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Photoshop Elements >

Color Replacement

There are several ways you can replace the color in an area of a photograph.

If you haven't already, go to Color Picking.

Method #1 - Paint Bucket & Color Blending Mode

This method is less automated than the next two methods, but you may find it more effective.

Do the following.

1) Select the new color that you want to use to replace the existing color.

2) Select the area that you want to replace.

You may need to expand the selection by a few pixels in order to include the edge of the color area.

Go to Select > Modify > Expand.

3) Create a blank layer.

4) Rename the blank layer as New color.

5) Select the Paint Bucket tool.

6) Click inside the selection.

7) Change the blending mode of the New color layer from Normal to Color.

Blending mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.


If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

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Original After

Alternative Application Method

Instead of making a selection, and filling it with color using the Paint Bucket tool, you could brush the color on the photograph with the Brush tool.

For example, if you're making a sunset more like the sky behind the figure in Edvard Munch's The Scream, use the Brush tool.

Use many blank layers, so you can modify different parts of the sky by using opacity.


National Gallery, Oslo, Norway

Method #2 - Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement tool is a member of the Brush tool family.

A minor disadvantage is that the color is changed on the Background copy layer, not on a separate layer.

Two Tips

Tip #1

The active area of the tool is the tiny + in the middle of the brush circle.

The area inside the circle, other than the +, doesn't do anything.

You must keep the + only on the color that's being replaced.

If the + strays off of the color, the color will change in unwanted areas.

Zoom in!

Tip #2

Normally, when brushing, one stops along the way, releasing the mouse button.

Then, if you make a brushing mistake, you don't have to redo all of the previous brushing.

With this tool, do all of the brushing in one fell swoop.

Otherwise, you may get a line between the brushed areas.

Using the Brush

Do the following.

1) Select the new color that you want to use to replace the existing color.

2) Select the Color Replacement tool.

Again, it's located in the Brush tool family.

Options Bar/Tool Options

3) In options bar/Tool Options, the values below are set by default.

The default settings work well in most situations.









Therefore, first-time users of this tool may want to jump ahead.

Tolerance: 30%

If the color is being replaced incorrectly, change the tolerance.

Lower values replace a narrower range of color, higher values, a broader range.

Mode: Color

The color is replaced, and the luminosity (the black-and-white portion of the photograph) is not changed.

Limits: Contiguous

This is what Adobe writes about the two choices:


Replaces the sampled color wherever it occurs under the pointer.


Replaces colors that are contiguous with the color immediately under the pointer.

This writer couldn't figure out the difference between Discontiguous and Contiguous.

Sampling: Continuous


Continuous samples the color continuously as you drag.


Once samples the color only once—when you start dragging.

Background Swatch

Here's the set up.

The background color is the color that you want to replace in the photograph.

The foreground color is the new color.

When Background Swatch is selected, areas with the background color on the photograph are replaced with the foreground color.


4) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

5) Click, hold, and drag the mouse over the color that you want to replace.

If the color along the edge of the color area doesn't change, increase the Tolerance value.


If the color changes in an unwanted area, you can undo and start over.

Another option is to erase the unwanted color change with the Eraser tool.

When you erase the mistake on the Background copy layer, the Background layer becomes visible where you erased.

Method #3 - Replace Color

This method is similar to the above method.

But, you can use a minus brush to correct mistakes.

Do the following.

1) Go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Replace Color.

The Replace Color window opens.


2) In the middle, Selection is selected by default.

If you select Image, you'll see the photograph.

Selection is usually the best choice.

Localized Color Clusters

Select Localized Color Clusters if the color range that you're selecting is narrow and contiguous.

That is, the shades of the color are few, and the shades are all in one spot.

Selecting the Color Areas to Replace

3) Click the Color Picker icon, the first eyedropper icon.

4) Click on the color that you want to change on the photograph.

The white areas in the mask in the Replace Color window are the areas that were selected.

The color in these white areas will be replaced.

Modify the Color Areas to Replace

You can fine tune the selection of the color areas to be changed with the two methods below.

Method #1 - Plus & Minus Eyedroppers


Too little of the color was selected, click the + eyedropper icon and click on the want-more-of color areas.

 • Too much of the color was selected, click the – eyedropper icon and click on the want-less-of color areas.

 Method # 2 - Fuzziness Slider

The Fuzziness slider is similar to Tolerance, found in the Magic Wand tool and other tools.

If you click on red (0, 0, 255), and the Fuzziness slider is at zero, only that specific red will be selected.

As you increase the Fuzziness value, more reds will be selected.

Selecting the New Color

5) Select the New Color.

There are two methods.

Method #1 - Sliders

Use the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness (like Levels) sliders at the bottom of the Replace Color window.

 Method # 2 - Result Box

Click the Result box to open the Color Picker.

Method #4 - Photo Filter Adjustment Layers

Using a Photo Filter Adjustment layer to replace color is unorthodox, but may be useful in some situations.

Do the following.

1) Select the area that you want to replace.

2) Create a Photo Filter Adjustment layer.

The selected area becomes a mask on the Photo Filter Adjustment layer.

3) Select a color from the presets, or click the Color box to open the Color Picker.

4) Adjust the Density as needed.

5) Preserve Luminosity is selected by default, and is usually wanted.

Preserve Luminosity is similar to changing the blending mode to Color.

The color is changed while the luminosity (the black-and-white portion of the photograph) remains the same.

6) The opacity of the layer can be lowered to reduce the color.

The Opacity box is at the top of the layers stack, to the right of the Blending Mode box.

It probably has 100% inside.


7) If needed, you can use the Brush tool to paint on the Photo Filter Adjustment layer mask with black, shades of gray, and white.

Black will block the color change.

Shades of gray will allow portions of the color change to be visible.

White will allow 100% of the color change to be visible.