How to Color Replace

By Ella Carlson

There are a few ways to 'color replace' using Photoshop.

Go to SELECT > COLOR RANGE This handy-dandy little function lets you select any area of a layer by its color. Click the left eye dropper and choose a spot of color on the layer that you’d like to choose. If this doesn’t pick up enough of the color, you can switch to the middle eye dropper to keep adding to the color to be selected. You have a fuzziness slider that let’s you adjust how much or little to choose of similar colors. Once you have the areas selected that you want, then click OK to get your marching ants / selection.

To change the color of part of an image, one method is to use an extension of this tool. Go to IMAGE > ADJUSTMENT > REPLACE COLOR

This starts out exactly the same at the COLOR RANGE selection tool, but it has another part to the dialog box that lets you pick the new color to put in. Just click on the bottom of the dialog box, in the color box and choose your new color. When you click OK the new color will automatically replace the old one.

This works well if you have a good color distinction. Not so well if your chosen color is mixed liberally throughout the layer.

To change the color of a selected area––– when you aren’t using REPLACE COLOR, you can work right on the layer but this is a bit risky. It’s a lot better to work on an adjustment layer instead. If you have the area to be changed selected, then go to the bottom of the layers palette and chose the half black / half white circle to get the adjustment layers. One of the easiest adjustment layers to use in changing colors is the HUE & SATURATION adjustment layer. The top slider ––––HUE–––– will allow you to shift the colors along the spectrum.

Another method if you have a selection: Use your paintbrush tool but change the tool’s blend mode from NORMAL to COLOR. Pick the desired foreground color and now you will change the color inside the selection when you paint without changing the lightness or darkness of the pixels. You are “colorizing.”

OR you can make a NEW LAYER, and change the BLEND mode of the LAYER from NORMAL to COLOR. Then with the paintbrush in NORMAL mode, you can paint any area of the layer to change the color underneath without changing the lightness and darkness of the layer underneath.

But what if you don’t have a selection… and actually, often you don’t need one, make a HUE & SATURATION adjustment layer. Use the pull-down menu at the top of the dialog box. Pick the color you want to change and then move the HUE slider to change just that range of colors. It works very, very well. And since it’s on an adjustment layer, you can paint the adjustment layer BLACK wherever you don’t want the color changed. BLACK painted onto any layer mask makes the layer transparent. Paint it WHITE again, and you bring the layer’s visibility back.

Then there are some more wild and crazy ways to change the colors of an image, for instance the use of a gradient map. This technique actually uses the lightness and darkness of an image to determine where the colors will be painted. You use a gradient. There are a bunch available already in Photoshop or you can make your own. When you choose a gradient, then the darkest pixels will be replaced by the colors to the left inside of the gradient bar and on up to the lightest pixels being replaced by the color on the right side of the gradient bar. You can reverse the gradient with a simple click on the REVERSE button on the dialog box. The DITHER button adds a bit of noise (or pixilation) to the gradient to make it print more smoothly. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, but in order for a gradient to print smoothly on many printers, it can’t be too smooth. If it is, you’ll get banding, or sharp edges denoting the color changes rather than a smooth gradient.

Other ways to change or simplify color:

IMAGE > ADJUSTMENTS > POSTERIZE Takes your color and slams them into the number of colors you specify in the dialog box.

FILTER > ARTISTIC > CUTOUT In theory does the same type of thing as posterize but I like the result a bit better. If you stay in the higher ranges –– 6-8 , then you end up often times, with something that looks very graphic or cartoonish. This in combo with other layer effects can be very interesting.

FILTER > STYLIZE > SOLARIZE Will also result in some pretty wild color shifts and image changes.

Just play with some of this stuff. You won’t use them regularly, but when you need to do something that feeds the creative vacuum, then playing in the frontiers can be a great deal of fun.

Photoshop frontiers can be a great deal of fun.

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