How to Change a Color in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop CC provides four different tools you can use for making color changes in a photo or other Photoshop project. Not only can you make oranges more orange, lighten yellows and darken reds, you can completely change one color to another.

Selecting Colors

Depending on which tool you want to use to change color, you should usually begin by select the color that you want to change in the image. There are many ways to select color in Adobe Photoshop, including:

  • Magic Wand Tool
  • Quick Selection Tool
  • Lasso Tools
  • Quick Mask Mode
  • Color Select from the Select menu.

These tools aren't always necessary if you are using the Replace Color tool, since it uses Color Select to isolate colors before making the change.

This shirt was selected using the Magic Wand Tool.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Channel Mixer

Launch Channel Mixer from the Image menu's Adjustment options.

An RGB file contains three channels: red, green and blue. In a CMYK image, there are four: cyan, magenta, yellow and klack.

Select the appropriate channel in the Output Channel menu for the color you want to select. To change a blue shirt, for example, use the Blue RGB channel.

Drag the sliders to change the color mix. Dragging to the right lightens the color, while dragging to the left deepens it.

Since few colors in photos are pure primary colors, it's a good idea to experiment with the sliders using each of the Output Channel modes.

Lightening the Blue and darkening Red transforms the shirt's color.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Color Balance

Color Balance supports generalized color changes. Click Adjustments from the Image menu and select Color Balance. Drag the sliders towards the color you want added into the the selection. For example, dragging the first slider to the right reduces cyan while increasing red. The options for Color Balance are the same for both RGB and CMYK images.

Note that Shadows, Midtones and Highlights are handled separately, so you'll need to click each option to adjust the color in multi-tone images that have varying levels of light.

Change the Tone Balance to re-color Shadows, Midtones and Highlights.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Hue/Saturation

Hue Saturation is a third tool that's great for making moderate or drastic color changes. To open this tool, select Hue/Saturation from the Image menu's Adjustment options.

Click the Preset menu to apply presets like a Sepia tone, a faded Old Style or a Yellow Boost.

Drag the Hue slider to the color you want, then adjust the Saturation and Lightness as needed.

Drag the Hue slider to the color indicated to adjust it.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.

Replace Color

The last heavy-duty color changing tool is Replace Color, also available from the Image menu's Adjustment options.

Begin by clicking the color you want to change and then dragging the Fuzziness slider to ensure only the pixels you want selected are visible as white in the Preview window. Drag the Hue slider to change the color, then adjust its Saturation and Lightness.

Drastically replace one color for another using Replace Color.
credit: Screenshot courtesy of Adobe.