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How to Replace Colors in Photoshop – Video Tutorial with Ben Willmore

by Hillary Grigonis
photo & video

Color is a powerful tool inside any art, but photographers are limited to just the colors they see — or are they? Using Photoshop, it’s easy to swap out one color for another, say, to turn a red car blue. Replacing colors and getting realistic results is tricky, but, using an adjustment layer, the process actually only takes a few minutes. Watch as Ben Willmore demonstrates how to replace colors in Photoshop with both a quick method and a more accurate technique.

Ready to finally understand everything about Photoshop? Join Ben Willmore for the class, Adobe® Photoshop® CC: The Complete Guide to truly master this powerful software. 

How To Replace Colors in Photoshop: The Quick Method

Adjustment layers allow for non-destructive photo editing, but they also make it simpler to apply changes to only portions of the image. To swap out colors, start with a hue and saturation adjustment layer by selecting the half-filled circle at the bottom of the Layers window and selecting hue and saturation from the menu. (Don’t see the layers panel? In the top menu, select Windows, then Layers.)

How to replace colors in Photoshop

Creating a hue and saturation adjustment layer brings up a new window with different color options. To swap out colors, first you need to tell the computer what color you would like to adjust. The simplest way to do that is by selecting the hand tool within the adjustment layer panel, then clicking within the photo on the color you would like to swap. You’ll see some of the color options change as you click — the drop down menu at the top will select a color channel, red in this case, and the colored slider at the bottom will also automatically adjust.

How to replace color in Photoshop

With the color selected, use the hue, saturation and lightness sliders to adjust the color. Hue will make complete color changes, while saturation effects how vivid the color is and lightness adjusts the shade of that color.

How to replace color in Photoshop

If the changes are applied to more than the object you wanted to change, don’t worry — once you are done with the color adjustments you can use a layer mask to choose what areas see those color changes.

How To Replace Colors in Photoshop: The Advanced Method

But what if the hand tool didn’t select the entire object? Using the colored slider at the bottom of the hue and saturation adjustment layer, you can fine tune what shades are selected if the initial quick method didn’t get them all, Wilmore explains.

How to replace color in Photoshop

The gray brackets in between the rainbow-colored sliders at the bottom illustrate what colors you have selected. By dragging the ends of the bracket, you can adjust what colors are included. The middle section of brackets are for the main color, while the outer brackets pick up a bit of the surrounding colors.

Tip: Make an extreme adjustment with the hue slider so it’s easy to see what you’ve selected. Once you have the correct color range selected, you can then use the hue slider to adjust the color.

While dragging the brackets is one method, using the eyedropper tool is often simpler. First, drag those gray bars to make the color selection as small as possible. Right above the color slider, click on the first eyedropper tool and use that to identify the main color you want to isolate, just like you did with the hand tool in the first method. Then, use the plus eyedropper to add other shades that you want adjusted (you’ll see those color selection bars get wider) and the minus if you selected too much.

Using the colored sliders and eyedroppers makes selecting and adjusting a colored object simple, but what if there are two things that color in your photograph, and you only want to change one? Since you started with an adjustment layer, you can paint over any areas of the photo where you don’t want to apply the adjustments.

How to replace color in Photoshop

With the adjustment layer highlighted in the layers panel, select the paintbrush and make sure you are painting with black. Then, simply paint over the areas where you don’t want that color change.

The hue and saturation adjustment layer makes it easy to adjust and alter any color in a photograph. Along with changing the colors of an object, understanding how to use adjustment layers to alter color is also helpful for things like reducing skin redness or downplaying a distracting object in the background.

Ready to see how understanding adjustment layers can enhance your post processing? Join Ben Willmore for the class, Adobe® Photoshop® CC: The Complete Guide, or stop back next week for more free quick tips.

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Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a web content writer and lifestyle photographer from Michigan. After working as a photojournalist for several years, she made the leap and started her own business and now enjoys sharing tips and tricks with emerging photographers.