4 Ways of Recoloring

A big part of kit-designing involves recoloring—the art of turning something into a different color. I’m not going to lie; it’s not the most exciting thing to do in the world. However, with practice it’s something that can be done quickly and professionally. Below, I’m going to introduce the 4 main ways I recolor.


Blend modes

Overlay – The easiest way to recolor, using “overlay” involves desaturating the element and adding a layer of color over it, then changing the blend mode of the color layer to “overlay.” You may have to adjust the levels of the desaturated element to get the color you want.

Hard Light and Linear Light – This method is similar to using “overlay,” but I think it produces a more vibrant color. To do this, 1) desaturate the element, 2) add a layer of color and change the blend mode to “hard light,” and 3) copy the element and move it over the color layer, changing the blend mode to “linear light.” You’ll have to adjust the opacity of this layer—20% to 40% is good—or else the effect may be too over the top.

Hue and Color – These two blend modes are very similar. Simply add a layer of color over the element you want to recolor, and change the blend mode. “Hue” will change only the hue value and “color” will change both the hue and the saturation value. Depending on your element, the effect of these two blend modes may not look quite right, so always choose an element that’s already close to the color you want to achieve. The strength about using hue and color, though, is that they will be able to keep some of the nuances that will be lost if you desaturate the element. See example below. The hue and color blending modes are able to keep some of the “sparkle” or highlight of the gem element, while it’s lost in the hard light + linear light combo.


I’ve been talking about hue and saturation values. Hue, saturation and lightness are the 3 values that decide how a color appear. Hue determines the shade of the color, saturation the intensity, and lightness indicates how much white is mixed into the color (100 being pure white and -100 being pure black). Understanding this is important in using the hue/saturation panel.



The great thing about the hue/saturation panel is that not only are you able to recolor easily (simply slide the sliders), but you’re able to recolor only part of the element. Choose the color group you want to change, such as red, and only the reds in the element will change when you slide the sliders.




Replace Color Tool

The replace color tool allows you a little more control over what you recolor, but it works basically the same as the hue/saturation panel. Using the eyedropper tool, you’re able to pick a color from the element and turn it into another color. You can adjust how sensitive the tool is by using the fuzziness slider. The bigger the number, the less sensitive it is and colors similar to the color you picked will also be recolored.



Using the hue, saturation and lightness sliders below, you can adjust the final result. This tool is also useful for recoloring multi-colored elements. However, if the target color and the color you want to replace it with are too different, the results may look weird. It is best to always pick a color similar to what you’re starting out with. If you must turn a blue flower into a light yellow one, you’ll need to do some extraction and use the overlay or linear light methods.



Gradient Map

This is a fun little tool to recolor elements that are either black-and-white or highly contrasted. This tool changes one end of the gradient (the light color) into one color and the other end (the dark color) into another. This tool makes it simple to recolor black-and-white elements, which can be hard using the other methods.



There’s no right or wrong way to recolor! And often to achieve the most realistic result, I need to use a mix of all of the methods mentioned above. Try them out to see for yourself which one is the best for you!

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One comment

  • Lori Pohlman May 12, 2018   Reply →

    Fantastic summary and great details here! Thank you! I don’t often re-color, but when I do, it’s easy to forget the various options and the steps needed to achieve them. I have pinned this post and will definitely refer to it often. Thanks for compiling all the options in one place!

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