Creatively change color in your photos. 

Learn how to adjust the color 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 colors tell different tales.

Colors are a critical part of how stories are told through photography. Colder blues can give an image a somber 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 colors in an image. Distracting colors in a scene that can’t be controlled or dull-looking colors 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 colors in Photoshop

 

How color saturation and hue can recolor your photos.

Photographers and artists talk about colors in terms of hue and saturation. Hue is the general color 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 colors are. Dull colors on an overcast day, like an afternoon sky that looked more gray than blue, would be an example of low saturation.

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

While there is no magical color changer that can automatically replace colors in your image to match your vision, you can use Adobe Photoshop to fine-tune colors in an image in a number of different ways. A quick way to selectively adjust the color properties in an image to achieve a desired look (sometimes called color 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 color. Several elements in an image may contain the same color, so editing a specific color may not be enough. That’s where the Hue/Saturation adjustment tool comes in. It allows you to edit specific colors in an image. You may also need to use layer masks to restrict the color 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 dropdown menu and click on Color Range in the menu options.

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

Sample your target color.

While in the Color 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 color by clicking on the colors you wish to modify. Click on different shades of the color to increase the range of your selection.

 Sample color 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 color selection, click OK to close the menu. Now that you have your color 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 on 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 colors.
Now, select your masked Hue/Saturation layer. From the Properties menu, choose the color you want to edit from the second dropdown 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 colors, you may need to adjust more than one set of colors 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 color properties being adjusted

Once you’ve achieved the color 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 color properties being adjusted

Before

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

After

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