Easy Way To Replace a Colour in Adobe Photoshop

by Jun 6, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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​Easy Way To Replace a Colour in Adobe Photoshop

In this article, I’ll share an easy way to replace any colour in a photo using Photoshop. We will do this with the Photoshop HSL Adjustment Layer together with the Brush Tool. It requires only some simple painting, and you will then be able to change an object to any colour you like.

Here’s the photo we’ll be using for the example.

Starting image showing a yellow car

Step 1: Add a HSL Adjustment Layer

Open your image in Photoshop and add a new HSL Adjustment Layer to it. You can do this by clicking the HSL option in the Photoshop Adjustments Panel, indicated in the screenshot below.

Adding an HSL Adjustment Layer to the image using the Adjustments panel in Photoshop

Here you can see two layouts for the Photoshop Adjustments panel. The one on the left shows the icon view whilst the one on the right shows the list view. You can switch between the two by clicking the icon top right of the panel. If you don’t see the icon, it may be because you’re using an older version of Photoshop. Instead, use the dropdown menu for the panel at the very top right. This shows four horizontal white lines.

After adding the HSL Layer, you should see it in the Layers panel. You should also be able to see the HSL controls in the Photoshop Properties panel.

HSL Adjustment Layer and controls used to change the colour of the car

If you now move the Hue slider left and right, it changes the colour of the car. Unfortunately, it also changes all the other colours in the image.

Step 2: Select the Colour to Replace

The reason our HSL adjustment changed all the image colours is that we have the colour selector dropdown set to “Master”. Instead, we need to set this to the colour we want to replace, which in this example is yellow. You can see the dropdown in the screenshot below.

Selecting a colour to replace with the HSL Adjustment Layer controls

After clicking the dropdown, choose “Yellow” from the list. Now when we use the Hue slider, we only replace the colour of anything that’s yellow. In the example image, that’s mainly the car.

But what happens when you want to replace a colour that isn’t obvious in the list. For that you can use the picker tool by clicking the icon to the left of the dropdown. Once activated, you can click on the colour that you want to replace in the image. You will then see the dropdown change to select the correct colour range.

The only problem now is that we are replacing the colour of everything that is yellow in the image. With the sample image, it isn’t too much of a problem but that won’t always be the case. That’s why we need the next step.

Step 3: Target the Colour Replacement Using a Mask

Notice in the Photoshop Layers window that the HSL Adjustment Layer has a layer mask attached to it. We can use this mask to control the parts of the image that the colour change affects.

Start by clicking the Layer Mask attached to the HSL Adjustment Layer to ensure it’s selected. Then in the Photoshop Properties panel, you will see the “Invert” button. Click this once to invert the white layer mask to black.

Inverting the HSL Adjustment Layer Mask

When the Layer Mask is black, it hides the effect of the HSL adjustment across the entire image.

Now we can select the Brush Tool from the Photoshop Tools Palette on the left of the interface. Once selected, set the Hardness, Opacity and Flow of the Brush Tool to all be 100%. This will make it easier to paint precisely over the car.

We now need to set the Brush Tool to paint using white. Photoshop has both a foreground and background colour. You usually see these as two small squares at the bottom of the Tools Palette. If they are showing different colours, you can reset them to the default black and white by pressing D on your keyboard.

As you may need to paint using both black and white, you can quickly switch between the two by pressing X on your keyboard.

Now ensure you have the black Layer Mask selected by clicking it in the Layers panel. You can then paint over the car (using white) to reveal the new colour. The following screenshot shows the painting in progress.

colour replacement being painted onto the car using the Photoshop Brush Tool

If you find that you paint over an area, changing its colour in error, switch to painting with black by pressing X. You can then paint on that area of the mask to correct it before switching back to using white.

After selecting the object by painting on the mask, you can still change its colour using the Hue slider on the HSL Adjustment Layer. Here’s the finished image with the yellow of the car replaced by pink.

The yellow colour of the car replaced by pink using the HSL layer in Adobe Photoshop

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The Photoshop Colour Replacement Video

Now spend a few minutes watching the process demonstrated and explained in this YouTube video.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

Of course, the HSL Adjustment Layer is only one of the Adobe Photoshop tools you can use to change the colour of an object. Here’s another article with more ideas about how to change and replace colours using Photoshop. It’s a good one to read next.

More Photoshop Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Photoshop Tutorials page.

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