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How to use the color replacement tool

Maybe you want your photo of blueberries to become red berries. Maybe you want that photo of you as a teenager in your Sunday best to show you with a red scarf and not that ugly old brown one you can’t believe you wore back then. There are lots of reasons to change a color, and this is one of Pixlr Editor‘s most popular tools. It’s a powerful but often misunderstood tool. Hopefully, we can clear up any confusion.

Simply put, the tool will replace the original color with a color you choose. It samples the pixels of the color immediately under your cursor and applies changes that are similar to that color within the radius of your brushstroke. In this way, it ensures an even color change as you move your brush around because it is continuously sampling the area as you move your brush around.

While you can read this article to get all the details down, we made a video tutorial for this that covers the same ground. So, if you prefer to watch a video, give this a look: 

 

Coloring depends on other details

An important detail to understand is that this tool will preserve the tone of the area you’re painting. Any color you change will not affect the midtones, shadows, or highlights. Consequently, as you paint you may notice that your highlights aren’t changing color. Not a problem. You can re-sample your replacement color at any time and paint over those highlights with an appropriate color — which will again preserve the tone of that specific area. It’s very easy to change the color of a flat area of color. It takes a little more skill to change a more complex area, but you can accomplish it by separately changing the midtones, shadows, and highlights in a careful way to ensure your color change looks very realistic.

Adjusting the tolerance

What is really great about Pixlr’s color replace tool is that you can “color outside the lines” in a seemingly sloppy way with a large brush, but your new color will still be applied within the lines. How? It all depends on the tolerance level you choose. You can control how picky or particular this process is by altering the tolerance. Select a low tolerance for more detail-oriented work or to be picky about isolating a very specific color. Select a high tolerance for areas with shadows and texture that you want to paint ove
more broadly.

Pro tip: Some people are more comfortable duplicating a layer and working on that layer when replacing a color. That way, if you mess up or aren’t happy with the end result, you can easily delete the new-color layer and try again.

How to change a color

Take this bottle, for example. I want to change the color of the entire bottle from green to blue. The bottle is made of glass so it has highlights and shadows and even some reflection of green light onto my hand, but it’s still a pretty easy job to tackle.

 

1. Select the color replace tool from the toolbar and mouse over your image. You’ll see your brush, which you can resize if you want. You can use the color selector to pull up color palettes and choose a new color, or you can hold down the Alt key (Command key on Mac) to bring up the eyedropper and sample a color directly from your image.

2. Adjust your tolerance if you think it’s necessary. Start painting the new color onto the area you want to see change by clicking and holding your mouse while you paint. Un-click when you are done painting or want to reposition your mouse.

 

3. Repeat as necessary. As you re-color, keep in mind that you can use the Alt key (Command on Mac) to bring up the eyedropper and choose another color. For flat areas of color, you may only need to do one clean swipe and change the color. For more complex images, you’ll need to resample highlight colors and shadows and even reflections as I have in my image. For my highlights, I sampled a bluish tone that I thought matched the strength of the highlights and painted my highlights blue. Worked like a charm. I did the same for a few shadow areas. For the reflection on my hand, I lowered the tolerance and eyeballed a shade of blue that seemed right.

 

4. To become a pro at this, you’ll want to experiment with tolerance and brush sizes, but even if you’re not a pro, use your always-handy undo functionality when you need it. With a little experimentation, my final product came out great: