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Color Replacement in Photoshop CS

Overview and techniques for using the new Color Replacement tool By Dave Nagel
The Color Replacement tool is one of those new tools that doesn't receive a whole lot of attention in the vast array of new features introduced in Adobe Photoshop CS. It is, nevertheless, a handy little gizmo, one that consolidates several functions found in previous versions of Photoshop and allows you to perform color replacement tasks on your image in a single step. This week we'll take a look at the tool, its options and some techniques for making it work for your particular colorization project.

Photoshop's Color Replacement tool is, in some ways, a spinoff of the Healing Brush introduced in version 7. This in the sense that, though it works much the same as a regular paint brush, it does not overwrite all of the data on your image; rather, it manipulates the color on your image while retaining the detail--or underlying texture--of the image. Because it functions as a brush, it can be applied with more precision that other color replacement functions in Photoshop; and because it performs image analysis on the fly, it saves you the step of extracting a mask from your image before applying color changes.

For our example today, we're going to work on an image that will require some finesse. Our subject, in this case, is a horse over a background that doesn't afford a whole lot of contrast in some areas, which can make things difficult around the edges. We're going to take that horse and color it purple, while leaving the background intact.

Why are we going to turn a horse purple? Well, let's pretend that's what the client wants, and, of course, the client's never wrong. (Also, the only examples of this tool I've previously seen have been applied to pretty simple objects, and I wanted to show it off on a more complex subject.)

But first, a little introduction....

Options for the Replace Color tool
Before we begin on our project, we'll do an overview of the options available for this tool. So select the Replace Color tool in the Tools palette. (It's located beneath the Healing Brush.)

You'll notice immediately that several choices appear in the top Options bar. Among these are Mode, Sampling, Limits, Tolerance and Antialiasing, along with brush-specific options.

The various Modes define the ways in which the Replace Color tool can be applied. "Color" applies the currently selected foreground color to your image, replacing hue and saturation, while retaining luminosity; "Hue" retains saturation and luminosity but realigns the angle of the image's hue to that of the foreground color; "Saturation" simply adjusts the saturation of the image to that of the foreground color; and "Luminosity" equalizes the brightness of the image to that of the foreground color while retaining hue and saturation, so it causes the image to lose most of its detail.

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