Magically Change Colors In Seconds!

July 2nd 2010 | Photography

Transform Colors in your Photography

Transform Colors in your Photography

Have you ever photographed a red barn and wondered how it would look blue? Or purple? Or green?Here’s a really simple and fun way to find out using the hue/saturation tool! In fact, this is one of my favorite Photoshop tricks and it’s incredibly easy to do–just a few quick keystrokes. By using this technique you can change any color to virtually any other color. And the really cool thing is that it only changes the color you want to change and leaves all the rest of the colors untouched!

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Open a photo in Photoshop (or Elements) that has a boldy-colored object you’d like to change to another color. Crop the image first so that you’re only working with the composition you’re going to keep–no sense getting distracted by image areas you’re going to toss later anyway.
  2. Open the layers palette (you should always work with the layers palette open). Now, open the hue/saturation tool in the layers palette so that it opens a new layer (just click on the half-black circle at the bottom of the layers palette if this is new to you–and you will see the hue/saturation tool in the list of options).
  3. At the top of the hue/saturation dialog box, you’ll see a pull-down menu labled “Master.” Click on that box and a list of the main colors will drop down. Choose the existing color of the object you want to change. In this case, because the portion of the floats that I wanted to change was orange, I chose red because that was the closest color option.
  4. Now look down to the bottom of the dialog box and you’ll see three eye-dropper icons. Click once on the left-most block to tell Photoshop that you’ll be sampling a color. Now move your cursor over the color you want to change (again, for me it was the orange area) and click once. If you want to gather more variations of the color, click on the “plus” eyedropper icon (the middle one) and then click as many more times as you want. Each time you click you are broadening the color that Photoshop is going to alter–but you should only click on related areas of the subject. In other words, if you’re working on a blue dress, you might see various different shades of blue (because of lighting or shadows, etc) and if you want them all to shift to another color, you have to sample them all.
  5. Now slide the hue slider and watch what happens! Only the objects that were the color(s) that you sampled will change–but you can alter the hue as much as you like. I could have easily turned these floats blue or purple or green just by sliding the hue adjustment. Wild!

Finally, you may notice that some parts of the scene other than your intended subject are also changing (look at the buckets in the background in this shot and you’ll see some changes in their color, and in the decking, as well), so if you want to do this very precisely, you should select just the parts of the image you want to change using any of the selection tools before you begin changing the colors. In other words, I could have carefully selected just the floats and my hue changes would not have affected the buckets in any way.

Is this a cool trick or what? Try it! Again, for your first experiments, try something that is obviously one color–like a your yellow car. If you want to see how it would look blue or green or pink–it’s just a few keystrokes away. Have fun!

Text and photos by photographer and best selling author Jeff Wignall. Jeff has an upcoming book aboutdigital photography basics, find out more about him and his work at Jeff Wignall




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