Photography Technique

Use this simple Photoshop technique to transfer colors from one photo to another

Matching colors in Photoshop is fun, but getting the selections and the hue exactly right can also be frustrating. Thankfully, some newer Adobe Photoshop tools have made it easier than before. While there are several ways of transferring colors from one image to another, in this video, you’ll learn a simple one that takes around two minutes. Let Colin Smith of photoshopCAFE will show you how.

To start with, you’ll open your source and target images. In Colin’s case, his source image shows a blue fish, and the target image (the one color is transferred to) shows a red car. First, go to your source image and use the Marquee tool to select the area from which you want to sample color. Then, go to your target image and choose Select > Color range. Grab the eyedropper and tap inside the area where you want to select a color. Then, pat the “+” button and add to the selection. If you’ve gone too far, make sure to dial down the fuzziness. When you’re happy with your selection, click OK.

Now, the selection probably isn’t going to be perfect, so you can touch it up a bit with the Quick Selection tool. Alternatively, you can leave everything as is and mask out the unwanted bits later. Anyhow, if you choose to touch up the selection immediately, hit Ctrl/Cmd + J on your keyboard to make a new layer.

After you’ve made the new layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Match Color. Go to the Source drop-down menu and choose your target image. It’s going to look weird, but worry not – make sure to tick “Use selection in source to match colors.” Your target image will still look unnatural, but it will have the right color you’re just about to match perfectly.

For the color layer, choose the “Hue” blend mode. And voila, your subject now has its new color, and it looks as it’s supposed to. If there are still areas left where the color wasn’t supposed to change, add a mask to your color layer, choose the Brush tool, and paint in black to reveal the original color.

My results

As I normally do, I tried out the technique while I was writing the article. For the first attempt, I chose a random moss photo as my source image and a photo of my brother as my target image. I wanted to change the color of his sweater. I wasn’t expecting much, considering I used a photo of a human, but the result was actually pretty good.


source image for color sampling

However, Colin notes that this technique will work with some images – and I saw it for myself with my second attempt. I tried a few photos as source images, and I hated all the results. I settled for my photo of leaves and a stock photo of a toy car as my target image, and it’s still crappy. Please disregard my terrible selection job here (I didn’t have much patience to touch it up perfectly); just pay attention to the color. I’m just not happy with how it turned out – and this is the best result I had.

source image for color sampling

Of course, don’t let my failed attempts discourage you. While this method may not work with all the photos, you can still try it out, as it won’t take a lot of your time. And if you’re not happy with the results – you can use the Curves method, which you can learn here.

[Easiest way to match colors in Photoshop exactly | photoshopCAFE]

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