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Color It with PS Elements

One of the most frequent topics requested by readers revolves around changing or replacing a color. We've had all kinds... clothing, cars, food, what have you. In the spring we always get a rash of email asking how to change the color of various features of homes and gardens. This January we had several requests for this technique in Photoshop Elements, both version 2 and 3. Sampling color is not new to the computer world, we've been doing it since the mid 1980s.

In this demonstration we'll show you two ways to do it -- both of which work well in either version of Elements as well as in Photoshop. One method involves making a selection first, and the other replaces all the chosen colors in the whole file. Although we prefer making the selection, the second version is easier and works well -- but only so long as the color you're replacing is not wide spread throughout the file.

For safety sake we'll work on a copy of the image. Drag the image in the Layers Palette and drop it on the New Layer button to generate an exact copy to work on.

Make a Trial Run

replace colorRemember, one of the cardinal rules of these image editing programs is that when there's a selection active the changes you make affect only the pixels contained within the selection. If there's no selection, then the changes affect the entire layer -- or file.

To demonstrate this, make a rough selection using the Lasso tool. If you wish to fine-tune your selection, remember that holding the Option (Alt) key while making a new selection will remove that portion from the existing selection. Likewise, holding the Shift key to the Lasso tool will add the new selection to the existing selections.

Choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Replace Color

The resulting dialog offers three Eyedroppers, some sliders and a thumbnail mask of the selected image.

Use the Eyedropper to sample the color you wish to change. Since we isolated the area to be acted upon with a selection, we can set the fuzziness of the selection relatively high to get all the yellow color.

Now slide the Hue slider to make another color. We slid slightly to the left (-10 to -15) to get a vivid cherry red. With Preview checked, you can see the color change affected only that portion of the image contained in the Lasso selection. (Indicated by the "racing ants")

About Fuzziness

High Fuzziness settings will select more pixels related to the target color, and low settings select less. If the setting is one (1) then you get only that pixel color you selected. Settings of 128 will actually encompass other colors in addition to the target color. We contained our work area in a selection knowing that much of the wall in the background would contain some of the more light pale yellow colors -- which needed to remain unchanged.

Making the Selection

Since we need to isolate the actions to just the car, we'll need a good selection.

We started out using the Magic Wand tool selecting the most predominate yellows. This gets the selection started. Then using the Lasso Tool and the Shift key we added all the rest of the car to be colorized.

Once the Selection was complete, we took the precaution of saving the Selection in case it would be needed later.

Choose Select > Save Selection (And name it)

Selecting Specific Colors

replace in selection Now, with the selection still active,

Choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Replace Color

and use the Eyedropper with the Plus symbol (which adds to the colors selected with each click) and click around in the yellow areas to select the colors to change. Again, you can make your fuzziness settings relatively high; perhaps 32 to 64. Watch the thumbnail carefully to make sure you get all the colors to be changed.

Notice you can add ranges of color by dragging the Eyedropper. Notice also, you can slide the Fuzziness slider and watch the effect it has on the range of colors already selected.

Slide the Hue slider to the desired color. Nice work!

Note that in most instances you'll want to reduce the Saturation a bit, and perhaps move the Lightness slider for a more realistic effect.

Flatten and use File > Save As... to rename and save the file.

Global Changes

Now, let's try the other method. Return to the original file and this time we'll use the Fuzziness slider to bring in the color range for us.

Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer and hit Okay, or drag the Background layer to the New Layer icon in the Layers palette to make your copy. One of the benefits of the Replace Color function is that it's very forgiving - but we'll play it safe with the backup.

Choose Enhance > Adjust Color > Replace Color

In the Replace Color dialog box of Version 3 you can select Image option so that you see the color thumbnail of the truck picture. Select the first Eyedropper and click an area of the color you wish to change.

global changes Now comes the fun. Drag the Fuzziness slider to the right and watch as more and more pixels are changed. To test what you've learned, continue sliding it to the right and watch as other parts of the image become affected. Now back off -- moving it back to the left until you reach an acceptable compromise between the specific color replacement and any effect it may have had on the background or other objects.

When you are satisfied with the results, click OK. Presto, cherry red hot rod. It's as easy as that.

If you're working on an image that has a lot of the target color scattered all around the picture, you'll have to carefully select just those areas you wish to colorize. If you're using Photoshop Elements version 3, you can also use the Color Replacement Brush hiding behind the regular paint brush in the Tool Palette to paint on your color replacement.

Which ever way you choose to do it you can produce some pretty cool images with this technique. If selecting a color for your house or car, just drag a new copy of the background, and repeat the process with a different color change. Build up a collection of layers with different color schemes so you can compare. It's easy and it's fun.

If you'd like to know how to do something in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, just ask. And, don't forget to visit the Adobe Photoshop Elements User Group web site and Photoshop Elements discussion forums.


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