In your work as a designer, image editor and photographer, you might sometimes want to change certain colors in the image. Maybe the bride’s dress didn’t turn out white enough, or maybe the balloons were slightly off-color. In such situations, you can turn to the Replace Color tool to quickly swap out one color for another.
Photoshop actually offers a number of different methods of changing colors in an image. There’s the much loved Color Replacement Brush, the Selective Color option and of course, the Replace Color method. In this tutorial, we’ll learn how to use the Replace Color to change a color (or a range of colors) in any image.
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What You’ll Need
This is a fairly simple topic so you don’t need years of image editing experience to get started with this tutorial. That said, some familiarity with basic Photoshop UI and functions won’t hurt.
You’ll also need a bunch of sample images to work on. If you have some already, then you’re all set to go. Otherwise, download some copyright-free images from Pixabay to get started.
For this tutorial, we’ll use this beautiful picture of pink flowers:
Oh – you’ll also need a copy of Photoshop (duh!). I used Photoshop CS6 in this tutorial, though you can use whichever version is at hand (as long as it has the ‘Replace Color’ tool).
With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Replacing Color in Photoshop
Step 1: First, open the image in Photoshop and head over to the Replace Color tool. You can find it under Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color…
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Step 2: In the next window, you’ll see three color dropper icons, an ‘X-ray’ of your picture, and a few slider bars. Let’s look at each of these elements in detail:
1. This is the color dropper tool. Use it to select the color you want to replace from the image.
- The first dropper selects the color to be replaced. Use this tool to click on the color in the image that you want to replace. The selected color will be reflected in the ‘selection’ preview (see below).
- The second dropper with the tiny (+) next to it adds to the selection. If the first dropper didn’t select all the desired colors, you can use this dropper to expand the range of colors to be replaced.
- Sometimes, you may over-select the color range. In such scenarios, the dropper with the (-) next to it will come in handy. The part(s) of the image clicked with the negative-dropper tool will be deselected.
2. Fuzziness decides how ‘fuzzy’ the selection is. The higher this value, the more fuzzy or blurred the selection will be – i.e. selected colors will leak into nearby colors. A fuzziness value of zero essentially means hard-edges. A value of 100, on the other hand, will yield a very fuzzy selection – all of which will be reflected in the selection preview.
3. This is the selection preview. Think of it as an X-Ray that shows you which parts of the image have been selected already. Any additional selections you make or delete (via the dropper tool) will be reflected here in real-time as well.
You can also switch from selection view to original image view.
4. This part controls the replacement color. You can select a color from the color mixer by clicking the ‘Result’ color, or you can change the hue, saturation and lightness to find a color of your choice.
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Step 3: To replace the color, select the first color dropper tool and click on the color you want to change in the image.
You’ll notice that the selection ‘X-Ray’ will change to reflect the selected colors.
If you want to expand the selection, you can either use the second color dropper, or you can drag the fuzziness slider to let the selection bleed into surrounding colors.
You can also use the third (-) color dropper to remove selected colors and fine-tune the selection.
This is what my selection looks like:
I deliberately kept some parts of the original pink because it added a nice, fluorescent glow to the flowers. Otherwise you can expand the selection further and get a more solid blue throughout the image.
This is the final result:
Pretty neat, right?
The Replace Color tool is extremely versatile. Below, I’ve used it to change the color of this daisy flower from the original white:
To a light violet:
And the color of this lifebuoy from red:
To a dull pink:
As you can see, the Replace Color tool is very versatile, but it has its limitations. For starters, it doesn’t give you much flexibility over how many colors you can replace. It is also difficult to replace non-contiguous colors. In the above example, you can’t select the lifebuoy and the ocean in the background simultaneously.
For situations where you might need to select more than one color, you should use either Selection Color masks, or the Color Replacement Brush. The Color Replacement Brush (access it by hitting B or Shift-B) is among the most powerful and effective tools in Photoshop. Once you get used to the Replace Color tool, take some time to practice with the Color Replacement brush. You’ll turn to it often once you master its basics.
As you can see, the Replace Color tool is quite easy to use, although getting a perfect selection can be difficult. For more in-depth tutorials on how the color replace tool works and other similar Photoshop features, check out this course on mastering Photoshop fundamentals.