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Color Changer for Pictures: How to Alter Your Image Colors

I made a program that changes the colors in digital photos. Then I used it to transform camera images into drawings and paintings.

A normal photograph of a tiger after I inverted the colors.

A normal photograph of a tiger after I inverted the colors.

Color Manipulation

Capturing the moment is difficult. Most of the pictures people take are too dark, dull, or boring. They are okay but they aren't great. That is why people use color filters on their photos before they post them.

Most images you see online have been color-manipulated in some way to look better. A quick edit can make an okay photograph great. It is definitely worth the effort.

Change it enough and the image is no longer a copy. You made something new. I created ten unique images from one photo. It was like different artists recreating a painting in their own style.

RGBA Color Channels

Digital pictures have a red, green, blue and alpha channel for every pixel. Pixels are tiny squares around the size of the tip of a pencil. The RGBA values range from 0 to 255. Changing the values changes the color.

You can manipulate the image by getting a computer program to alter the values one pixel at a time. There could be millions of pixels but it may only take a fraction of a second to change them all.

Switching Channels

Imagine that you were wearing a blue shirt and a red hat. Swap the blue value with the red. Now it looks you were wearing a red shirt and a blue hat. Switching channels is good for creating pictures with unnatural coloring.

It can give you some strange results when it is used on photos of animals and scenery. The effect works best on pure hues. White, black and gray have similar RGB values. So they would remain unchanged.

Removing Channels

When you set the green and blue values to 0 you end of with a red version of the picture. Only remove the red and you get the cyan version. Cyan is green and blue. The same color as the right lens in a pair of anaglyph 3D glasses.

Photo realism to a strange alien landscape by gradually rotating the hue.

Photo realism to a strange alien landscape by gradually rotating the hue.

Color Filters

Some basic filters include light, contrast, hue rotation, invert, saturate, sepia, gray, blur, and opacity. These digital filters alter the whole canvas. The computer program does not need to get the value of every pixel.

Increasing the saturate filter value makes colors purer. Red becomes redder. Green becomes greener. The Sepia filter can make your digital photos look like a vintage photograph. It is what you would use if you wanted to recreate a historical picture. Hue rotation adjusts the hue by moving the position in a color wheel. It is good for creating unrealistic images.

The blur filter is often used on background pictures so people focus on the foreground. You could also use it to hide your identity or remove a person. When turning photographs into digital art, see what happens when you blur the original or the result. Depending on the art style, it may look more surreal.

Color Reduction

Digital photographs can contain millions of RGB values. When you reduce the number of colors you end up with the closest match. Animated GIFs are limited to 256. So when you convert a video or a series of pictures into a GIF the difference is usually obvious.

Reducing the number of RGB values can reduce the quality, making it look bad. For more control and better results, use a set or list that contains a limited number of values. The list may contain between 120 and 40 colors. Using fewer values makes it difficult to recreate a photo but it can work on simple images.

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Color Lists

A typical palette could contain the colors from a marker set or a box of crayons. It could also contain a list of RGB codes for traditional paint pigments. There are lots of pallets on the internet. The trick is to find a list that works well with your image.

You don't need to search for palettes when you already have a photo with the values you want. Use a color picker to retrieve the specific values you want or get a computer program to go through every pixel and make a list for you.

The best way to find RGB values is to search for RGB color codes along with the art tool or style you are looking for. There are RGB code lists for almost anything you can think of. The image below is a copy of a photograph I took with my digital camera.

373,831 colors to 40 using a list of RGB color codes for markers.

373,831 colors to 40 using a list of RGB color codes for markers.

Remove Color From an Image

The grayscale filter can make it black, white and gray. A sepia filter ads a brown tint to grayscale images. Reduce the options to a single black color and you end up with a blackscale image. The picture may look like it was made with charcoal.

Another option is to remove a specific color. Tell a computer program to remove all the red pixels by changing the alpha channel or setting them to match the background. If you change the alpha channel you could end up with a transparent see-through photo.

Photo to Art

Combine a photograph with a painting or another photo to create amazing surreal images. The results are often strange, stunning, and abstract. They don't look like anything you would see in real life.

Switching Colors

Some art effects like style transfer switch the colors. It remakes the first image using RGB values from the second without attempting to find the closest match. You can still make out the main subject and most of the background but the colors may be completely different.

Mixing Pixel Values

Pixelating a picture or using a paint by number effect separates pixels into groups. The individual values are replaced with the average. It simplifies the image and makes it look more like handmade art. Other filters, like an oil paint effect, may blur the line between individual pixels, causing neighboring colors to overlap and blend together.

Convert to Drawing

A computer program can calculate the intensity of the colors. Then it can use that information to redraw a colored picture using spaced-out lines, dots, or text symbols. Instead of manually doing it yourself, you press a button and the app does the work for you.

Transferred colors from a stained glass window onto a selfie.

Transferred colors from a stained glass window onto a selfie.

Ways to Recolor an Image

Gradually change one color into another like leaves changing in the fall.

Reduce the number of colors, using the closest match from a list.

Decolor an image to create a grayscale or sepia version of the original.

Switch to the opposite colors, black becomes white.

Switch to totally different colors from another picture.

Make the colors more transparent.

Increase the contrast and intensity.

Group pixels together and average the colors.

Remove one or two color channels.

Change the order of the RGB values.

Blend pixel RGB values together to create different colors.

Soften or obscure the image with a blur effect.

Convert to dot art.

Turn it into a line drawing.

Convert to ASCII art.

How to Use a Color Changer for Pictures

Do you want to use a color changer to make a better version of your photo or turn it into art? Here are some tips:

  • You may want to change the lighting, contrast, and saturation by 10 to 20 percent. Most images only require a small change. Use the sepia filter for a picture that looks like it was taken with an old-style black and white camera in the 1880s.
  • If you are not going for photorealism then there are more options. Simplify the picture by reducing the number of colors to make realistic art. I recommend using lists of RGB values for crayons, markers, pencils, pointillism art, and more.
  • Switch the colors for surreal abstract images that are not based on reality. Blend them together when you want a liquid effect. I like making abstract art from photos because it is strange and fantastical but it still looks like something from real life.
  • Convert to grayscale for black and white pictures. Some images look better after the color is removed and 'black and white pictures' are a popular search term. Completely erase parts of a photograph to make it transparent by reducing the alpha channel to 0. You may want to paste it on top of a background.
  • The best use I found for removing color channels was to make one image with just the red channel and another with the green and blue channels. Combine the red with the cyan and you can make 3D photos that appear to be outside of your screen.

Online Color Changers

Hopefully, you've realized the possibilities and are coming up with some ideas. Now you need to find an app that will recolor the pictures for you. There are two types of apps I use:

  • Filters designed to add a simple effect, like invisibility or 2D to 3D images; and
  • Photo to digital art apps

Use the apps and filters to make amazing pictures. I recommend attempting to make a realistic copy with better lighting, contrast, and saturation first and then moving on to the more surreal, experimental versions.

  • How to Make Digital Art From Photos Without Drawing
    Convert photos to digital art at the touch of a button. You don't need to manually draw, paint, or type to create the artwork—a computer program can do the hard work for you.
  • How to Become Invisible on Camera Using Invisibility...
    Would you like to become invisible? I experimented to see if I could see through objects on my webcam by making colors transparent. Learn how invisibility works and how to easily become invisible using an invisibility effect.
  • How to Create a 3D Image From a 2D Photo
    Learn how to convert 2D to 3D. Making three-dimensional photos can be easy and quick. I can make a good three-dimensional image in 30 seconds. Why settle for flat pictures when you can add the illusion of depth? Requires special glasses but worth it.
Blurred a photo before converting it into colored ASCII art using a very small font.

Blurred a photo before converting it into colored ASCII art using a very small font.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Michael H

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