How To Overlay Color On Images & Graphics In Photoshop

Whether you’re looking to give your design a bold pop of color or subtly blend color into your image to use as a backdrop for your logo, it’s easy to overlay color in Photoshop. This guide will go over all the different ways you can overlay color into your project so that your image or graphic can grab as much attention as possible. 

How To Use The Color Overlay Layer Style In Photoshop

Photoshop makes it super simple to change the color of a single solid layer, such as a logo or graphic. 

You can change the color quickly by adding a color overlay to the layer. This is particularly useful when working on layers with transparent backgrounds, as the overlay will affect all the visible pixels in the layer.

Step 1: Open The Layer Styles Panel 

To apply a color overlay to your layer, you first need to open the Layer Styles Panel. To do this, double-click on the thumbnail of your layer in the Layers Panel. (Click on the empty gray space of the layer if you want to add this effect to a smart object to prevent opening the smart object itself).

Step 2: Select Color Overlay

You now have many different effects that you can apply to your layer. The one you need to click is Color Overlay.

Click the Color Overlay tab on the left to open the options for the style. 

When the options open up, ensure the Blending Mode is set to Normal and the Opacity is set to 100%. Doing this will give you the best baseline when applying your color in the next step. 

Step 3: Choose Your Color 

With the Layer Style options open, click on the Color Picker block

To pick your base color, click anywhere in the middle of the color picker, then move the lever on the side to find the base color you need. 

Here’s a quick rundown on how the Color Picker works: 

  • You’ll find your base color in the middle of the Color Picker. 
  • To decrease the saturation of your color, click somewhere to the left of the Color Picker. 
  • To increase the saturation of the color, click somewhere to the right of the Color Picker. 
  • The higher you click on the Color Picker, the brighter your color will be. 
  • The lower you click on the Color Picker, the darker your color will be. 

If you have the hex code for your color, you can input it in the Hex Code box at the bottom of the window. 

Once you’re satisfied with your color, click OK

Step 4: Adjust The Opacity (Optional)

After choosing your color, you may feel it’s a bit much. You can always bring down the opacity with the Opacity Slider

The one thing to remember here is that as you bring down the opacity with the slider, the original color of your layer will come through. This makes the Opacity Slider a niche option that can be useful but is not necessary.  

Step 5: Click OK To Confirm Your Color 

Once you’re completely satisfied with your color choice, click OK to confirm. 

Using Blend Modes With A Color Overlay 

When it comes to the Blend Mode option in the Layer Style panel, there are two things you need to know. 

First, changing the blending mode will mix your new color with the original base color of the layer. This makes changing the Blending Mode on your Overlay layer less reliable. 

You must try out each blending mode in the list to find the one that enhances your layer the most. Many of the blending modes will do nothing or completely reveal the base color of the layer. 

Pin Light Blend Mode
Multiply Blend Mode

The other thing worth mentioning about the blending mode option is how your layer will interact with a background image. 

If you place an image behind your layer, then change the blending mode, the layer will not blend into the background image. Your new color will only blend into the base color of the layer and not interact at all with the background image. 

You’ll need to change the layer’s blending mode to blend the layer into the background. To do this, first select your layer, then click on the Blending Mode drop-down menu in the Layers Panel

Choose from the long list of blending modes to blend the color of your layer into your background image. 

How To Overlay Color On Images In Photoshop

Overlaying a color is a great way to add drama or extra detail to your images. By layering a color correctly, you can create a mood or atmosphere that draws the viewer’s attention or emphasize certain elements in an image. 

There are two main ways to overlay color on your image, which I will explain below. 

Step 1: Draw Out Your Shape 

Before blending color into your image, you must get some color onto your canvas.  To do this, select the Shape Tool (U) in the Toolbar and choose the shape that best first your project. In many cases, the Rectangle Tool works perfectly fine. 

Once the shape layer is selected, draw out your shape where you need it on your image. 

Also, before you go to the next step, go to the Options Bar and ensure the Stroke for your shape layer is transparent. This will ensure that the edge of your shape layer will remain borderless. 

Step 2: Choose Your Color 

With your shape layer on your canvas, select the Fill Color Picker in the Options Bar to choose the color you want to overlay onto your project. 

When the Fill Menu opens, you can choose from any preset colors or add your own custom color by clicking the Color Picker in the top right corner. 

When you’re satisfied with your color, click OK

Step 3: Blend Your Color Into Your Image 

Now that you have your color, you have two different options to blend the color into your image: 

Option 1: Change The Blending Mode Of The Shape Layer 

First, select your shape layer in the Layers Panel, then click on the Blending Mode drop-down menu. Choose from the long list of options to overlay your color over your image. 

Only some blending modes will work for your project. Many will create strange effects that only work in niche situations. 

The best blending mode depends on your project. In general, Overlay and Soft Light are two blending modes that usually work well. 

Option 2: Change The Opacity Of The Shape Layer 

This option is easier to do and usually gives you a better result. 

To bring down the opacity of your shape layer, first select the layer in the Layers Panel, then click the Opacity drop-down menu

Adjust the Opacity slider until the color blends into your image. Usually, a percentage between 40% and 70% will do.

Step 4: Add Text Or Your Logo (Optional)

Now that you have color blended in your image, you can use that color as a backdrop for text or a logo. 

If a logo doesn’t work as well as you thought it would with the color you’ve chosen, you can always add a color overlay to the logo to match your design better. 

To do this, right-click your logo or text layer, then select Blending Options.  

In the Layer Style Panel, open the Color Overlay tab, and click the Color Picker

In the Color Picker, choose your new color, then click OK to confirm. Click OK in the Layer Styles panel as well. 

If you want your logo or text to stand out even more, add a drop shadow

To add a quick drop shadow, select your logo layer, then click the Effects button in the Layers Panel

In the list that pops up, select Drop Shadow

In the Drop Shadow options menu, adjust the settings for the Drop Shadow until you get your desired effect. 

Select OK to confirm. 

How To Blend The Hard Edge Of Your Shape Layer 

When overlaying a shape layer on your image, you may notice the hard edges of your layer. 

This hard edge may not be a problem for your project, but if it is, you can blend it using a Gaussian blur. 

To start, select the shape layer in the Layers Panel, then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur

A warning will pop up, telling you to convert the layer to a smart object or rasterize the layer. Select either option, as both of them work in the case. 

Next, adjust the Radius slider until the hard edge of the shape layer blurs away. 

Sometimes this effect is subtle, but it makes the added color more seamless. 

This effect works exceptionally well when the hard edge of the shape layer is prominent. 

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. You can view my photography portfolio here.

These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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