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How to Colorize Images with the Color Replacement Tool in Photoshop CS6

The Color Replacement tool in Photoshop CS6 allows you to colorize by replacing original color of an image with the foreground color. You can use this tool in a variety of ways. Create the look of a hand-painted photo by colorizing a grayscale image. And although Photoshop has a bona-fide Red Eye tool, you can use the Color Replacement tool to easily paint away red-eye.

The great thing about the Color Replacement tool is that it completely preserves the tonality of the image. The color that you apply doesn’t obliterate the midtones, shadows, and highlights. The Color Replacement tool works by first sampling the original colors and then replacing those colors with the foreground color. By specifying different sampling methods, limits, and tolerance settings, you can control the range of colors that Photoshop replaces.

This weapon in the arsenal of retouching tools is a cinch to use. Follow these steps to replace color:

  1. Open your image and select the Color Replacement tool.

    Remember, it shares a flyout menu with the regular Brush and Pencil tools.

    It looks like a brush with a square and two arrows next to it. You can press B (or Shift+B) to select it.

  2. On the Options bar, click the Brush Preset Picker.

    In the drop-down panel that appears, select your desired diameter, hardness, and other options for your brush tip.

  3. On the Options bar, select your desired blend mode:

    • Color: The default mode that works well for most colorizing jobs. Use this mode if you’re trying to get rid of red-eye.

    • Hue: Similar to color, but less intense, providing a lighter effect.

    • Saturation: Set your foreground color to Black in the Tools panel and set the mode to Saturation to convert a color image to grayscale.

    • Luminosity: The exact opposite of the Color mode. Although it can create a beautiful effect between two image layers, it doesn’t provide that great an effect with this tool.

  4. Select your sampling method from the icons on the Options bar.

    The default of Continuous allows you to sample and replace color continuously while you drag your mouse. Select Once to replace colors only in areas containing the color that you first sample. Finally, select Background Swatch to replace colors only in areas containing your current Background color.

  5. Select your sampling limits mode.

    The default of Contiguous lets you replace the color of pixels containing the sampled color that are adjacent to each other directly under the brush. Discontiguous lets you replace the color of the pixels containing the sampled color wherever it occurs under your brush. Find Edges allows you to replace the color of pixels containing the sampled color while preserving the sharpness of the edges of the objects.

  6. Specify your tolerance percentage.

    Tolerance refers to a range of color. A high tolerance lets you replace a broad range of color. A low tolerance limits the replacement of color to only areas that are similar to the sampled color.

  7. Choose whether you want anti-aliasing.

    Remember, anti-aliasing slightly softens and smoothes the edge of the selected or sampled areas.

    Click the Tablet icon (at the end of the Options bar) to control the size of the brush. The pressure you apply overrides any settings in the Brush panel.

  8. After you establish your settings, click or drag in your image.

    The foreground color, which in the example is red, replaces the original colors of the sampled areas, in this case the purple tulips. Of course, the exact effect you get depends on your settings.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maria Pavlova Image #13009049]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maria Pavlova Image #13009049
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