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Photoshop Color Changer: Tools You Need to Know

Want to adjust the color of an image in Photoshop? Here are the basics to get you started.

Photoshop Color Changer: Tools You Need to Know

In this tutorial, you'll learn two of the most basic techniques for making color changes to selected areas of an image in Photoshop. From the fastest approaches with the Replace Colors tool, to the slightly more advanced techniques of using the Color Range command, these tips have you covered.

We'll also walk you through the tools and dashboards to give you a clear understanding of what they do and how to get the most out of them. Not only that, you'll pick up handy Photoshop shortcuts along the way.

As we mentioned, this tutorial covers Photoshop's most basic color changers, the Replace Color tool, and the Color Range command. If you know which one you want to explore, simply click on the links above to jump to the relevant sections in this article.

Photoshop has a variety of ways to do it, but this tutorial is a great starting point that will give you the basic information you need to get started with Photoshop color changes - if you want more Photoshop help. , check out the best Photoshop tutorials.


Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replace tool is the fastest way to make color changes in Photoshop. It works by sampling the original colors and replacing them with your chosen foreground color.

The great thing about the Replace Colors tool is that it maintains the tones, shadows, and highlights of the original image so you get lifelike color adjustments. On the downside, it's destructive. Any changes you make will permanently adjust the pixels in your photo. Unless you undo them, that is.

The Replace Color tool can be found in the Brush Tools flyout menu in the Tools panel (for PhotoshopCS - CS2 users, you'll find it in the Healing Brush flyout menu). Just Right Click (Control Click) on the Brush Tool to select the Color Replacement Tool.

Or, press B to select the brush. Then use the keyboard shortcut Shift + B to cycle through the different brush options until you select the Replace Color tool.

How to use the Replace Color tool

When your image opens, the first thing you want to do is select an alternate color and add it as the foreground color. To do this, click on your foreground color box and choose the color you want to use. Then look at the original color you want to replace.

For a realistic look, you'll want to choose something of similar brightness. You don't want to go too light or too dark because the change will be obvious. With the Replace Color tool selected, you can begin to change the color by painting over a selected area in the image.



Tweaking the Replace Color tool

Just like any other brush tool, you can adjust the function of the Replace Color tool. This includes the ability to adjust the size, hardness and spacing of the brush. Just go to the fly-out menu found in the Control Panel. Here you will also find the option to make additional adjustments to the mode, hue, saturation, sampling method, limit, and tolerance.

By default, the mode will be set to color, which as you would expect is the best option for adjusting the color of an image. Hue will give you a similar color to your selected foreground color. Depending on what you're redoing, the colors may be muted or more intense.


Saturation will more often than not increase your color intensity. Meanwhile, brightness does the opposite and discolors the selection and is usually best avoided when working with the Replace Colors tool because the results aren't great. If you want to explore this tool, it's best to experiment to see what results you get with different mode settings.


Photoshop Color Changer: Tools You Need to Know

Sampling options, including Continuous, Single, and Background, are the icons between the mode and limit menus. They are set to Continuous by default. As the name suggests, the option continuously samples and replaces the color continuously while you move the mouse. By selecting Once, you will only be able to replace the sampled color in your first selection. Finally, the background only replaces the color in the areas that contain your background color.

The bounds, set to Continuous by default, replace pixels and adjacent pixels in the brush area. Meanwhile, Non-continuously replaces the color of the pixels of the foreground color in the brush area whether they are adjacent or not. Find Edges will replace the colors while preserving the edges of the objects. It works best when there is a defined line, if the focus is soft or blurry you won't get good results. In this case, you're better off switching to a softer brush and sticking with Continuous.

The Tolerance slider is used to control how similar a pixel is to the sampled foreground color. Lower the tolerance to select only colors close to your sampled color, or increase it for a wider selection. And finally, you can choose to add anti-aliasing to smooth out jagged edges.

Color Range Command

If you want more flexibility and a non-destructive method for manipulating colors in Photoshop, the Color Range command is the option for you. It works in a similar way to the Magic Wand tool by making selections based on color and tone values. For a quick look at how to use the magic wand tool, check out our background removal in photoshop tutorial.

Unlike the Magic Wand tool, the Color Range command lets you select specific colors throughout your entire image or selection, rather than just the pixels adjacent to your selection point.

You have a lot of control with this command as there are many options for making selections. From using the color picker, to the predefined color range of CMYK and RGB, to the tonal selection of highlights, mids and shadows and skin tones and creating a color gamut.


How to use the Color Range command

The Color Range command is found in the Select menu in the Menu Bar. With the image you want to work on opened, select Color Range to open the Color Range dialog box. To start, we'll look at the default selection of the sampled color.

With the sampled color showing in the selection drop-down menu, use the eyedropper tool to select a color from your image. You can use the eyedropper on your main image or in the image frame inside the panel. The function is pretty self-explanatory, just select different colors from within your image and they will appear in the selected color range in the dialog window.


Color Range: Fine-tune Selection

You may find that the eyedropper does not select all the different tones of the color you selected. That's because the eyedropper will select all pixels that have the same color as the selected pixels, plus all pixels that fall within a specific luminance value.

By adjusting the degree of Fuzziness, you can control the range of colors selected. The tool is set to 40 by default. By increasing the value, you expand the color range selection, while decreasing the Fuzziness will decrease it.

Additionally, you also have the option of using the Add to Pattern Tool and the Subtract to Template Tool. Appearing as an Eyedropper in the Color Range dialog box, the Add to Sample icon is accompanied by a plus symbol, while the Subtract to Sample icon is accompanied by a minus symbol. Use keyboard shortcuts with eyedropper tool, shift to add, alt/opt to subtract.

With your color range selection active, you can cycle through Selection Preview in the drop-down menu. This will display your selection in different views on your keyframe, giving you a better picture of your color selection.

Your selection won't be perfect so you may have missing or unwanted areas in your image included in your selection. Don't worry too much at this point as we can finalize your selection later. Once you are satisfied with your choice, go ahead and hit the ok button.


Color gamut: Enable local color cluster

If you want your selection to focus on a specific area of the image, you can enable Local Cluster - available in CS4 and later.

With this selected, the previous gray Range slider becomes active. By reducing the Range, Photoshop will localize its selection to the points closest to the areas you selected with your eyedropper tool. In this case we won't use this because we want to select all instances of the foreground color in our image.



Color Range: Add Adjustment Layers

With your selection made and active, you now want to add a new Adjustment Layer. This is how you would change the colors in your image. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation or use the shortcut at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Name your layer and click OK. This will add an Adjustment Layer (visible in your layers panel) and open the Hue/Saturation Properties panel. In the Properties panel, you will see several sliders: Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. Adjust the Hue slider to change the color of the selection.

The Saturation slider controls the intensity of the colors, while the brightness slider controls the lightness and shadows. As you adjust the slider, the color changes in the bottom color bar. The first bar shows the original colors and the second shows the adjustments you've made.


Color Range: Exquisite Your Choice

Now it's time to tidy up your selection. In the Hue/Saturation Properties panel, switch to Mask view by selecting the button at the top of the panel. alt/opt and click on the Layer Mask image and your main frame will switch to Mask view. Using the Brush tool, you can start painting out the areas you want to remove from your selection.

Return to normal view to paste in the bits that the Color Range Command doesn't pick up with different brush sizes. The great thing about using this technique with Adjustment Layers is that you can easily turn the layer off, go back and change the selection and adjust the colors. Furthermore, nothing is permanent.


Color Range: Invert selection

It's worth noting that you also have the option to invert your selection when creating a Color Range selection. All you have to do is check the reverse box. This is a great function if you want to add/maintain color to a selected area and make the rest monochrome. You can do this using a Black & White adjustment layer.

Alternatively, you can experiment with some presets in the Hue/Saturation presets drop-down menu. Here you have the option to choose effects like Sepia and old style. Otherwise, you can use the customize option and reduce the saturation to zero to create a monochrome effect.

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