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How to match colors

Match colors of different objects in the same photo or create a cohesive color story across several images with these Photoshop tips.

What is color matching?

Color matching is the process of applying a specific color to an image. To change color so it matches, you have to replicate the hue (the basic color), saturation (the color intensity), and brightness (the lightness or darkness) of the original color. Apply all of the colors of one image to another, match two differently colored items in the same image, or carry over a color from a different image. There are many reasons to match colors in your images — here are a few:

A hockey team sitting on a bench. Most of the team members are wearing a red jersey but one team member is wearing a blue jersey. The blue jersey has been selected and has a dotted line border around it.

Create a unified look.

Keep someone’s skin tone consistent across a series of photos. Or maybe someone in the official team photo forgot to wear their home jersey — it’s an easy fix to match their shirt color to the others. 

An image showing five water bottles. Four of the bottles are red but one of the bottles is blue. The blue bottle has been selected and has a dotted line border around it.

Make products pop.

If you have a near-perfect product photo but there’s a distracting color that doesn’t fit the brand, you can change it to redirect the viewer’s focus. 

An image of six soda cans. Each soda can is a different layer and a different color.

Show variations on a theme.

To photograph a series of identical objects in different colors, simply shoot one of them. Then duplicate the photo and color match each one to a different hue, keeping every element but the color the same.

A before and after image of a racecar pit crew member. The pit crew member has a red helmet in the before photo and a blue helmet in the after photo.

Manipulate color to tell a story.

If a color in your photo doesn’t fit the story you want to tell, you can change it. Consider color meaning as you edit.

How to match the coloring between two images in Photoshop.

Match color from one image (the source image) to another (the target image) to make sure you have consistency across different photos. For example, you might want to make a series of wedding photos look consistent despite the shifting light throughout the day. You can apply the look of one image you like to another.

1. Open both images in Photoshop.

Make sure you have both source and target images open and select the layer on the target image that you want to adjust.

2. Select Match Color.

In the top menu, click Image › Adjustments › Match Color. 

3. Select the source image and layer.

In the Match Color dialog box, under the Image Options sliders, you’ll see a Source box. Select the source image from the target menu. 

4. Preview and adjust.

Once you select the source, you can preview the image. Move the Luminance slider to adjust brightness and play with the Color Intensity slider and Fade slider until you’re happy with how it looks. Then click OK in the dialog box. 

A photo of a pink flower. The color of the flower has been selected using the Eyedropper tool.
An image of two women. The skirt of one of the women has been selected and the color of the skirt has been matched with the pink color from the photo of the pink flower.

How to match a color from a selection in one image to a selection in another.

Follow these steps to make one object the same color as another in an image, whether on the same or different layers or projects. This method is good for changing the color of an article of clothing, like a shirt or jumpsuit.

1. Make your selections.

Use the Lasso tool to draw a circle around the area you want to sample in your source image or layer. Then use the Object Selection tool to select the object on the target layer that you want to change.

2. Create a layer mask.

layer mask will allow you to make edits to that target selection. Click Layers › Layer Mask › Reveal Selection. In the Layers panel, you’ll see the layer mask thumbnail next to your layer. The frame should be black except for the object you want to recolor. 

3. Match color.

In the Layers panel, make sure the image thumbnail is selected for the target layer. Select Image › Adjustments › Match Color. 

4. Select the source.

In the Match Color dialog box, choose the source that contains your selection. If your selection is on another layer of the same image, you can select that layer in the Layer drop-down menu below the Source menu. Check the box next to Use Selection in Source to Calculate Colors. 

5. Preview and adjust.

The target color will reflect your source sample. Move the sliders to fine-tune your color match. To automatically remove a color cast, or tint, in the target image, select the Neutralize option under the sliders in the dialog box. Make sure that the Preview option is selected so that you can see how your edits will affect the image. 

A photo of a person with a blue shirt.
A photo of a person with a red shirt.

How to match one color to another within a single image.

Follow these steps to apply the color from one element to another in a photo.

1. Copy the background layer.

Duplicate the layer so you don’t permanently alter the pixels in the original image. This way you can always go back and try something different. In the top menu, click Layer › Duplicate Layer, or press Command+J on Mac or Control+J on Windows. 

2. Make your selection.

Use the Selection tool to select the object that you want to change. 

3. Create a layer mask.

Click Layers › Layer Mask › Reveal Selection. In the Layers panel, you’ll see the layer mask thumbnail next to your layer. The frame should be black except for the object you want to recolor. You can refine your selection by opening the Select and Mask workspace and using the Refine Edge brush.

4. Prep your color.

Click the color square in the toolbar. The color picker dialog box will open, but if you mouse over the image, you can use the Eyedropper tool to select the color you want from the colors in the image.

5. Add a fill layer.

Click the Fill/Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, or select Layers › New Fill Layer › Solid Color from the top menu. In the Layers panel, place the new layer under the Layer Mask layer, so the new color affects only the object you selected.

6. Choose a blending mode.

In Normal blending mode, the color will wipe out the shadows, highlights, and textures of your object. You can scroll through the options to see how different blending modes change the image. For the most faithful color, select the Color blending mode, which will blend the hue and saturation but not the brightness. Keep the opacity of the blend mode high so all of the color value from the base layer shows up.

7. Add an Adjustment layer.

Refine the brightness and contrast levels to get a closer color match. In the top menu, click Layer › New Adjustment Layer › Levels. In the Layers panel, move the Levels layer beneath the Color Fill layer, and click the Levels adjustment icon next to the layer thumbnail.

Move the highlight slider on the bottom right of the graph to adjust highlights, and move the midtone slider to increase or decrease contrast. You can also reduce highlights by dragging the white point slider (in the bar below the graph) to the left. 

A photo of a parent holding a child at the beach.
A photo of a parent holding a child on a mountain.

How to color correct and match tones in a composite image.

When you combine elements from two different images, you’ll want to make adjustments to ensure they look natural together, or you may want to color grade to create a particular look. Let’s say you want to change the background behind your subject. They’re at the beach, but you want them to appear in an alpine landscape. Follow these steps to make that change:

1. Arrange your layers.

In the Layers panel, drag the foreground layer with your subject in it above the layer with the background image you want to use. (If you haven’t yet, use the Object Selection tool to separate your subject from their original background. They should appear as a white silhouette against black in your layer mask thumbnail.)

2. Create a Curves Adjustment layer.

Click Layer › New Adjustment Layer › Curves. 

3. Create a clipping mask.

Click Layer › Create Clipping Mask from the top menu. This will make sure your edits affect only your subject. Double-click the clipping mask (the curve icon) in the Layers panel to open the Properties window. 

4. Open Auto Color Corrections.

Option+click (Mac) or Alt+click (Windows) the Auto button to open the Auto Color Correction Options. Select Find Dark & Light Colors and make sure the Snap Neutral Midtones box is unchecked. 

5. Adjust shadows and highlights.

Click the Shadows box to open the color picker. Then select the darkest point in the background image that is not pure black. (You need a little color to color correct.) Then click the highlights and select the brightest point that isn’t pure white. Click OK, and click No to avoid saving the colors as defaults.

6. Adjust the curves.

Fine-tune your edits by making slight adjustments to the curves until the foreground and background match. In the top menu, click Layer › New Adjustment Layer › Curves. 

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