I'm working on a car signage concept in Photoshop. To achieve (reasonable) realism with the white sticker I simply knocked back the opacity a little. I think it gives the illusion of white but with the shadows and highlights of the car contours evident.

enter image description here

However, the bottom panel has a blue/cyan background. This too should be affected by the shadows and highlights. Below you can see how terrible it looks without showing the underlying contouring.

enter image description here

I had (arrogantly) assumed this would be solved with one of the layer blend modes, probably "hue". After fifteen years I still don't know what they do of the top of my head and I generally click through them until one works! To my amazement, none will accomplish this. Probably because the hue is so much lighter, I really don't know.

In fact the "hue" blend mode does (somewhat) realistically change the colour, but to a deep purple, not the intended cyan. "Screen" with lowered opacity isn't bad...but I am sure there is a simple way!

How would you go about realistically changing the colour of that lower panel to blue/cyan, whilst maintaining the shadows and highlights?


New answer with a specific color, it's easier.

Select the area and create a New Layer Via Copy

To this layer > Menu Image > Adjustments > Desaturate


Using the same selection, create a Solid Color Layer with the specific color and change the blending method to Color


Or just create a Solid Color Layer with the specific color, change the blending method to Color and group it with the Desaturated layer.




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    I was embarrassed to ask this question. It's surprising to me that PS seems to have no "one click" functionality for make a layer a certain colour whilst maintaining the shadows and highlights underneath. The dark arts of colour must prevent that from being implemented! So I was pleased there was no super-easy solution. All the answers here have merit, but in the end it was THIS technique I employed just now to finish the job. It was super handy to alter the levels on the desaturated "base" layer to adjust the tone, and the colour was the actual colour I had to use. Thanks @Danielillo – mayersdesign Jun 4 '18 at 19:26
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    @mayersdesign I am gratified to know that my answer has been useful. I used to use this technique teaching Photoshop to show the students how to make the white and black pieces of a chess :-). – user120647 Jun 4 '18 at 19:33

My answer: Make a selection and apply hue shift:

enter image description here

It can be also an adjustment layer Hue & Saturation.

If strict single hue result is wanted, put "colorize" ON.

There's some distortion done to letter L altough that was not asked. It was made with smudge brush having a selection as the limiting edge. Edges are a little jaggy due low resolution and smudging.

Shading is also manual.

Automatic displacement by using a map is a difficult multiphase job. Luminosity cannot be used as is, because dark means different direction in different places. Unfortunately I haven't found a proper method to paint and edit a displacement map and see the result at the same time. That would be an extremely useful addition to the available tool arsenal. For reference: Imagine, if layer masks or selections were files with no easy live adjustment.

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    Immediate upvote for the letter L displacement haha, while I weigh up the other answers ;) – mayersdesign Jun 2 '18 at 14:52

Basically in my opinion cyan and yellow are tricky to show in shadow part. There are many ways and methods to achieve this, here is my way.

Cyan color patch added with color and softlight methods

Cyan color patch added with color and softlight methods

softlight and color mode balance expected cyan tone. basically one adds light and other adds color to the base layer.

Layer setup
softlight and color mode balance expected cyan tone. basically one adds light and other adds color to the base layer.

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    Wow, so many good answers, but this one has achieved a really nice end result. – mayersdesign Jun 2 '18 at 14:57

On a CMYK file, over the selected area, try with Curves


Selecting each color channel at a time,

Magenta: decrease the shadows


Yellow: decrease the shadows


Cyan: modify the midtones


Starting from that base, to get a more realistic tone, maybe you should change a little bit the magenta channel and increase the black midtones.


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    That's a very creative method, and great for playing with different looks. What troubles me though, and I didn't specify this in the question, so my mistake, is that I have a specific blue I have to use, and with this method I would have to approximate it by eye. Great general technique for other applications though. – mayersdesign Jun 2 '18 at 14:55

I do not see why using the Hue blend mode fails. If colors are correct with the mode, change the color. You can darken/lighten the color to change how hue causes interaction.

Just draw a vector shape over the area, fill it with a solid color.

enter image description here

Then change the Blend Mode for the vector layer to Hue.

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

If a color is too dark, you can duplicate the vector layer and set the duplicate's mode to Luminosity, lowering opacity to not blow out all the shadows. Then move the luminosity layer below the hue layer.

enter image description here

Realistically though, I think a Cyan should be darker than actual 100C there due to shadows. When you brighten up that area too much it removes the realism, in my opinion.

If the type and icon are on other layers, you could merely use the Color blend mode for the lower area rather than Hue. Color tends to cause anti-aliasing pixels to stand out more, so it looks pretty bad around the type.. but if the type is on a separate layer above the color adjustment, no problem.

enter image description here

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    Another great contribution, I am not sure how to pick the right answer! – mayersdesign Jun 4 '18 at 11:13
  • I think @Scott has a really good point about colour shift due to shadows, and getting an unrealistic result trying to hold the strict colour definition: I've spent a lot of time both doing colour design work in architecture as an architectural designer and doing explanations to architects (and other designers) as a renderer, that deeply shaded areas, especially those facing partially downwards, will not only have a higher value, but will pick up colour from the groundplane, and so will appear either hue shifted or tinted or shaded; those angled down and curved will grade also. – GerardFalla Jun 4 '18 at 15:51

There are many ways this could be done. Here's my take on it.

  1. Duplicate the car layer, and add two adjustment layers on it - a hue-saturation adjustment, and a levels adjustment.

  2. In the hue-saturation adjustment set the saturation all the way to the left to desaturate it, and increase the lightness.

  3. In the levels adjustment layer, change the levels sliders until you get something that looks like this - basically a fairly low contrast black and white image

enter image description here

  1. Group the duplicate car layer and the two adjustment layers. Alt+click between the layers to clip both adjustment layers to the duplicate car layer.

  2. Set the blending mode of the group to Multiply. Rename the group "Shadow and Highlights" if you want.

  3. Put your text and coloured shapes on layers between the group and the original car layer. Anything you place in that space between the layers will have the overlaid shadows and highlights.

enter image description here

The nice thing about this method is that the adjustment layers are non destructive - and you can adjust them if you want stronger shadows or highlights to show through the text/shapes you add.

Here, I wasn't quite happy with the levels adjustment so I tweaked it a bit. And here's the finished result

enter image description here

  • Slightly convoluted ;) But a solid answer, and I think the only one that lets me use the ACTUAL colour blue and maintain its "real" hue while having the ability to non-destructively edit the shadows and highlights. I must admit to being surprised it would be this hard, I am less embarrassed about asking the question now! It's kind of amazing that this cannot be done with a blend mode right? – mayersdesign Jun 2 '18 at 15:01
  • @mayersdesign - well yes, but blend modes are pretty basic. If you want to push the envelope it often takes a bit more effort. Also there may be other ways to do this that are "less convoluted". There are always many ways to skin a cat in Photoshop. – Billy Kerr Jun 2 '18 at 15:31
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    @mayersdesign - just one more thing to add, regarding a displacement effect. That's also possible to do non-destructively. You could use a copy of the black and white image as a displacement.psd. Turn the logo layers into a smart object, and apply the displacement filter to the smart object. For example see this. To add or edit your content, you only then have to edit the smart object. – Billy Kerr Jun 2 '18 at 15:45
  1. Select the area. enter image description here

  2. Here you have to find Selective Color, it should be in Image => Adjustments => Selective Color (I have polish version of PS, so I can't say for sure). Later, you have to choose which color you will change. In your case, it will be red. enter image description here

You can use different values of course.

  1. Final image should looks like this: enter image description here
  • Not so sure about the selective colour replacement. There are a lot of different red tones in that area, and you can see in your final image you have missed a few (I realise it's just an example of course). It's a valid technique, but I think not the easiest, or most robust. – mayersdesign Jun 2 '18 at 14:58

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