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I'm looking for a way to use one color in multiple different layers, and then be able to change that color in all the layers in one single place.

Lets say that I have four layers using #ffffff. Now I want to know what my design looks like with #ffff00 instead. How can I do this without manually changing all four layers?

I can add that adjustment layer on hue/saturation is not really what I'm looking for. What I need is something like "change all #ffffff to #ffff00."

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I can add that adjustment layer on hue/saturation is not really what I'm looking for. What I need is something like "change all #ffffff to #ffff00" –  Joel Jan 2 '13 at 13:52
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Global swatches extension: codeadventure.com/prisma –  Joonas Nov 15 at 14:30

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Lets say that I have four layers using #ffffff. Now I want to know what my design looks like with #ffff00 instead. How can I do this without manually changing all four layers?

There's a few good ways to tag, filter and apply changes across your entire document. It's not the same as global colour swatches or CSS-like styles, but it's still very workable and fast.

Tag your layers

Tag your layers in a way that will allow you to filter them later. I've done this with layer colours below, but you could easily add tags to layer names or use some other method. It doesn't really matter how you do it, as long as you do things in a way that are filter-able at a later time.

enter image description here

Filter and Copy Shape Attributes

Now you can filter your entire document to only show layers with a certain tag. If you've changed one of the shape layers to the new colour, you'll now be able to right click and Copy Shape Attributes, then select the other layers and Paste Shape Attributes.

enter image description here

If your layers are bitmap layers, or you'd like to apply your colours and gradients, you can do so using layer styles (layer styles can be copied and pasted as well).

Please note that layer filtering is a Photoshop CS6 feature, and not available in earlier versions of Photoshop.

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This is a great way to manage it. Looks like my layers will be called things like Settings Button [LightBlue] from now on. –  Nathan Greenstein Jan 3 '13 at 1:29
    
I've just tried, and unfortunately I wasn't able to create an action for it. Imagine if you could run an action to apply changes to similar layers. I'd like that. –  Marc Edwards Jan 3 '13 at 2:16
    
You could potentially do it with an AppleScript (docs). Trigger a keystroke to copy the attributes of the selected layer, deselect, enumerate layers and select the right ones, and trigger the keystroke to paste. Not perfect but better than nothing, perhaps. –  Nathan Greenstein Jan 3 '13 at 2:56
    
Hmm. That definitely seems scriptable. It could be insanely good. –  Marc Edwards Jan 3 '13 at 5:34
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In cs 6 you can also select shape layers and with any path tool, you can change the color in the tool options and all of those selected shapes will get the same color. So, on that note, you could make an action to filter out the layers, select all layers and get ready toc choose a color. –  Joonas Jan 3 '13 at 6:20

I'd be happy to be wrong here and have my answer superseded, but I don't believe that it's possible. It is in InDesign, but since Photoshop treats colors and objects differently, I don't think it works.

Someone over on Photoshop.com asked a question that I believe is the same thing you're asking, and the response was to use "Replace Color." That works for one layer, but not all layers.

The employee who responded to the question did link to an Adobe help file that talks about different ways to replace colors (emphasis mine):

Photoshop provides several techniques that let you replace the colors of objects. For great flexibility and results, apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment to selected objects. For less flexibility but a convenient grouping of options, use the Replace Color dialog box. For speed but less precision, try the Color Replacement tool.

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  • Construct layers....
  • place the layers in a group....
  • apply a Color Overlay Layer Stye to the group.

You can then double-click the Layer Style and change the Color Overlay color.

overlay

This may not work for every instance, but it can be exceptionally handy in many cases.

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Photoshop does not support "global" swatches in the same way as Illustrator or InDesign (InD swatches are always global). The swatches functionality in Photoshop is just a source to grab colors from. It makes no effort to manage those swatches in a usable way. One more bit of evidence that Photoshop is not the right place to do your design work.

There may be a way via scripting, though I'm not familiar with one. This script addresses solid color layers. That problem is more straightforward. It's a long shot but I would post the question at the Adobe scripting forum and see what you get. If anyone knows it's that group.

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This isn't a "global" tool by any means, but you can select multiple layers and use these keyboard shortcuts:

  • Opt + Delete (Backspace on Windows) = fills the layer with foreground color.
  • Cmd + Delete = fills the layer with background color

And for more complex shapes:

  • Cmd + Shift + Delete = Fills non-transparent pixels with background color
  • Opt + Shift + Delete = Fills non-transparent pixels with foreground color
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I place a Solid Colored layer into a smart layer. Then I apply copies of this smart layer as a clipping mask to all of the shapes and other objects that should be the same color. If I want to change the color, I just updated the original smart layer.

Unfortunately, I don't think this clipping mask solution works with layers within other smart objects.

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