK, right?  

If you look closely at the background you can see a reflection of our sax player (and me taking this shot).  A reflection is not a bad thing but - his shirt is the wrong color in the reflection!

See ... and we have to maintain the integrity of the reflection, right?


That is easily fixed by
color change reflection
  • adding a second Hue and Saturation Adjustment layer
  • clicking the Colorize box and
  • dialing in the same numbers as the original Hue and Saturation Adjustment layer.

The painting is exactly the same as well.  You may find that the new shirt and cap color in the reflection is too vivid so just lower the opacity of the second adjustment layer (in this image the opacity was lowered to 38% on the second Hue and Saturation Adjustment layer).

Here is how the layers palette looks and the color change final result.

color change layers palette color change final
Layers Palette Final Color Change Image

This is the third of the three color change techniques and it is probably the best one of the three.

Incidentally - this technique can also be used to add some color to a black and white image.

To do this you have to make sure that your image is RGB rather than grayscale.  Check that the image is RGB by selecting Image > Mode >  RGB color.color change motorcycle

Now add your Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer, put a checkmark in the colorize box and move the sliders around to get the color you want.

Now it is a simple matter to either paint in or paint out the color on the black and white image.




Page Links

Replace Color

Hue and Saturation 1

Hue and Saturation 2


The perfect color change will maintain the original texture of the image with a new color overlayed on top.








 color change thumb



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