Problems When Changing Colors in Photoshop


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I know a lot of designers out there who struggle with changing the colors of objects inside of Adobe Photoshop. This can be a tricky task to complete, but if you know a few small tricks, your life can be much easier. If you've got two areas of a photograph that share the same exact color or colors that are extremely similar to one another, you'll likely need to incorporate masks and more advanced Photoshop elements, but if you've simply got two different shades of a color and you're attempting to change one of them and the other is getting caught in the mix, I think I can help you fix that. Let me explain.

Let me show you by example. This is the original version of a photo I'll work on as a demo. Notice how the color of the sky is similar to that of the pool.


Now, if I were to open this photo up into Adobe Photoshop and apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to it, I'd be in good position to change the color of some of the pool water. I'll do that now. I'll apply the adjustment layer and then I'll click on the lighter part of the pool with the Targeted Adjustment Tool.

Once I do that, the color I just selected with the tool will be represented down in both the color sliders at the bottom of the adjustment layer's Properties panel.


Notice the small handles in those rainbow sliders. The handles surround the color I just selected in the pool. They're a bit backwards because they ran off the edge of the rainbows, but you can see that the color light blue/aqua is being surrounded by them.

Okay, I'm going to now push the Hue slider to dramatically change the color of the pool water. This is going to be ugly, but it'll give you a good idea of what's happening.


Do you see the problem? Because the color of the lower part of the sky was so similar to that of the pool, when I changed the color of the selected color in the Properties panel, not only did the pool water change color, but part of the sky did as well. This is exactly where people run into issues and I'm here to help out. The goal is to now separate the colors in the sky with the colors in the pool. Luckily, there's a very simple method for doing this.

If you look up at the screenshot above this most recent photo, you'll see that there are four handles in the top rainbow slider. The inner two handles surround the color aqua at 100%. This is the color of the pool water on which I initially clicked. The two outer handles represent colors that are similar to the aqua color, but to a lesser degree. Those areas are actually like a gradient; their potency is reduced as they move outward and away from the central aqua color. So the problem that we have here isn't that I chose too many colors, it's that Photoshop decided to include colors that I don't need changed. The way to fix this is to click and drag those two outer (larger) handles inward, towards the smaller handles, therefore eliminating the additional colors that Photoshop thought we might like. I'll do that right now and show you the result.



Do you see the change? Since I moved the handles, the colors in the sky are no longer represented down in those rainbow sliders. They're no longer part of the color spectrum that I wanted changed and my problem is solved.

The moral of this story is, when you would like to change a color of something in a photograph using Photoshop, sure, go ahead and select that color, but don't be surprised if other colors come along for the ride. To fix your problem, all you need to do is tell Photoshop that you don't need those additional colors by closing the space between the handles. Let me know if you have any questions.