The brush tool in Photoshop is a great way to add certain elements to your project. However, if you don’t know how to change the color, well, you’re going to be limited in your creative options. Luckily changing the color of a brush in Photoshop is easy by using a few different techniques.
To change the color of your brush in Photoshop, first, select your Brush Tool (B), then click on the top color swatch of the color picker found at the bottom of the toolbar. In the color palette that appears, select your desired brush color, click OK, and begin painting with your new brush color.
Photoshop offers plenty of standard colors to choose from as well as the RGB, HSB, and Hexadecimal color models. This allows you to customize colors, so you can add the exact colors you need to your project. Besides this basic method, there are other ways to change brush color that I’ll break down throughout this post.
So let’s get started!
How To Change Brush Color In Photoshop
There are two main methods to change the brush color; via the Foreground Color Swatch or the Color Palette Panel. They both offer the same colors, so you should use the method that works best with your workflow.
Option 1: With The Foreground Color Swatch
Before changing the color of your brush, enable the brush tool by clicking the brush icon in the toolbar (B).
Then, go to the color boxes at the bottom of the toolbar. The front box is the foreground swatch, and the box behind is the background swatch.
By default, the foreground color is black, and the background color is white. If you don’t change the color of your brush before painting the canvas, the color of your brush will be black. This is the default setting for the brush tool.
If you want to change the color of your brush, double click the foreground color swatch to bring up the color picker panel.
Now, you can pick a color from this panel by clicking the slider in the middle of the panel. For example, if you want blue, click anywhere in the blue part of the slider.
Then, click anywhere in the color fill to pick a shade of the color you chose. A white circle will appear around the color you clicked.
After picking the desired color, click ‘OK’ to exit the color picker panel.
When projects require specific colors, you can input certain color values using the five different color models that are available. These models give you more control over your color choices.
However, the best color models for choosing brush colors are HSB, RGB, and Hexadecimal.
Let’s quickly summarize each of them and give you some tips to help pick the best color for your brush.
HSB stands for Hue, Saturation, and Brightness. It‘s an intuitive color model that allows you to customize specific colors.
When you open the color picker panel, ‘H’ is checked by default. Hue is the color pigment itself.
Hue is measured in degrees, so you can enter a value between 0 to 360. The degree corresponds to the color position in the color wheel, which is a tool used for choosing colors.
Saturation determines the intensity of a color. A more saturated color is vibrant, while a less saturated color is dull.
You can move the color sliders up to increase saturation or down to decrease it. For example, after choosing a color with Hue at 230º, you can click ‘S’. Once you do that, the color slider will display different saturations and you can move the slider up or down to adjust the saturation.
Brightness determines the amount of white in a certain color. Like saturation, brightness is measured in percentage. The closer to 100%, the brighter the color.
RGB stands for red, green, and blue. This color model portrays how RGB colors are combined to create all the other colors we see on digital screens.
You can type in values between 0 and 255 for each RGB parameter. The closer to 255, the brighter the color. You can use an online RGB color generator to choose the right RGB color.
However, if you understand color theory, you can choose your own combinations. For example, if you want a bright cyan, enter high G and B values and a very low value for red.
The hexadecimal input box is located at the bottom of the color picker panel.
In Photoshop, you don’t need to think too much to choose a hexadecimal color. You can simply copy their codes from a color code list/hexadecimal color picker and paste them in the hexadecimal input box in the color picker panel. Keep in mind that hexadecimal colors are composed of numbers (0-9) and letters (A-F).
Hexadecimal is a very popular color model around the web and is commonly used on websites.
Option 2: Using The Color Palette Panel to Choose Colors
You can find the color palette panel on the right side of your workspace.
If you can’t see the color palette panel, navigate to Window > Color (F6).
You can pick a color from this panel the same way you do in the color picker panel. To enter any codes for colors, you can double-click the foreground color swatch on the left side of the panel. This will bring up the color picker panel, and you will be able to enter your desired codes.
What To Do When You Can’t Change Your Brush Color
It can be frustrating when the color of your brush won’t change even when you follow the above steps. Here are two common reasons why this happens and how to fix them.
Reason 1: You’ve Selected A Layer Mask
When you’re working with multiple layers and layer masks it’s quite normal to end up editing the wrong thing.
In the image below, I selected the brush in the toolbar and tried to pick a blue color in the color palette panel.
However, the foreground color swatch displays a gray color because a layer mask is selected.
So when I try to use the ‘blue brush’ somewhere in the image, it ‘erases’ that area instead of painting it!
That’s because layer masks only recognize black and white (black conceals an image linked to a layer mask, and white reveals it). Any shades of gray in between black and white simply represent different levels of transparency.
So, when you use any other colors in a layer mask, they will not be visible. However, when you select the layer linked to a layer mask and use a blue brush (or any other color), it will work.
Reason 2: You’ve Changed Brush Color In The Wrong Place
As mentioned earlier in this tutorial, you need to select a foreground color for the color of your brush to change. If you change the background color instead, your brush color will not change.
In the example below, I picked a blue color for my brush, but I can’t expect it to work because I clicked the background color (the back square), instead of the foreground color (the front square).
The brush will always paint the foreground color onto the canvas.
Now, these are the most common issues with brush color in Photoshop, but if you are having other brush-related problems, see this guide to troubleshooting the brush tool.
Colors in Photoshop are highly customizable. Of course, with so many options available, you can get confused and end up changing your brush color in the wrong place, but as you learned here, these problems are easy to fix.