Using the Color Overlay Tool in Photoshop

When I first started digi scrapping, if I wanted to recolor an element, I would use the eye dropper tool to select a new color and then use the Fill Bucket tool to fill in the element. While that is certainly still one way of doing it, the color overlay tool has the edge for recoloring because of a few simple but effective features.

What is the Color Overlay Tool?

The color overlay tool is a really easy way to recolor single-color elements like paint splats, stamps, doodles, and frames. The overlay applies a selected color over the entire layer, and you can choose the blending mode that looks best (like color, overlay, soft light, etc.). Like all layer styles, it is a non-destructive way to edit an element. If you don’t like it, just remove or hide the layer style and it’s gone, leaving the original element intact.

Here are a few elements from The Daily Digi member exclusive kit My Life of Happiness:

For each layer, I selected the Color Overlay style from the Layer Style palette. The menu looks like this:

As you can see, there are three ways to customize your color overlays: (1) Color, (2) Blending Overlay, and (3) Opacity.

Color is pretty straightforward – it’s just the color that you would like the element to be.

The blending mode changes how the color interacts with the element. The choices are shown below. I find that I mainly use Normal, Overlay, Soft Light, Hue and Color, but I like to experiment with different modes until the effect is right.

Lastly, Opacity changes how transparent (or not) the layer style is.

For the example elements, I used a mix of Normal, Color and Overlay blending modes, with the opacity at 100%:

For most of these items, it was easy to recolor using the color overlay. However, it was just luck that the yellow flower turned the right shade of blue. (With very dark or very light textured elements, the color overlay won’t always work and changing from one color to a very different color, like red to green, is really difficult.)

How do you like to recolor simple elements?