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Changing a Car’s Color in Photoshop

Photoshop is an amazingly versatile tool, which can be very handy for any number of small tasks we come across on a regular basis. Imagine working at a marketing firm, where you are asked to promote a product by advertising it with a car.

First of all, you would have to come up with campaign ideas, and then sketch out your strategy, and finally you have it figured out – you want to work with a green-painted toy car in order to promote biofuels.

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Problems may arise when you realize that there is car paint color that matches the idea you have in mind. You may wonder if you need to create a rendering of a car in software like 3ds Max in order to get your hands on the image you need, but producing a photorealistic result obviously takes a considerable amount of time, not to mention skills.

Fortunately for us, Photoshop comes to the rescue with a process that only takes a couple of minutes to complete and produces fantastic results. Let’s learn how to change the color of a car by using Photoshop’s native tools.

Selecting tonal range

After opening your image in Photoshop, it’s time to create the selections needed for changing the hue of your toy car – but how it can be done without affecting other elements?
If you are thinking of using the Quick Selection tool, let me first tell you that not only are you likely to waste a whole lot of time by selecting every single detail of the car, but you are also unlikely to end up with a realistic result.

The edges of the selection will be imprecise, meaning that the final result can look a little as though we painted it manually with the brush tool… or worse.
Let’s use a more reliable method, namely Color Range. Go to the Select menu and click on ‘Color Range’, and a new dialog box will appear.
Click on the base color of your car to sample it inside the selection preview, and then hold down the Shift key while you sample all the other shades of color present on the car’s paint.

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Activate the ‘Localized Color Clusters’ option in order to have stricter control over the selected hue sample, and you can also use Fuzziness to expand or reduce the sample size. Accept the selection made.
Photoshop will now display the selected areas defined by the Color Range tool.

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Click on the Adjustment Layer button and create a Hue/Saturation layer in order to change the color of the car.
Select the Colorize box and work with Hue and Saturation sliders until you are pleased with the results.
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Refine the selection by alt-clicking inside the mask created with the Color Range tool and then use a black brush to paint any areas where you don’t want to change hues.

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The end result will look exactly like this

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Considerations when applying a color change
There are hundreds of creative possibilities when using this method, since it is affected by:

  • Hue selected
  • Saturation selected
  • Opacity of the layer
  • Opacity of the tool used for painting (advanced)
  • Further selections (advanced)

What I mean by the last two elements is that you can quickly perform a selection with the marquee tool and paint the selected area with black in order to create a Before/After view on the picture you are working on.

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You could also use the Polygonal Lasso and create selections at random areas where you could do the exact same thing.

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This can produce a lot of creative effects that will improve the quality of our work, if we use advanced features such as the pen tool for more well-crafted selections.

Keep a close look at the Opacity of the Bucket tool or Brush tool prior to painting those selections in black or any other color, since a value lower than 100% will allow part of the original hue to shine through the Adjustment layer.