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Affinity Photo: How to Use the Color Replacement Brush Tool

The Color Replacement Brush Tool replaces one color with another at your choice without affecting the details. The tool changes the color’s hue and retains the lightness. As a result, you preserve highlights and shadows. Also, you can’t replace white, black, or pure gray tones. The Color Replacement Brush Tool is useful when you have to do selective adjustments on relatively small areas of an image. It gives you full control over the pixels’ color and allows you to make subtle color changes without ruining the details and the overall quality of the image.

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In commercial photography, it’s common practice to change the objects’ colors in post-processing. Nobody has the time to photograph hundreds of similar objects in different colors. Also, waiting for a model to change outfit after outfit until you photograph the entire color palette the shop has to offer is time-consuming and expensive. In almost all product catalogs you’ll see digitally manipulated images in which the objects’ color was changed. The technique is also useful when you want to match the colors in an image with a message, mood, or situation. For example, for an ad, you may want to use colors that appear in the brand’s logo and for a St Valentine’s social media post, you may want colors that create a romantic atmosphere.

To achieve perfect results with the Color Replacement Brush Tool you need to choose the original image wisely. Choose images that have a strong block of color, with sharp edges and contrasting background. While the Color Replacement Brush Tool can be tolerant when it selects pixels that qualify for change, undefined edges can make you a lot of problems.

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How to Use the Color Replacement Brush Tool in Affinity Photo

In Affinity Photo, the Color Replacement Brush Tool is in the Paint Brush Tool menu from the Tools panel. When you select the tool, its parameters appear at the top of the screen.

The Color Replacement Brush Tool has many of the parameters of a regular brush such as Width and Opacity. However, it also has specific parameters that dictate how the reference color or the qualifying pixels are chosen. As with all brushes, start with a set of parameters and make changes along the way.

The parameters of the Color Replacement Brush Tool are:

  • Width – Brush size in pixels.
  • Opacity – How much you can see through the brush strokes (from 0% full transparent to 100% full opaque).
  • Flow – How fast is the brush applied (from 1% very slow to 100% very fast). It helps you achieve gradient brushes.
  • Hardness – How hard are the edges of the brush (from 0% very soft to 100% very sharp).
  • Stabilizer and Length – Enables or disables stroke stabilization and defines the corners’ radius.
  • Tolerance – How far from the original color a pixel has to be in order to be affected by the brush (from 0%, the same color, to 100%, any color).
  • Sample continuously – Switches between using the initial reference color and changing the reference color as the cursor moves.
  • Contiguous – Switches between changing only adjacent qualifying pixels or all qualifying pixels under the stroke.
  • More – Advanced brush options.

Select the color you want to replace by pressing the Alt key and clicking on a pixel with the right color. Then select the new color from the Color tab in the Studio panel. You can use the Color Picker, enter RGB values, or select a color from the palette.

Note: If you don’t have the Color tab activated, go to View – Studio and check Color.

Once you’ve set up colors and parameters, all you have to do is drag the mouse over the area you want to change. You don’t have to do the entire area in one move. Give yourself time to examine the results, zoom in, and change settings if necessary.

Practice with the Color Replacement Brush Tool

Choose an image and follow the next steps to change an object’s color using the Color Replacement Brush Tool in Affinity Photo. Don’t forget to use different layers to protect the original image.

Step One – In Affinity Photo, go to File and click Open. Then choose the image you want to edit. Zoom in and pan until you have the area you want to change in the center of the screen and as large as possible.

Step Two – Select the Color Replacement Brush Tool from the Paint Brush Tool menu in the Tools panel. The width of the brush should be smaller than the area you want to recolor and large enough to save you time. Leave Opacity, Flow, and Hardness at 100%, Tolerance at 10%, and Contiguous checked.

Step Three – Press Alt and click a pixel in the color you want to change. Then select the replacement color from the Color tab in the Studio panel.

Step Four – Create a new layer to which you’ll apply the changes. Although Affinity Photo saves changes in History, it can only redo a limited number of actions. Using a brush usually needs a lot of actions and you won’t be able to redo all of them. Thus, to keep the original image safe from unwanted changes, duplicate the original layer. Go to Layers tab in the Studio panel, right-click on the Background layer, and select Duplicate. A new layer will appear. Rename it because it will initially have the same name as the Background layer.

Step Five – With the new layer selected, start to drag the mouse over the area you want to change. You’ll see the changes almost immediately. It’s better to start with the center of the area and leave the edges for later.

Step Six – Edges can be tricky. Zoom in as much as possible and you’ll understand why. Edge pixels have slightly different colors and you’ll need the patience to get through. Zoom in and decrease the width of the brush and tolerance to be sure you’ll change only the pixels you want to change. At this point you’ll see why choosing the image right is so important. Affinity Photo allows you to zoom up to 1000%.

Step Seven – While some edges require smaller tolerance, others need a larger tolerance. A larger tolerance means you’ll change colors that are far apart from the reference color. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to go with the changes. But keep in mind that you have to respect the colors of the original product. For example, if the logo of the green sweater in the image is sewn with red thread, you shouldn’t change it.

Step Eight – Once you’ve finished changing the color of the object, it’s time for checkups. Zoom in again and pan along the edges looking for mistakes. The changes should be undetectable. Here’s where having the original image underneath comes handy. If you find mistakes, select Erase Brush Tool from the Tools panel and delete the errors, revealing the original pixels.

Once you’re happy with the result export the image in the format you need. Don’t forget to save the project in the default format for later use. You can have layers in different colors in the same project and export each layer individually. This way, you’ll have exactly the same perspective over the final product.

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Replace colors to create an atmosphere

The Color Replacement Brush Tool can be used to create an atmosphere too. For example, if your autumn pictures don’t really look like autumn, you can replace green areas with golden, autumn colors. The Color Replacement Brush Tool allows you to apply changes selectively and in variable proportions.

Check Sample continuously to tell the tool to adjust the original color while you’re brushing. This will change colors everywhere you drag the mouse. Then set Hardness to 50% to create a smooth brush with a soft gradient effect. All you have to do is drag the mouse over the areas you want to change. As always, pay attention to details and aim for undetectable changes that won’t affect the quality of the image. Moreover, don’t overdo it. The beauty of using the Color Replacement Brush Tool is the ability to apply local adjustments, at different intensities, and with customized parameters.

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Concluding Words

The Color Replacement Brush Tool requires patience and attention to detail. You need to know how to use it properly and when you need to use it. That’s why it’s important to start with an appropriate image and have an intention set up in your mind. The Color Replacement Brush Tool is a tool with a specific purpose. If you want natural-looking results and high-quality pictures, you have to continuously verify edges, adjust parameters, and fix mistakes.

Where would you use the Affinity Photo Color Replacement Brush Tool? Do you have experience with product photography? Does it seem difficult for you to use Affinity Photo to change an object’s color? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Cover photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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