Changing the color of an image in Photoshop can be a useful skill for designers, photographers, and anyone who works with digital images. Whether you want to create stylized black-and-white or sepia images, make colors pop, or completely change the look of a photo, Photoshop gives you the tools to make it happen.
Why Change Image Color in Photoshop?
Here are some common reasons you may want to modify color in an image:
- Create black-and-white or sepia effects
- Increase color vibrancy or create a faded look
- Change specific colors, like making a blue shirt red
- Match the color palette between images
- Make colors pop for emphasis
- Set a specific mood with tone and color
- Correct color casts or inconsistencies
- Convert color images to CMYK for print
With Photoshop’s color adjustment tools, you have a high level of control over the colors in an image. Changing colors can be as simple as clicking a black-and-white adjustment, or require more complex techniques depending on your specific needs.
How to Change Overall Image Color
The easiest way to change the overall color scheme of an image is by using Photoshop’s Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Here’s a quick overview of the steps:
- Open the image and add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by clicking the icon in the Layers panel or selecting Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.
- In the Properties panel, adjust the Hue slider to shift all hues in the image.
- Use the Saturation slider to increase or decrease the intensity of colors.
- Adjust Lightness to brighten or darken the image.
This will modify all colors in the image equally. To target adjustments to specific color ranges, use the color selection drop-down menu in the Hue/Saturation properties.
Converting Color Images to Black-and-White
Removing color from an image is a popular effect. Here are a few easy ways to convert to black-and-white in Photoshop:
- Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale to discard all color information.
- Add a Black & White adjustment layer and adjust the color sliders to control conversion.
- Add a Gradient Map adjustment layer using black and white gradient presets.
- Use the Channel Mixer to map color channels to grayscale.
For advanced control, use a Black & White adjustment layer. This lets you adjust the contribution of the original red, green, and blue channels to create your desired look.
Creating Sepia Tone Effects
To create old-fashioned sepia effects, start by making the image black-and-white using one of the methods above. Then:
- Add a Photo Filter adjustment layer.
- Choose the Sepia filter.
- Adjust density to control strength of the effect.
You can also add a Hue/Saturation layer and shift the hue towards orange and increase saturation. This gives you more precise control over the tone.
Changing Specific Colors
To change one color to another, such as making a blue shirt red, use the Color Replacement tool:
- Select the Color Replacement Tool in the toolbar.
- Choose the color you want to change from the image by holding Ctrl and clicking.
- Select the new color from the tool’s options bar.
- Paint over the areas you want to replace. Adjust Tolerance to control the range of replaced colors.
This replaces the sampled color with the new selected one. For more control, make selections to isolate the color before using the Color Replacement tool.
Boosting Color Vibrancy
To make colors “pop” more, try these adjustments:
- Increase Saturation with a Hue/Saturation layer
- Use Vibrance to boost less saturated colors
- Try the Vibrance filter for smart, photo-realistic vibrancy
- Selectively boost color with Color Balance
- Add contrast with Levels or Curves for greater color separation
Be careful not to oversaturate the image. Subtly enhancing vibrancy usually looks best.
Matching Colors Between Images
Matching color palettes across images can be tricky. Here are some tips:
- Add a Color Balance layer to the image you want to match and manually adjust the sliders while viewing the target image. Sample colors with the Eyedropper tool.
- Open the target image too, select an area with the Eyedropper tool, then click the Color Sampler tool to place markers. Color Samplers will display in the Info panel to guide adjustments in the other image.
- Batch process multiple images with Photoshop Actions to automate color corrections.
- Convert to black-and-white or sepia to match lighter/darker tones rather than specific hues.
It often works best to get the images close, rather than try to exactly match colors. Balancing the overall tone and feel is more important than precise matching.
Correcting Color Casts
Photos can sometimes take on strong color casts from lighting conditions or issues with white balance. To correct:
- Add a Hue/Saturation layer (targeting reds, yellows, etc) or a Color Balance layer.
- Remove the cast by shifting colors toward the opposite tone, like adding cyan to counteract too much red.
- Selectively remove color cast from skin tones with the Sponge Tool if needed.
You can also sample neutral grey areas that should be white/grey and use the Info panel to see the color values. Then add adjustments to target the color casts in those areas.
Preparing Images for Print
For professional photo printing, images must be converted to CMYK color mode. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Go to Image > Mode > CMYK Color to convert from RGB.
- Adjust colors using CMYK sliders in a Hue/Saturation layer.
- Open the CMYK Working Space preset under Edit > Color Settings.
- Enable Color Management and select the color profile of your printer or publication.
- Adjust Gamma and tonality with Curves for the intended paper stock.
- Use the Convert to Profile feature to preview the final CMYK output.
Converting to CMYK will change image colors so adjustments are usually needed. Work closely with your print provider to ensure color accuracy.
Photoshop provides all the professional-grade tools needed to change image colors in any way you can imagine. While the basics are easy to pick up, complex color edits may take more time and practice to master.
The key steps for almost any color change include:
- Add adjustment layers rather than edit pixels directly.
- Use Hue/Saturation for overall color changes.
- Target specific areas with tools like Color Balance.
- Fine-tune selections and edges for targeted adjustments.
- Preview on multiple devices and check histograms.
With a logical workflow and the techniques outlined here, you can achieve amazing changes in image color and appearance using Photoshop!