How to change the color of something white in Photoshop

In my Facebook photography groups I often see people asking how to change the color of something in their photo that is white or very pale. Adjusting the hue/saturation usually doesn’t work because there is little or no color to change. However, there is an alternative method that is very quick and simple. This works in both Photoshop and Elements.

Let’s use this adorable picture of baby Mia and change her white headband to match the pink blanket.

colorchange01If you’re already proficient with Photoshop, here are the quick steps:

  1. select the eyedropper tool and click on the pink blanket to select the color you want
  2. add a solid color adjustment layer
  3. change the blend mode to color
  4. invert the mask
  5. select a small soft brush and paint the new color over the white headband
  6. to fine tune the color click on the color fill layer thumbnail

Does all that sound like mumbo-jumbo? Don’t worry! Detailed step-by-step instructions coming right up!

First, select the eyedropper tool:

colorchange02Now click anywhere on the blanket to select the pink color. Try and get a darker shade as that will work better. Next go to your layers panel and add an adjustment layer – click on the circle that is half white and half shaded and choose ‘Solid Color’ from the pop up menu:

colorchange03The image will fill with pink color. That’s ok! Click on ok and your image will now look like this:

colorchange04A new layer with a mask has been added to your layers panel:

colorchange14 The white box with the blue border is the mask. This is what we will use to apply the new color to only the parts of the image that we want to change. But first we need to change the blend mode. Click on the box that says ‘Normal’ and select ‘Color’:

colorchange05Your image will look like this:

colorchange06Pretty funky! Now we’re going to invert the mask, which hides all the color. Press CTRL+I (or CMD+I on a Mac). Your image should look back to normal, and your mask has turned black:

colorchange15That means everything on that layer is currently hidden. So we need to brush the color back on! Select the brush tool:

colorchange07In the tool options at the bottom of the screen click on the ‘Brush Settings’ box and reduce the Hardness to 0:

colorchange08Make sure your foreground color is set to white and your background color is set to black (press D to set the default colors, and press X to switch the foreground and background colors if necessary):

colorchange13Now comes the fun part! Zoom in close to the area you want to change color (a 100% zoom is usually needed). Adjust the size of the brush so it is small enough to fit inside the headband without going over the edges, and carefully paint the new color over the white:

colorchange09If you make a mistake, switch to a black brush (press X) and paint the new color off again. Switch back to a white brush (X) to continue painting color on. When you are done zoom back out to see how it looks!

colorchange10If you decide the color is not quite right, just double-click on the thumbnail of the color layer:

colorchange11This will bring up the color dialog box where you can change the color to anything you want. And you’re done! Here’s the before and after:

colorchange12I’m sure you will agree that it looks very natural, and was simple to achieve :)