Changing the color of just one part of an image is a common task in Photoshop and can be useful for many purposes. For example, you may want to change the color of an item of clothing, hair, eyes, or other elements in a photo. With the right tools and techniques, it’s easy to isolate the area you want to change and alter its color, while leaving the surrounding areas untouched. In this article, we’ll walk through the step-by-step process for changing the color of part of an image using Photoshop.
Prepare the Image
The first step is to open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. Make sure the Layers panel is visible – you can find this under Window > Layers if needed.
It’s often easier to select and mask out the area you want to alter if the background layer is converted to a Smart Object first. To do this, right click on the background layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object”. This will allow you to apply edits non-destructively.
Make a Selection
Next, you’ll need to make a selection around the part of the image you want to change the color of. There are a few different tools you can use for this:
Quick Selection Tool: This brush-based tool lets you “paint” a selection onto the area you want. It detects edges and makes a selection based on where you brush over.
Magnetic Lasso Tool: With this tool, you can trace around the edges of the area you want to select. It detects edges and snaps to them as you click around the object.
Polygonal Lasso Tool: This lets you make a selection by clicking around an area to trace its outline manually. Use this for hard-edged areas without complex edges.
Choose the tool that works best for the area you want to select. Take your time to make sure you get an accurate selection. You may need to use a combination of the tools. Zoom in for tricky areas like hair or fur.
Once you’ve made your selection, check it carefully for any missed spots. You can add to the selection with each tool by holding Shift as you make further selections.
Refine the Selection
Often your initial selection will still need some refinement to really isolate the area you want. With the selection still active, you can now use the following tools to clean it up:
Refine Edge Tool: This lets you refine the edges by brushing over areas that need adjustment. Useful for improving soft or detailed edges like hair.
Eraser Tool: You can manually erase any parts of the selection that have been included unintentionally. Zoom in and use a soft eraser to tidy the edges.
Expand/Contract Selection: Use Select > Modify > Expand or Contract to adjust the selection area outward or inward by a set number of pixels. Useful for cleaning up rough edges.
Take your time here to get the selection as accurate as possible. The cleaner the initial selection, the better your final result will be. Zoom in to check the tricky spots.
Mask the Selection
With your selection perfected, it’s time to mask out the area. This will isolate it so that adjustments and effects will only be applied within the selection.
Click the Add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the Layers panel to add a layer mask based on your selection. The area outside the selection will become masked or hidden.
You can now see that your selection is isolated in the mask – the area outside it will be protected from changes. The color change will be restricted only to the selected part.
Change the Color
Now for the fun part – changing the actual color! With your selection masked out, choose Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. This brings up the properties to adjust the hue, saturation and lightness.
Start by moving the Hue slider to shift the overall color. Pay attention to the preview to pick your desired shade. Then adjust the Saturation and Lightness sliders as needed to fine-tune the color richness and brightness.
Click OK when you have the color change looking how you want. The adjustment will be applied only to the masked selection, leaving the rest of the image unchanged.
You can also try using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer rather than directly applying it to the image. This keeps your edits non-destructive.
Optional: Refine the Mask
If needed, you can further improve the mask to really isolate and fine-tune the selection area.
Here are some tips for mask refinement:
- Use the Brush tool to paint over any remaining areas of the mask that need adjustment.
- Lower the mask Density to partially hide edges and blend the effect.
- Add a Layer Mask to the Hue/Saturation layer to limit the effect.
- Use the Refine Mask tool for precision edge refinement.
Take the time to refine the mask until only the required part of the image is affected by the color change. Zoom in and check the edges closely.
Add Final Touches
Once you are happy with the new color, you can finish up by adding any final touches to help the change blend in smoothly.
Here are some suggestions:
- Add an Adjustment Layer to tweak exposure/contrast in the adjusted area.
- Paint with a soft Brush at low Opacity over edges to blend with the original.
- Use Clone Stamp or Healing Brush to cover any obvious masking flaws.
- Add Layer Styles like inner glow or color overlay for a vibrant look.
Subtle changes like this can help sell the effect and make the color change look natural.
Export the Result
When you’re all done, save a copy of your document to preserve the layers and masks.
Then export a flattened copy as a JPG or PNG to get an image file with your final effect rendered out. Your selected area will now be changed to the new color choice.
Share your image and enjoy the creativity of Photoshop! With practice, you’ll be able to change colors selectively like a pro.
Changing just part of an image while leaving the rest untouched takes some effort – but the results can be incredible. The key steps are:
- Make an accurate selection of the area to alter
- Mask out that selection on its own layer
- Apply color adjustments only within that mask
- Refine the mask edge and blending as needed
- Export the finished photo with an isolated color change
Follow these steps carefully, use the right selection and masking tools, and take the time to refine your work. The precision will pay off in a convincing, professional result!
With the power of layers, masks and adjustments in Photoshop, you have total creative control to change colors in specific areas of a photo. Why not give it a try?