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I'm trying to change the colour of animal fur to make it look natural, as if the fur has actually grown/been dyed that colour. I've tried a colour layer with various blend modes, hue/saturation layer and a gradient map. They all work ok, but the effect isn't quite right. It's easy to get light colours that looks painted over, but I'd rather have a dark colour that just retains the texture of what's underneath.

This is what I'm trying to achieve, with shapes that look vaguely like letters:

Here's examples of what I've done so far.

Blended colour layer enter image description here

Hue/saturation adjustment layer enter image description here

Gradient map adjustment layer enter image description here

Gradient map on a darker original fur - hard to get the fur white like it is on the top of the donkey. It looks more like a shaved/spray painted patch than its real fur.,,,

enter image description here

Originals: enter image description here enter image description here

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    hmm. do you have a photo you could add closer to the desired result? – Ryan Apr 16 '16 at 11:17
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    I've added some links to examples in the question – Tom Apr 16 '16 at 12:43
  • Cool. I'll leave you an answer but if you could post the unedited sheep I'll update my answer later since I think that one might be more of a challenge. – Ryan Apr 16 '16 at 13:17
  • Was out during the day, I see you marked my answer correct already - do you need me to update it with some info for that sheep? I think the longer hair will be a bigger challenge. Let me know if you get stuck. – Ryan Apr 17 '16 at 1:40
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A few things at work here:

First off in your sheep picture, and any of these it works best with a two tone animal to begin with. Your sheep does have that but its the dark ears, using some third color won't look legit at all. So use that.

Now as far as the technique goes I'd use Frequency Separation and then brush it in. Frequency Separation will separate your color from your texture, any layer you put between the two affects color. So without too much effort you can do this:

enter image description here

Also pay attention to the perspective and the edges. I wanted the heart to look at least somewhat real so it follows the body a bit. And honestly could do it even more with some additional dodging and burning or possibly a displacement map. But at least the shape follows the body.

Then the edges aren't perfect. The colors come in and out to enhance the effect:

enter image description here

There you have it, before and after:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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