How To: Swap Colors In Images

This tutorial demonstrates how to replace specific colors within an image while retaining the original lighting qualities and shadows.  It is a very useful technique, easy to remember, and simple to execute.

I’ll use an image of my favorite video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog, to demonstrate.

After opening the image in Photoshop, click Image in the menu bar, then go to Adjustments and Replace Color.

A dialog box will appear with some buttons and sliders. You may also notice that your cursor changes into an eyedropper when moved over the image while this dialog box is open.


Click the color in the image that you would like to replace. Make sure you click an area that is relatively neutral to lighting and shading; Photoshop will handle most of that. (If you would like to include a wider/narrower range of shades of the particular hue you wish to swap out, you can use the plus/minus eyedroppers after choosing an initial color.) In this case, we are going to replace Sonic’s blue fur. I clicked in the center of his forehead where shading and lighting is least apparent.

The greyscale “skeleton” in the black box shows where Photoshop “sees” the color throughout the image. Notice how lighting and shading have already been accounted for. To change the color, simply move around the sliders at the bottom. Hue is base “color,” (think red, blue, orange, etc.) saturation slides between grey and the hue chosen, and lightness describes the amount of light or shade to be applied.

Obviously, Photoshop is being too conservative with the range of shades. Slide the Fuzziness slider left or right to include less or more shades, respectively. Often, the best result will be to slide it all the way to the right.

And there’s our green Sonic! You can replace more colors by clicking OK, then opening the Replace Color dialog box again and repeating.

This technique is used often for recoloring product images like cars, clothing, or almost anything that comes with a choice of color.


–Scott Marnik


~ by n00neimp0rtant on March 14, 2011.

4 Responses to “How To: Swap Colors In Images”

  1. I thought that this post was extremely interesting and helpful. There have been several times when I need to change the color of an object within a picture but cannot remember how. I also found it very useful that you showed each step and broke down the process very clearly and specifically. Many times when I try to follow tutorials on this, they make it overly confusing. This post is easy to follow and does a great job of showing me exactly what to do when changing a subjects color.

  2. I had trouble deciding whether your post or Adam’s was most interesting to me, but yours won out in the end! This is a technique that definitely seems fun and useful in regular applications, and your description was very easy to follow. The picture of Sonic was also an awesome choice!

    -Diana Huang

  3. I found this tutorial very useful and will definitely utilize this ‘how to’ in the future. I always knew there was a way to do this on photpshop but never put the effort in to figuring it out. I feel this was a very easy step by step way of explaining it. The pictures were very helpful as well.
    Now I know how clothing magazines have models wearing the same shirt in different colors that have the same pose! Thanks!

  4. I really enjoyed this how-to post for a few reasons. First, you used simple language that’s easy to understand – something that’s really important when you’re writing for an audience that doesn’t know a lot about what you’re doing. As someone with only basic PhotoShop knowledge, I found this very easy to follow. You also picked a subject that I think will be useful for our video projects. I know that in mine, for example, I’m playing around with eye color in some photos so this tool is really useful to me. I never knew exactly what the Fuzziness scale did or how to adjust it, and I liked your explanation of it. The thing I enjoyed the most, however, were all the pictures you included. Seeing a screenshot of every step makes it even easier to understand. Not only did you explain what you were doing, but you explained reasons why doing this would be helpful to editing a photo, which I thought was nice. Overall, I found this to be the most interesting, informative, and well-written blog posts for this week.

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