How to change colors in Photoshop Elements: it’s a common question, and a surprisingly easy thing to do.

This article is a follow up to my tutorial yesterday about deciding what to wear for photos. Sometimes people don’t wear the right clothes – luckily, you can always “change their clothes” in PSE!

Photos that Work Best for Changing Colors

How do you know which photos you can change colors on? That’s a great question. You’ll have the best results from photos where the color you’d like to change is a solid color without small, complex patterns on it. Also, it’s best if the color has definite edges and doesn’t fade in other colors or areas of the photo.

This is the photo we’ll use for this tutorial:

change colors in photoshop elements

This came from our holiday photo card session. I planned the session at the last minute with a photographer friend of mine and didn’t have time to put a lot of thought into clothing.

As you read yesterday, it’s best to start with a base of neutrals as you plan your family’s clothing. Next, add some color accents. Our neutrals were the blues and grays you see on my husband, my older daughter’s jeans and me. The accent colors come from my older daughter’s shirt and my younger daughter’s dress.

I generally like those accent colors to match. As you can see, my younger daughter’s dress just didn’t work with her sister’s plaid shirt.

How to Change Colors in Photoshop Elements

To change colors in Photoshop Elements, start with a flattened image.

Grab your Magic Wand tool and click once on the area whose color you’d like to change. You’ll see marching ants over the selected area.

change colors in photoshop elements

It ‘s not all selected, change the Magic Wand tool to the Add mode, and adjust your tool’s Tolerance if you’ like. Both the Add mode and Tolerance are circled in white in the image below. At higher Tolerances, PSE picks up a wider range of colors in its selection. Keep clicking until the entire area is selected.

Remember that you can always type control/command D to deselect and start over. Command/control Z will undo your last selection. You can read this tutorial about the selection tools if you’d like more information.

Next, with that selection still active, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation). You’ll see that PSE adds this new layer with a mask based on your selection.

change colors in photoshop elements

Double click on the half blue/half white circle on the left side of the layer to open the Hue/Saturation adjustments panel. Adjust the Hue slider to change the color. After finding the proper color, I use the Saturation and Lightness sliders to make it look more natural. My small reduction in Saturation and increase in Brightness made the red dress look more natural as compared to the relatively low key colors through out the rest of the photo.

change colors in photoshop elements

Close the Hue/Saturation adjustments panel and zoom in on your edit to inspect the edges. Because you have a layer mask, you can extend the area of your edit if you missed a spot. You can also remove your edit from areas whose color you didn’t want to change. You can learn about using layer masks here.

As long as this layer is in your file, you can double click on the half blue/half white circle to tweak the color you’ve created. You can also paint on your layer mask to fine tune the area where you applied the edit.

My final edit is here:

change colors in photoshop elements

How to Change Colors in Photoshop Elements: DON’T Do This

Some of you know Elements really well, and you’re wondering why I didn’t use Elements’ handy dandy Replace Color feature. Just click on the area you want to change and select a new color. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Indeed it is.

When you go to the Enhance menu and select Adjust Color>Replace Color, you get this dialog. Click on the color you want to select in that super tiny preview window and select the new color below it.

change colors in photoshop elements

Press OK, and you have “baked” your changes into PSE. You can’t go back and tweak the color. You don’t have a layer mask to clean up missed spots. You get what you get, in other words.

In the image below, you can see how I missed some spots with this technique. The dress is a funny mix of pink and red.

change colors in photoshop elements

So you can see that the “easy method” really isn’t that easy, and it’s certainly not as effective. Do it the right way, and you’ll save time and get better results too, as you change colors in Photoshop Elements.