Creatively change colour in your photos. 

Learn how to adjust the colour palette of your photos by editing Hue and Saturation levels in Adobe Photoshop to capture the feel you want in your final shot.

Image split in half with differences of altered coloration of a hand holding air filled balloons

Different colours tell different tales.

Colours are a critical part of how stories are told through photography. Colder blues can give an image a sombre tone, while warm yellows can conjure up the feel of a sunny beach day. Even with a perfect image of your subject or a scene, photographers can be limited by the colours in an image. Distracting colours in a scene that can’t be controlled or dull-looking colours on an overcast day may change the feel of an image.

 

Thankfully, you can use a photo editor to find the vibrance you saw through your viewfinder or to make your images appear more fun and exciting. It’s easy to select, change and replace colours in Photoshop

 

How colour saturation and hue can recolor your photos.

Photographers and artists talk about colours in terms of hue and saturation. Hue is the general colour of an object. Imagine you wanted to post a picture you took at the beach, but the water that looked blue in person appeared more green in your photo. That would be an example of the wrong hue. Saturation, on the other hand, describes how deep colours are. Dull colours on an overcast day, like an afternoon sky that looked more grey than blue, would be an example of low saturation.

Image split in half with differences of the change in colours of a shoreline and small crashing waves

While there is no magical colour changer that can automatically replace colours in your image to match your vision, you can use Adobe Photoshop to fine-tune colours in an image in a number of different ways. A quick way to selectively adjust the colour properties in an image to achieve a desired look (sometimes called colour grading) is by using the Hue/Saturation tool.

Using the Hue/Saturation adjustment tool.

 

Editing your photo may not be as easy as simply selecting a new colour. Several elements in an image may contain the same colour, so editing a specific colour may not be enough. That’s where the Hue/Saturation adjustment tool comes in. It allows you to edit specific colours in an image. You may also need to use layer masks to restrict the colour changes to the parts of the image where they are desired. Follow these steps to get started:

step

Create a layer mask.
Navigate to the Select drop-down menu and click Colour Range in the menu options.

Adobe Photoshop interface of Colour Range menu selected above photo of sunny country side
step

Sample your target colour.

While in the Colour Range window, select the middle eyedropper tool on the right-hand side of the screen. (This eyedropper will have a + sign next to it.) Use the eyedropper to sample your target colour by clicking the colours you wish to modify. Click different shades of the colour to increase the range of your selection.

 Sample colour being taken from sunny country side photo in Adobe Photoshop
step

Refine your selection.
Adjust the Fuzziness slider as needed to further refine your selection. When you have an accurate colour selection, click OK to close the menu. Now that you have your colour selection, open the Layer menu and select New Adjustment Layer and then the Hue/Saturation option.

 Hue/Saturation option selected using Adobe Photoshop menu
step

Save your layer.

Leave the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask option unchecked and click the OK button. This will save a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with your newly created mask.

Interface of a layer being selected in Adobe Photoshop
step

Change your colours.
Now, select your masked Hue/Saturation layer. From the Properties menu, choose the colour you want to edit from the second drop-down menu (like Blues, Reds, Cyans etc.) and adjust the Hue and Saturation sliders to achieve your desired look. Because most photographic images contain a rich spectrum of colours, you may need to adjust more than one set of colours to achieve your desired look. If you adjust Blues first, you may also need to adjust Cyans to capture the lighter parts of the sky, for example.

Side by side comparison of four colour properties being adjusted

Once you’ve achieved the colour you want by adjusting Hue and Saturation, you can save your image in the file format you want and share the new image. Or continue to refine your image by enhancing or retouching it before you put it on display. There are many ways you can continue to adjust your image. Just keep exploring.

 Side by side comparison of four colour properties being adjusted

Before

Before and after comparison of a sunny country side's photo colour adjusted

After

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