Experiment with color choices and edit your colors nondestructively by using Fill layers in Adobe Photoshop.

Orange chair on cover of book. Left side of book is blue gradient with white triangles, right side is light blue brick wall

Our book cover design has three elements on separate, named layers: Chair, Brick Wall, and Pattern.

Composition consists of three layers: orange chair, gray brick wall, and light blue pattern.

Use a Fill layer to experiment with colors

Using Fill layers to colorize design elements makes it easy to try out color combinations before settling on a final look.

Select the Brick Wall layer. Click the Fill/Adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and select Solid Color. Pick a color from the Color Picker that appears. You can move the round selector to adjust the color, and then click OK. Tip: Drag the vertical slider on the rainbow-colored bar to view a different color range. Click OK.

The Color Fill layer affects all the layers below it. Once it’s added, you can adjust or change the color freely and also apply it to selective parts of your design, as you’ll do later in this tutorial.

Light blue Fill/Adjustment layer, Solid Color option is added. The chair appears on a solid light blue background.

Try changing the layer blending mode of the selected Color Fill layer to create other effects. We chose Color from the Blend Mode menu at the top of the Layers panel. This applies the selected color so you can see the texture in the underlying layers. You can also adjust the Color Fill layer’s opacity by dragging the Opacity slider in the top-right of the Layers panel.

Blending mode and opacity of the Color Fill layer create different effects. The blue background layer now has texture.

Tip: It’s easy to edit the original color — simply double-click the Color Fill layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel, choose another color in the Color Picker, and then click OK.

Rearrange the Color Fill layer

Now that you’ve picked a color, you can experiment some more.

Try changing the layer order. If you move the Color Fill layer in the Layers panel, you’ll get different results depending on its position in the layer stack.

The chair, pattern, and wall all appear light blue after moving the Color Fill layer to the top.

The chair and wall retain their original colors, but pattern is light blue after moving Color Fill layer above it.

Colorize a single layer in the layer stack

By default, a Color Fill layer affects all layers beneath it. You can make it affect a single layer directly below it, regardless of the layer’s position in the layer stack.

With the Color Fill layer selected in the Layers panel, right-click the layer name (to the right of the layer’s thumbnail images) and choose Create Clipping Mask.

This indents the Color Fill layer in the Layers panel, indicating that it’s affecting only the layer directly below.

Clipping Mask may be added to Color Fill layer to only affect layer directly below it

Explore other types of Fill layers

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to colorize your art, try applying other types of color and texture effects to your design.

Select the Pattern layer and click the Fill/Adjustment layer icon. Select Gradient. This creates a Gradient Fill layer that behaves a lot like a Color Fill layer. In the Gradient menu, pick any gradient style. Change the angle if you like, and then click OK. Finally, we changed the blending mode of the Gradient Fill layer to Overlay.

Adjustment layer is added to pattern layer. Orange chair appears in front of pattern with gradient and light blue brick wall

Apply colors selectively  

Every Fill layer includes a layer mask. When the layer mask is white, it reveals or applies the color to the entire image. When you add black to the layer mask, it hides the color from corresponding parts of the image.

In our example, we selected a large, soft-edged brush (1400) at 100% opacity and painted over a part of the layer mask in black.

Black is painted on layer mask of gradient layer to hide a portion of the mask and retain the original image’s color

To finish our book cover design, we added a title and subtitle. To make the subtitle stand out against its background, we placed a rectangle below the subtitle layer and applied a soft blue-gray Color Fill layer clipped to the rectangle layer.

Dark blue-gray title is added to chair image to complete book cover. White subtitle on blue-gray rectangle sits below title


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