How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3

Find and Replace Colors in Photoshop

Adapted from How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3: The art of creating photorealistic montages (Focal Press)

By Steve Caplin

Dateline: November 21, 2007
Version: Adobe Photoshop CS3

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Changing the color of the car below from red to blue would be an almost impossible task by conventional means: all those railings in the way would make selecting the car something of a nightmare. But by using Replace Color, we can adjust the hue selectively without having to lay hands on a single selection or painting tool.

Replace Color is a hugely powerful tool that turns what would otherwise be a complex task into one that’s enjoyable and effective.

The brash blue of this once-elegant Victorian building may not appeal to all tastes. It certainly doesn’t appeal to mine, so let’s change it to something more environmentally friendly. Begin by downloading and opening the findandreplace.psd file. Choose Image/Adjust/Replace Color to get started.
By default, the Replace Color dialog shows a monochrome view of what’s been selected: white is active, black isn’t. By clicking on the image, regions of that color become selected. When you change the Hue value, the image changes to reflect that, as seen in the next step.
Here’s the result of our initial change, and we’re turning the building green. It doesn’t matter what color you choose to begin with; go for something bright, so you can see the change. So far, only a portion of the face of the building has changed color.
To add more colors, hold the Shift key and click on an unchanged area, or drag to select a range of colors: that range will be added to the selection, and the color will change in the image. If you select a spot by accident, hold Option-Alt (Mac only) while clicking to deselect that color.
Keep adding more color ranges until the entire building is altered. One way of increasing the range of colors changed is to raise the Fuzziness value; but this draws in unwanted colors in the surrounding area, as can be seen in the color change in the windows of the neighboring building. There are often areas in the surrounding image that are close to the target color range, and they will get changed as well. One solution is to duplicate the layer, apply Replace Color, and then simply erase or mask the parts you didn’t want to change.
Now we’re sure the building is selected, we can change the hue to a shade more in keeping with its surroundings. It may not be painted white like the building to the left of it, but it certainly blends into the street better than it did before.

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Printed with permission from Focal Press, a division of Elsevier. Copyright 2007. "How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3: The art of creating photorealistic montages" by Steve Caplin. For more information on this title and other similar books, please visit