The creative tutorial home of image wrangler, Lesa Snider.

Quick Color Change

May 29, 2009 by
How to repaint an object using the Hue mode
How to repaint an object using the Hue mode

When it comes to changing the color of an object, there’s an easy way and a hard way to get it done. The hard way involves creating a selection, as discussed in the node#169 tutorial. An easier way is to use a blend mode instead. Read on!

Meet the Hue mode

Blend modes let you control how color on one layer interacts with color on another. The Hue mode, in particular, keeps the lightness and saturation (color intensity) values of the base color (your object’s original color) and adds the hue (another word for color) of the blend color (your new paint layer). If you want to change the color of an object without changing how light or dark it is, you can use the Hue mode. However, this mode can’t introduce color that isn’t already there, so it won’t work if you’re trying to colorize a grayscale image. In that case, you’d need to use another mode (like Color).

Step 1: To give this method a spin, open your image and create a new layer by clicking the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

Step 2: Using the pop-up menu at the top of the Layers panel, change the new layer’s blend mode to Hue (it’s at the bottom of the list). TIP: The keyboard shortcut for changing a layer to Hue mode is Shift-Option-U (Shift + Alt + U on a PC).

Step 3: Press B to grab the Brush tool, and then click the foreground color chip and pick a color from the resulting Color Picker.

Step 4: With the new layer selected, start painting over the object. The goal here is to repaint this red motorcycle blue. If the area you want to repaint has a lot of black, white, and gray around it (like this bike), you can paint right over those areas and they won’t change a bit (note the brush cursor circled here). In Hue blend mode, the new paint only affects areas that contain color.

If you end up changing too much color, you can temporarily switch to the Eraser tool by pressing and holding E (this temporary tool swapping trick works in CS4 only). Another option is to add a layer mask to the paint layer and hide the areas you want to leave unchanged with black paint. To add a layer mask to the paint layer, click the circle within a square icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. Grab the Brush tool by pressing B, set your foreground color chip to black then paint over those areas that don’t need repainting. That’s all there is to it!

Until next week, may the color-changing force be with you all :)