How to colorize a background in Photoshop: Deke’s Techniques

Published by | Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Colorizing a background, whether it’s an illustration or a photograph, can give your artwork depth and create an interesting mood, but it can be a time-consuming process. But toil no more! This week Deke McClelland shows you a short, painless technique for changing the color of your background using Adobe Photoshop and the Color Overlay effect. Go from color to black and white or from one color to another in about three and a half minutes.

1. Start off with the Almost complete monster.psd file (downloadable for Premium members) or use any image of your own.

2. Activate the forest layer or the background you are trying to target with this effect.

3. Click the fx icon and choose Color Overlay from the pop-up menu.

4. To change a layer from color to black and white, click the color swatch and then in the Color Picker dialog, reduce the Saturation value to 0%. Click OK and then change the Blend Mode to Saturation.

Figure 1


5. To change the color of your background, click the color swatch and then select the color you’re looking for. In this case, Deke uses a Hue of 20, Saturation of 100%, and Brightness of 50%. Click OK and you’ll see a very vibrant color overlay.

To refine the colorization, choose one of the following from the Blend Mode menu:

• To apply just the new hue and saturation, select Color.
• To produce a more subtle effect that honors the original saturation levels of the background but replaces the hue, select Hue.
• To create a darker color, select Multiply.
• To create a lighter color, select Screen.
• To achieve an effect with more contrast, select Overlay.

Figure 2


6. Click OK to close the Layer Style dialog and complete the effect.

Figure 3


This is a great technique since the effect is applied nondestructively. Simply turn off Color Overlay at any time to remove it. Experiment with the 20-odd blend modes to find exactly the color you’re looking for.

Next week, learn to transform a photo portrait into a pointillist-style dot drawing. Stay tuned for more Deke’s Techniques each and every week!

Figure 4


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