Photoshop: Cannot change shades of white and black with replace color command under Image, Adjustments

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  • Updated 3 months ago
  • Not a Problem
  • (Edited)
I am trying to change the color white or a shade of white to a different color. It will not work using the replace color dialog box. I appears that it is impossible in Photoshop to change colors to white, black or shades in between to any other color nor change any color in the spectrum to black, white or shades in betwee. This seems to me to be a problem with the program. After contacting technical support and writing it up in a case, I have been told that Black, White and shades of Gray are not colors, only shades of light. I thought that in school we had crayons that were black and white and different shades of gray. Accordint to Technical Support that is incorrect. Anyone got some solutions - contact me at Lyndon_r@msn.com.
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Lyndon Rich

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Posted 7 years ago

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TinaC, Tier 3 support engineer

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This is documented in Photoshop CS5 help - search for the topic: Replace the color of objects in an image. It's how the application works.
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mark palmos

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If that is how the application works, then it works badly. REPLACE COLOUR should be called Replace Colour with Grey Tone then!!!
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Lyndon Rich

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This may not be a problem to a support engineer but to a user it is a problem. It seems to me that this problem could be overcome by a smart programmer. Telling me that white and black and the shades of gray are not colors is bogus. Perhaps this is something that should be fixed. Who do I contact to make my case on why it should not work the way it currently does. By the way, white has numerical value on the RGB scale as does Black. I assume from this that they are colors and that even though other colors can be changed they are still just numerical values on the RGB scale and if that logic is extended then white and black should be able to be manipulated through the replace a color dialog under adjustments menu under the images tab in Photoshop. Being an engineer from a nuclear submarine I can understand you mindset concerning being told that something can not be done and accepting that as fact.
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Chris Cox

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Do you understand that white, black, and shades of gray have no hue, and no saturation -- so you cannot use the simple hue or saturation controls in the replace color command on white, black, or shades of gray?

You can use many other adjustments, and many other methods of colorization -- but the replace color adjustment is based on changing the hue and saturation of a color, and white, black and gray don't have those properties.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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To put what Chris explained you in perspective: open Hue/Saturation: only the lightness slider can adjust your grey tones. Hue/Sat have no effect on them, and those are the same controls available in Replace color.

Levels, Curves, Exposure, Brightness/Contrast, Shadows/Highlights, Gradient Map, auto-tone, auto contrast are venues that you could explore to adjust the lightness values of the greys.

What you can do to colorize grey areas, is to select them, and for instance add a color fill adjustment layer, set to color. This is a way to apply only the hue and saturation characteristics to a given element.
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mark palmos

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Surely the software code can be a LITTLE more intelligent than that?? Who cares how much or how non-existent hue, luminance or saturation is in some area you want to REPLACE with a colour. That should be extremely simple to do... so just do it and spare the tech excuses.
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Gina Hurlbert Pogol

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Agreed. So easy to do in Paint, Publisher, and many other programs. Ridiculous that the supposed state-of-the-art that we're forced to use at work won't do such a simple thing. 
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Lyndon Rich

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I appreciate your comment but to colorize the sky behind a tree when the sun is behind the tree and near white happens to be the sky and the light shows through branches of the tree is near impossible. To pick the various areas and not miss any would be a daunting task and quite non-productive. So what you are saying in effect is I have to live with the fact that Photoshop does not recognize white, black and various levels of gray as colors and to tough it out. It still seems to me that the program is deficient in that it cannot recognize white, black and levels of gray as specific color yet recognizes other colors with varying levels on the RGB scale. Seems like it is still a problem.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Lyndon, in that case, you can make a selection of the light areas with the magic wand, set to not contiguous, or you could apply the changes to the sky, but use the tree as a mask...
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Lyndon Rich

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Thank you. I thought I had tried that but I will try again and let you know the results. I am still curious about Photoshop support engineers claiming that white, black and the shades of gray inbetween are not colors. To me it seems that would indicate that the rest of the colors are really not colors since they are all combinations of RGB.
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Chris Cox

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Nobody said that they were not colors.

But White, Black, and pure Gray do not have saturation or hue values -- so you cannot modify the hue or saturation of White, Black, or pure Gray using a Hue/Saturation adjustment.

Of course, you can alter White, Black, and pure Gray using many of the other adjustments available in Photoshop.
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PECourtejoie, Champion

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Lyndon, I think that you are confused about the color model.

Let's say that some area of the sky is pure white (255,255,255), and some is pure grey (192,192,192). Try to increase their saturation. What color should you get?

Open the color picker, and put your cursor on a pure grey (right edge). Now change its hue. What color do you get?
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Michael Milligan

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Nobody seems to want to validate Mr. Rich's correct assertion that white, and every shade of gray, are composed of colors is correct, despite what Adobe Support said.

Maybe Adobe should check take a hint from Crayola.
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Chris Cox

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That's probably because Mr. Rich was incorrect and incorrectly stated the information already posted. Replace color works with hue and saturation, and grays (including white and black) have no hue or saturation.
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Paul Jaeger

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I tried the search suggested by TinaC. The result was "The search term did not yield any results". Not very useful, this thread. I un-applaud you all.
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Chris Cox

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Only 2 million results returned: https://www.google.com/#q=Photoshop+R...
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Reggie

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IT really is just plain ridiculous. At the very least, there should be a tool tip clearly cautioning the user and leading them to the topic of hue and saturation and their direct relation to the replace color tool.

*** Attention, this is not a replace color tool. We lied. This is a "change the hue and saturation of any color except for black and white tool". *** Click this nifty link to find out more, and save yourself hours of time. We understand you may use logic and you may think this is a "replace color" tool, but you are just hard headed. We refuse to care about you being hard headed. ****

I can only imagine the amount of crap I will run into like this as I begin my journey with Photoshop and Illustrator.
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Beth Heinecamp

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Well at least I gained some knowledge and haven't *entirely* wasted 1+ hours on figuring out why I can't change a white sofa to red.
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DANIEL PERECKY

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It's ridiculous to say that we have a replace-color tool - with a different definition of color than what the average 1st grader thinks is color.

In CS5, I was trying to change a dark gray to a dark aqua-blue for over an hour. I didn't seem like it should be so hard. Color was never replaced.

Adobe needs to honest as per what the previous poster said, not mislead people into frustration thinking that they are doing something wrong when it's actually a gap in functionality with Photoshop.
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Rebecca Whitlock

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Is there any way to change White to Red in PhotoShop then????
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Chris Cox

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There are many ways, using several of the adjustments - just not with the replace color command.
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Rebecca Whitlock

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Perhaps you could tell me one such way to replace all white with red? I have tried the selective color, but that leaves a nasty outline.
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Chris Cox

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Search for tutorials on changing colors in Photoshop.
The best approach depends a lot on the type of image you are working with.
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Steve Sprengel, Champion

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How to replace a white sky with blue in Photoshop:
http://digital-photography-school.com...
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Steve Sprengel, Champion

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Another sky replacement tutorial:
http://www.photoshopessentials.com/ph...
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Shamar Ansby

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Just click image > adjustment > channel mixer and slide one of the slides over till it has a color and then proceed to the replace color. Your welcome
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Stephanie Lee

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seriously- thank you!
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JJ C

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THANK YOU, SHAMAR ANSBY. It's only taken hours of research and trial and error to find this simple solution. Seriously, you rock.
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Shamar Ansby

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no problem at all trust me
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Michael Perleberg

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YES!!!

SHAMAR ANSBY you are awesome. The channel mixer quickly changed the hue/color of white's and blacks and then I simply used to the replace color tool and it worked immediately. In all the whole process took less than 30 seconds. AWESOME!!!

THNAK YOU!!
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Cmail Ultimate

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I think this is easier than most people know. What worked for me is simply to convert the given image to a bitmap first and use color replace to effect and change color. Simple.
(Edited)